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Does Congress have a future in India after 2019 Lok Sabha election results?

The Congress party faced a crushing defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections at the hands of Narendra Modi-led BJP.

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The Congress party faced a crushing defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections at the hands of Narendra Modi-led BJP. The ‘grand old party’ was in power for 55 of the 72 years of independent India, and has now won only 52 seats .

ThePrint asks: Does Congress have a future in India after 2019 Lok Sabha election results?

India needs Congress to fight BJP’s overreach because smaller parties would wilt under pressure

Ashutosh Varshney
Sol Goldman Professor of Political Science, Brown University

“The Congress must die,” thus spoke Yogendra Yadav, one of India’s finest political thinkers. Yadav cannot be accused of endorsing Amit Shah’s fond wish that India be Congress-mukt. Any similarities are entirely unintended.

But Yogendra Yadav is wrong. First, a party that in its two worst political moments, 2014 and 2019, still got nearly a fifth of the national vote and is far ahead of any other party, except the BJP, has clearly represented the wishes of a significant minority of India’s electorate.

Second, creating a new national party, though not impossible, is more an exercise in fond hope than political realism. Some parties have tried, but failed miserably. Recall the attempt of Aam Aadmi Party to put up candidates virtually all over India in 2014 elections.

Third, and most significant, India needs the Congress at this point to fight against the BJP’s overreach on India’s freedoms: of speech, association and religious practice. Smaller opposition parties would wilt under pressure, or shrink to their regional bastions. Civil society and the press are under attack, or have caved, and the judiciary’s independence remains in question. An opposition party, which has ten per cent of parliamentary seats, can at least try to protect citizens, who disagree with the ruling party.

The real question is how the Congress should re-engineer itself, not its demise. Leadership change is the standard way political parties have historically reinvigorated themselves in most democracies.

Congress can still have a future, but there are many ‘ifs’

Suhas Palshikar
Chief Editor, Studies in Indian Politics and retd professor of Political Science

At a time when Congresspersons are themselves engulfed in self-doubt, it is not easy for an outsider to argue that the Congress can still have a future.

There are two reasons why, even in this darkest hour of its history, the Congress can think of a future. One, the abject failure of most state parties has indicated the need for a broader, all-India narrative and political counter for oppositional politics to survive. Non-BJP politics would require an anchor beyond state-level constraints of regional politics. Second, and more importantly, at this moment of its resounding victory, the BJP has unambiguously indicated plans to pursue Hindu nationalism.

This automatically makes room for a politics of protecting India’s natural inclusive character. The elbow room for such politics is not entirely absent even within the Hindu society. That can and must be tapped. Of course, any projection of the Congress’ revival is predicated on many ‘ifs’. A brutal replacement of its traditional elite leadership, an immediate reaffirmation of its ideological position, 24×7 politics of reorganisation of the party, building non-party networks in cultural and social domains, intensive training of party workers, efforts at accommodating non-BJP forces into the party—including its one-time faction— are some of these ‘ifs’ for the party to have a future. After all, revival often calls for renewal and redefinition.

Also read: Congress is dying. Here’s what could replace it

Only Congress can fight and defeat Hindutva

Purushottam Agrawal
Professor and author

The election results have been a setback for the Congress, but it does not mean that the Congress has no future. Losing elections is part of democratic politics. Let’s not forget that in 1984, a party as well organised as the BJP won only two seats and even Atal Bihari Vajpayee lost to Madhavrao Scindia in Gwalior.

The Congress needs to start reasserting the inclusive idea of India and reclaim the narrative of nationalism. The problem with Congress is that while it does talk of seemingly nice things like NYAY, it has failed to weave a narrative at the national level.

I don’t buy the argument that Congress is responsible for soft Hindutva. There is nothing called soft Hindutva, there is only one Hindutva and it is the politics of Hindu identity. Religiosity, whether of Hinduism or Islam, is certainly not communal.

A certain perception of the Congress being an anti-Hindu party has been created. If a party loses the confidence of the majority community, they cannot do any good for minority communities. It is not the political parties or the administration that protect minorities – it is the goodwill of citizens which does. On ground, it is the idea of shared culture that prevents communal flare-ups and riots. For the Congress, it had become important to underline that ‘yes we are with the minority communities, but we are not indifferent to Hindu religiosity’.

All the great warriors of secularism and social identity politics have been reduced to zilch in Parliament. Only the Congress can fight and defeat Hindutva.

Congress’ undoing has been its ‘sab chalta hai’ ideology under Sonia & Rahul Gandhi

Rasheed Kidwai
Political analyst

The Congress faces an uncertain future. Prospects of a split, revolt, mutiny or disquiet are real and not without reason. Mandate 2019 has shaken the Congress’ self-belief and faith in ideology.

