South Asian Insider
Rahul Gandhi’s Chowkidar, Rafale slogans fail, Congress wins only a handful seats more
While the Congress has registered substantial gains in south India, it continues to suffer huge losses in the Hindi heartland. (SAI Bureau) New Delhi - As votes were counted in the Lok Sabha elections and trends rolled in, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi’s mother Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka Gandhi met him at his residence to discuss the outcome of the elections. Depressing statistics for the Congress, which has once again failed to fire and is set to win 55 seats, only 11 more than it did in 2014.The poor show has once again exposed the structural weaknesses in the party organisation on the ground, especially in Hindi speaking states.While the grand old party has registered substantial gains in south India, it continues to suffer huge losses in the Hindi heartland.The real cause of concern for the Congress is the reverses in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh where it had defeated the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the assembly elections just six months ago.Even Karnataka, where the Congress is in alliance with the Janata Dal (Secular), has been a big disappointment. The BJP trounced the ruling alliance in the southern state, a year after the JD(S) and the Congress came together to form the government. Though Congress leaders argue that Lok Sabha elections are different from state polls, the fact that the Congress failed to capitalise on those victories could also be attributed to the absence of well-oiled party machinery on the ground.But the big takeaway is the failure of the Congress to convince the voters about its promise of Nyay (Nyuntam Aay Yojana). The party had promised a minimum income guarantee scheme of Rs 72000 a year or Rs 6000 a month to the country’s 20% or five crore poorest of the poor families.Similarly, Rahul Gandhi’s campaign theme that focused on the alleged irregularities in the Rafale deal and his “Chowkidar chor hai” slogan directed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi failed to cut much ice with the voters who did not accept his assertions. The Congress was also clearly outfoxed by the BJP’s campaign narrative of nationalism, national security and decisiove action against terrorism.After the 2014 Lok Sabha poll debacle, the Congress had promised to reinvent itself. The party leadership had stressed the need for expanding the worker base and indicated that structural as well as changes in the leadership style will be carried out to arrest the electoral slide. Rahul Gandhi did make some organizational changes after taking over as the Congress president from his mother Sonia Gandhi in December 2017. He brought in young blood but at the same did not neglect the old guard. The reshuffle that took place in bits and pieces over several months saw Rahul Gandhi handing over the reins of crucial states to young leaders with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Jyotiraditya Scindia given the charge of Uttar Pradesh, Shaktisinh Gohil (Bihar), Rajiv Satav (Gujarat), Gaurav Gogoi (West Bengal), RPN Singh (Jharkhand) and KC Venugopal (Karnataka). Similarly, veterans Ambika Soni, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge, Harish Rawat, Oommen Chandy and Mukul Wasnik handled Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Maharashtra, Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala/Tamil Nadu respectively. The other big worry for the Congress is the lack of regional satraps except in Punjab where chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh managed to salvage some pride for the party. The only difference for the Congress between 2014 and 2019 is that the grand old party will this time get the tag of the main opposition party. With the help of its pre-poll allies, the party is also expected to get the post of the Leader of the Opposition.
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