By Syed Ubaidur Rahman
New Delhi: The massive win for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh has sunk the Congress in the cow belt. The grand old party seems to have been decimated across the cow belt. From Madhya Pradesh to Rajasthan, Chattisgarh and Uttrakhand, the party is in a disarry.
The Congress was expecting good show from UP and a very fighting total in Uttarakhand. But opposite seems to have happened as the Congress was completely wiped out from the hill state as BJP won 57 seats. The Congress had to contend with just 11 seats as its chief minister Harish Rawat bit the dust from the two constituencies he fought.
There were reports that in February he sought the support of renowned poll strategist Prashant Kishore. But it seemed to have played no role in his election chances.
While Rahul faced some respite in the form of massive win in Punjab and decent show by the party in Goa and Manipur, questions are going to be asked about his viability as the future of the Congress party. Is Congress safe in his hands? The party’s decimation in Uttar Pradesh – the country’s most populous and electorally significant state – has serious implications for the party’s ambition to emerge as a credible alternative to the BJP in the 2019 general elections.
UP is a politically crucial state. The state with more than 20 crore population sends as many as 80 MPs to parliament. But here, the party has been left with nothing and the people who worked to revive it must be wondering why they worked so hard over the last more than two years.
It has been reduced to margins with 7 MLAs and just around 6 percent of the vote share. Even in its pocket borough of Amethi and Rae Bareli, parliamentary constituencies of Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi, it has been decimated.
The Congress failed to develop a narrative, attractive enough for common people. Besides, the poors that used to be its vote-bank have drifted away from it. BJP’s sustained efforts to woo poorer sections that have traditionally supported the Congress seem to have borne fruit. The BJP is also set to increase its numbers in the Rajya Sabha where the party-led central government lacks a majority.
Another important factor was the party’s decision to ally with Samajwadi Party. This caused a complete shift of traditional Congress vote bank that had continued to stick with it even in the last assembly election, shifted en-masse to the BJP.
Sonia Gandhi had taken the Congress to power from a hopeless position over a decade ago. Despite her physical frailty and lack of grasp of Hindi language, she was able to connect immediately with voters wherever she went. She carried Manmohan Singh to power on her shoulders and ruled from behind the scene.
But 46-year old Rahul Gandhi lacks the aura. He doesn’t seem to have natural affinity to connect with people. He is trying his best and working hard with good guys, but it is taking longer than anticipated.
His party has systematically killed strong leadership in different states. He may be paying its price now. In Punjab where the Congress had a powerful minister in the form of Capt Amarinder Singh, he was able to capitalize on Badal’s weaknesses. The same happened in Manipur. The wins in the two states have less to do with Rahul and more to do with strong local leadership.
(Syed Ubaidur Rahman is the executive editor of ViewsHeadlines)