The Congress’ defining factor this election season has been its near absence of ideological clarity. From Jagjivan Ram’s description, “Modern man is the inheritor of all that is noble and good in human thought. And thus our democratic socialism is a synthesis of all that is best in the thinking of the East and the West and provides an ideology superior to other sectarian ideologies which are communalistic or communitarian,” the Congress’ socio-economic thinking has been reduced to a near-farcical “sab chalta hai” in Sonia-Rahul era.

Rahul Gandhi has failed to inspire or lead from the front. Resignation is not a ready solution as the Congress is hopelessly dependent upon the Nehru-Gandhi family and vice versa. The possibility of Priyanka Gandhi replacing Rahul may delay the party’s disintegration, but it is caught in ‘who will bell the cat’ syndrome.

The Gandhis alone can clear the mess with substantial sacrifices. Giving a clarion call to various breakaway groups of the party – NCP, YSR Congress, Telangana Rashtriya Samithi and even Trinamool Congress to unite can be the first step and a way forward.

There are more serious questions to answer than think of the future of Congress

Pushpesh Pant

The Grand Old Party with a past, alas, has no future. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah-led BJP has annihilated the Congress. Rahul Gandhi may console himself with the lollipop from Kerala, but how long will the high command wait for the Phoenix to rise from its ashes? No mythical bird can spread its wings to soar after a whirlwind has scattered its ashes all over the land.

The electorate has resoundingly rejected the ‘charismatic’ Nehru-Gandhis and the ‘Idea of India’ the Congress claims to represent. Modi may indeed be the ruthlessly divisive megalomaniac that his opponents allege him to be, but the silent majority is with him.

We may be disgusted by the stunning verdict and keep quoting Brecht or raise IPTA slogans to keep the morale high, but for the moment, the Kamandal has trumped the Mandal. The BJP has the approval of the majority who don’t seem to mind majoritarianism.

There are more serious questions to ponder than the future of the Indian National Congress.

Congress can reinvent & find a new social base among Dalits, OBCs, tribals & minorities

Dilip Mandal 
Senior journalist

The Congress has seen it all. Every time the doomsayers predicted that the Congress would die – they did after the death of Nehru and after Indira and Rajiv Gandhi’s assassinations – the party has bounced back.

This time, the crisis is deeper and more acute because the Congress is facing the incredible might of the religious Right.

The BJP’s rise alone is not responsible for the cracks we see in the Congress today. The party structure could not hold onto its building blocks — the social and economic elites of Indian society. They formed the core of the Congress since its inception, but have now shifted to the BJP. As a result, the Congress today is a pale shadow of its glorious past.

The main question is – Is there a road ahead for the Congress? Yes, but it will depend on whether it is able to bring the big corporates and the Hindu upper caste elites back to its fold.

The second option is to reinvent the party and find a new social base among Dalits, OBCs, tribals and minorities. Indira Gandhi had reinvented the Congress in the early 1970s through socialist policies. Will the party be able to do it again? That’s for the Congress to decide.

By Fatima Khan, journalist at ThePrint.

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  1. IS it me or are all these jurnos are a joke all i see is the b teams created by congress being decimated cpi sp bsp and finally tmc with no one else to fill the void or funds to do so it will be congies with the exception of ysr i dont see any other legetimate outrage. Basically these fake ideology jurnos will have to do work write real intellegent article . All thats happen is congi lossing place ro launch inderect attacks and will have to fight. Its investment in overpaid worthless jurnos didnt pay off. No matter however hard jurnos want they are not the fourth stumb and in a capitalist world if you cant deliver you wont survive. Do people really think AAP can survive without congi blessing

  2. Congress will comeback only when blind Modi supporters will get used to his fake vote gaining strategies.

  3. After MP results Congress and it’s paper Print both should die and start there business in Pakistan

  4. Always think negative, always makes little projects and short future plans. Why congress and its cheap leaders always trying to appreciate all those things which makes a negative though in the mass regarding India and its value and culture. No Doubt that India becomes from Hindu and all world know it as hindu country. Narinder Modi and BJP Govt. tell and show all over world that we are indian and the Safety of Indian boarder and values are our first priority. And after that we are hindu. To save hindu values and culture are our second priority with respect all religions.
    That is the issues the Congress and other parties always lose and forget. These parties always talk about Dalit , minority why you not all talk about mass. Why you not tell that we are all indian and there are no religion, no cast, no leader bigger than India. But there leader can’t. do that. that is reason congress losing its land and would be die one day.

