Honey, I Shrunk the Congress Party
The Congress party has lost more than 160 of its 200-plus MPs between the 15th and 16th Lok Sabha in this election. With 44 MPs, it cannot even stake a claim to lead the Opposition, for which it needs at least 55 MPs, 10% of the Lok Sabha. Its tally, a little more than a third of its lowest-ever figure of 114 in 1999, is a disgrace for a party that had a pan-India reach till 2009, when it won 206 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats. Today, even Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK, with 37 seats, or Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, with 34, can claim near-equality. The stunning demolition of the Congress is the mirror image of the rise to power of the Narendra Modi-led BJP. Numbers suggest that the last decade of Congress rule has been good for India: social indices are up and incomes have grown, so why this election
First, the Congress could not promote or communicate its achievements to the people, in a language they could understand. Second, the dyarchy of a Sonia Gandhi-led party and a Manmohan Singh-led government broke down. Finally, Rahul Gandhi’s insipid, uninspired and fitful leadership, prodded on by rootless wunderkinds, broke the Congress’ organisational spine and sapped its campaign of any spirit. It is not a bad idea to elect candidates through primaries, but only if those polls are held fairly. It wasn’t this time. Youth Congress and National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) leaders should be elected, but only if money and muscle don’t come into play. Above all, campaign finance has to be reformed, so that all the sleaze that accompanies polls should vanish. And the Congress needs to project leaders who have their feet on the ground and heads and hearts with the people. Pampered dynasts, remote from the tough, quotidian existence of ordinary folk, cannot be expected to do the job.