Supporters of the Congress Party's Rahul Gandhi
Supporters of Congress party and Rahul Gandhi | Representational image | Getty Images via Kevin Frayer
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Tripura, Nagaland and Delhi show it is very easy for another party to replace the Congress; all it needs is to be new and aggressive.

There are at least three states now where the Congress has zero seats in the legislature. In all three, big swings have managed to wipe out the Congress.

In Tripura, the Congress went from 10 of 60 seats in 2013 to zero seats in 2018. Its vote share fell from 36 per cent to 1.8 per cent.

The argument often given for such declines is that the Modi wave of 2014 was an exceptional situation. But the Congress did better in Tripura in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections than in the recent Vidhan Sabha elections. In the general election, it had managed to save a 15 per cent vote-share.

Tripura is not the only state where it has been completely wiped out. In Nagaland, the Congress went from a 25 per cent vote-share in 2013 to 2.1 per cent in 2018. Its seats fell from eight out of 60 to a big zero.

In Tripura, the BJP took away all the Congress’s voters, leaders, workers, and then some more from others like the incumbent Left.

In Nagaland, the BJP engineered the split of the ruling Nagaland People’s Front into two. Now, one faction is ruling and the other is in opposition. The BJP itself won 12 seats in a Christian-dominated state, against the Congress’s zero.

If you think the phenomenon is limited to Nagaland, look at Delhi. In the capital’s assembly, the Congress went from a three-term dominant party to zero. It had a 40 per cent vote-share in 2008, 25 per cent in 2013, and 9.7 per cent in 2015, when it got the big zero.

Today, the Congress is not even the main opposition party in these three states. Such quick extinction flies in the face of the Congress’s belief that it will always be around. The party thinks it has seen rise and fall, again and again, starting with the Emergency. This too shall pass. When voters are fed up with the BJP, they will return to the only national alternative, the Congress.

But the examples of Tripura, Nagaland and Delhi show it is very easy for another party to replace the Congress. It has happened in other places too. In places like Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, the Congress has been replaced by regional parties, but still manages a presence and plays ally from time to time. But the examples of Tripura, Nagaland and Delhi show how easy, quick and painless it can be for another party to replace the Congress.

The Congress sits pretty on captive vote shares in states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, but is unable to capture power. If voters in such states have the option of a third party that shows a better chance of displacing the incumbent, they might jump ship without a second thought. In UP and Bihar, the Congress is already on its way to extinction, surviving only on the munificence of the regional satraps.

Punjab is the only state where the Congress has come to power after having lost two successive elections. That exception might just prove the rule.

In Telangana, for instance, the Congress is the main opposition party. Even Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM has more MLAs than the BJP. But the BJP could simply steal away the Congress MLAs and workers, add the RSS cadres for mobilisation, and, overnight, finish the Congress in the state.

A Congress-mukt Bharat is not impossible. In fact it is very easy to achieve. All it needs is aggressive, new parties to replace it. It is the Congress’s good luck that there isn’t a pan-India party trying to replace it, though that’s the stated ambition of the Aam Aadmi Party.

The Liberal party in Britain was one of the two main parties from the 1850s to 1918. From 1918 to 1988, it tottered to a fall, like the Congress party today. The fact that the Liberal party ruled Britain for a long period was no guarantee it wouldn’t become extinct. It did, its position in British politics replaced by Labour. A similar fate for the Rahul Gandhi-led Congress cannot be ruled out.

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7 Comments Share Your Views

7 COMMENTS

  1. We have near perfect democracy since 2014 that we feel we dont need opposition and would like to believe Modiji is god’s gift to India. However the fact of the matter the is we want democracy in India be stronger with an effective opposition who can question the government for decisions not in the interest of the state. As a the government, it has moral responsibility to ensure to parliament functions. But alas the government is not making any effort in doing that . Thanks to the politicians, the tax payers money is wasted and we can only watch it and can do nothing about it. BJP is getting back what it did few years back when it was in opposition few years ago. Though the congress is on decline due to leadership issue, it still has a progressive thought which I feel would be good for India in the long run. I look forward to progressive India rising above graft and religion and make a country better place to live for its citizens.

  2. Actually, the only cure to the extreme nonsense Congress pulled with the Emergency, RTE, etc. can only be undone by BJP super majority. Shall India’s Constitution always have the word Socialism in it, even though Ambedkar found it idiotic. Shall India ban pot because Missionaries in the 80s thought it would move Hindus to Jeebus. No, we need clear BJP majorities and for two decades, at least.

  3. It’s unnerving to realise that perfectly sensible people are viewing the Congress from a (compared to) BJP lens. And getting frustrated about why Congress is not getting frustrated abt not forming govts (capturing power, as this writer says). If I look at the party, I find it to be extremely progressive and liberal in its outlook, someone that will not desert the poor, someone that will learn from its many mistakes. Organisationally, they might never be as efficient as Amit Shah. But I shudder to think of two parties that ll be “efficient” the way Shah is — regressive, communal, kaafi low IQ, cynical, violent, prone to hatred. So, no, in the long term, I don’t want Congress to become like Shah just because Shah uses the lowest common denominators – appeal to the beastliness of religion, and lies – to win elections. Let Congress and it’s younger leaders who are emerging build their own narrative of what India should look like. Modi brought ruin by dreaming “superpower superpower”. Let Congress focus on fundamentals and individual Indians, and their happiness, their freedoms rather than chasing that elusive superpowerdom. America & China & Russia have proven that there’s not much to enjoy in superpowerdom — yea, tall skyscrapers, a universally detested army, cocky politicians, abhorrent ideologies, not much respect, and zero sense of security, lots of paranoia in maintaining that silly superpowerdom. So, why should India chase that? And why should Congress want to be better than the beastly BJP? Third front is mathematics. It’s a number and a revolving door, not even enduring.

  4. It is all about summation of subconscious beleif of larger section of people in India. Larger section of India is asking for a society free form “T&C Apply”. Surely they will get it.

  5. Nothing is permanent in politics. Congress may come back to power. But for that it has to depend on the miss-steps of BJP, rather than on its own work. Having said that, in case Rahul Gandhi does not marry of adopt a kid, Congress will definitely die a natural death. It is a dynastic party.

  6. The rumours of the demise of the Congress party are greatly exaggerated. It is likely to retain Karnataka and win in both Rajasthan and MP. Chhatisgarh one has not studied. It will also do well in Delhi and Haryana. In a democracy, not good form to talk about eliminating a political competitor. In the ocean, the tide ebbs, and then it flows.

    • Totally agree. Its in the country’s interest that Congress revives again. Infact the country’s future is at great stakes if the Congress dies!

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