Nobel laureate TS Eliot wrote ‘April is the cruelest month of the year’. For the Congress party, it could well be May. After weeks of bluster and ‘Nyay’, of ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ and the ‘first family’ campaigns, the Gandhi siblings have little to show for their efforts. (Catch LIVE Updates of Lok Sabha Elections 2019 Vote Counting Here)
In at least 20 states of India, the Congress has been wiped out. In Maharashtra, they’re leading in one of the 48 seats, in UP it’s one in 80 and in Madhya Pradesh, where they won the state assembly elections less than six months ago, the Congress has one in 29. In that last instance, heavyweight Jyotiraditya Scindia is losing the family bastion of Guna.
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Interestingly, Guna has been represented by Jyotiraditya’s grandmother Rajmata Vijay Raje Scindia six times between 1957 and 1999, and his father, Madhav Rao, four times between 1971 and 2002. Jyotiraditya has been elected to the Lok Sabha from Guna four times and has been representing the constituency for the last 17 years. His trailing BJP’s K P Yadav is perhaps one of the biggest surprises of this election, and symbolic of the shambles the Congress finds itself in.
Indeed, party president Rahul Gandhi, who was the face of the Congress campaign, and traversed the length and the breadth of the country attacking the PM, may himself be unable to retain his family’s stronghold in Amethi. Here, the BJP’s Smriti Irani has built up a healthy lead — and Waynad in Kerala looks like the godsend Rahul Gandhi needed to save face. Amethi has been in the Gandhi family since 1980 — represented by Rahul’s uncle Sanjay, father Rajiv and mother Sonia.
Kerala and Punjab are the only two states in India where the Congress has some numbers to show — the other state which it can count in its kitty is Tamil Nadu but there, its alliance partner, the Dravida Munnetra Khazagham (DMK) led by M K Stalin has performed well.
If Prime Minister Narendra Modi is closer to achieving a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’, Rahul Gandhi’s lacklustre leadership has made that dream easier to achieve. Chowkidar Chor Hai backfired, Rafael backfired, Priyanka Gandhi being put in charge of the campaign in parts of Uttar Pradesh backfired; almost anything the Congress party did, backfired.
Initial estimates put BJP’s vote share at 48% — this is the highest in recent memory — Congress led by Rajiv Gandhi won a similar percentage in 1984, something the poll pundits attributed to the sympathy votes after the assassination of his mother Indira Gandhi. Then Congress is down to 28% and this may be its nadir in terms of the ground it has lost across the country.
Experts blamed the Congress for focussing on the ‘cult of Gandhi’ rather than making viable alliances with other opposition parties — the Mahagatbandhan of Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party in UP or the Aam Aadmi Party in the national capital, to cite a few examples. Will the 2019 results for the Grand Old Party of India to look for alternatives or reduce it to one of the many regional players in the Indian political fabric?