  5. As long as People like their country and do not want to sell it short, there is always room for Nationalism. They may be from the right or the left. No one really cares, for there is reaction to every action. The cumulative effect of what majority of Indians suffered under congress is what the congress is paying for now. This debt is not yet discharged. There is some way to go . Only when the Minority is seen to be standing with the Majority for the Nation, the Narrative of Nationalism will change. It is this change that the BJP has to adapt to and as I see it, BJP is gradually changing but there are trouble makers. Let us pray a Centreist Party comes up from this mess for Power does corrupt and it is not forgiving as Congress has found out. Careful BJP.

  6. See nirmala sitharaman is ba in economics. She might be quite confident about how to tackle economic issues from its base itself!
    However, she should ask the public to give suggestions for managing the finance as a month is there for her to present the budget. So this is my open letter to her.

  7. The moment someone puts statement like “Civil society and the press are under attack, or have caved under Modi government” they lose all further credibility. You just realize this person is here to push an agenda and a flawed narrative. I regularly go through op edits for The Hindu, The Print, Hindustan Times, and Jansatta. I also follow twitter handles of Barkha Dutt, Sagrika Ghosh, Ravish Kumar and Rajdeep Sardesai. The overwhelming takeaway is Modi government gets it fair share of censure by all the institutions and individuals. They are many who publicly mock government and prime minister. The dialogue between pro government and anti government camps is fierce, vitriolic and incessant. But there IS a dialogue. Ergo, the press and society has same level of freedom of expression that they enjoyed at any time except Indira Gandhi’s rule of Emergency.

    • Well said. This article is well written and contains good writing skills such as grammar, but it is hopelessly off on facts. In other words, many well written paragraphs of lies! 🙂

  8. We need an opposition which has Pan India presence and only Congress can take responsibility. Rahul should resign and undertake all India padyatra travelling length and breadth of the county to reconnect with ordinary people to understand their needs and check shortcomings of party in power. But it cannot happen sitting in Delhi

  9. India needs a left centrist party like the Congress, warts and all. We can ill afford a dictatorship without any opposition. The Print has done a good job by collating divergent views. Only Rashid Kidwai seems to have a practical way forward. Yes the Congress should reach out to its splinter groups and bring them back in the fold.

  10. NOT, as long the dynasty remains at the helm. And there is no sign that ‘THAT’ is ever likely to change.

  11. 1. One wonders whether the Congress President Rahul Gandhi and senior Congress leaders have by now realised that their criticism of PM Narendra Modi was disapproved by citizen-voters, as it was in poor taste. 2. Congressmen should not forget that credibility of Congress party as a national party would not be regained by merely talking about Congress governments’ achievements in the past or by talking about Congress party’s secular agenda. Fact is that there are now fewer and fewer takers for Congress party with its so-called secular agenda. Citizen-voters dislike dynastic succession in the congress party. 3. Is it not a fact that there are very few Congressmen who wish to strengthen the organisational structure of the party? Every senior Congress leader desires to hold an office of profit, whose number has simply dwindled as the party has lost power almost everywhere. 4. I believe that the Congress party has a future as a centrist political party provided it does not depend on minority voters for survival- this is the lesson of 2019 LS election results.

  12. Congress can’t revive as long as there is a Modi hater brigade of left liberals and intellectuals whose only life long aim is push their agenda on India irrespective if their views and ideas are even relevant today and in future to the majority in India. Take the example of secularism which this brigade had reduced to mean pro-Muslim and anti-Hindu. First Congress has to detach itself from this brigade. Congress must know that it can fight Modi only on his terms i.e. Congress has to nurture a leader that has all the traits of Modi. Congress must know that no strategy that makes the majority villain will work i.e. Congress should forget any chance of revival.

  13. In M&A terms, congress is ripe to be taken over by a charismatic leader who needs some organisation to hit the road running. It will come pretty cheap. Any takers.. may be congress should offer itself in the market place. Question is whether first sack Rahul and get better valuation or sell it on ‘as it is ‘ basis

  14. The rumours of the demise of the Congress party are somewhat exaggerated. Which is not to say gentleman should make a token “ acceptance of responsibility “ and whizz off to his next foreign vacation. The party is facing an existential crisis, will soon lose three important state governments and still does not qualify for LoP status. The party needs to identify promising young leaders in the states, encourage and empower them, also create a web of durable alliances with regional parties. What works for the opposition, in Delhi as well as the states, is that the problems of the country are so daunting, the resources have so many competing claims, that anti incumbency creeps up like a thief in the night. As citizens, we can hope that complacency does not set in, much more is delivered in the second term than in the first.

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