For some reasons, United Kingdom meets an uncanny resemblance to the Indian national Congress, and why not when similarities are in plenty. UK was a colonial world power before a devastating World War 2 broke and made it into a second rate power. Today in a multi polar world, its global hegemony is minimal and shrinking. The Congress after ruling in abundance through the Nehru and Gandhi years was powerful, seemed unassailable and had formed a uni- polar distinction in the Indian politics. 2014 was like a World War 2 for the Congress party as it got reduced to a paltry 44. The number is significant as like UK, it’s power was greatly diminished and marginalised. Nevertheless, the condition of the Congress is much worse post 2014 and now it’s fighting to be touted as a truly national party.
The rise of a mighty BJP has reduced the Congress clout to its existential crisis. Amit Shah and his envisioned Congress free India is slowly shaping up into a reality. Basically political parties perform and their strength is known at various levels. The national level, the regional level, municipal corporation level and the grass root levels like Zilla parishad and so on together sum up the strength of a political party. After 2014, the Congress party has steadily lost all these fronts instead of recovering and gaining lost ground. After loss in Lok Sabha, barring Punjab it has lost power in many assembly elections and now is reduced to a couple of states like Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh. In Maharashtra, it lost spectacularly in municipal corporations. The biggest symbol of it was the loss like Latur which has been the Congress bastion since decades.
In this climate of losing its space everywhere, came the elections of Rajya Sabha of Ahmed Patel who’s symbolised as the power behind the dynastically centred structure in the Congress.
Rajya Sabha elections are the easiest of the lots since your own MLAs cast votes and it’s more sort of a referendum than elections. In spite of it, Ahmed Patel just scrapped through like Duckworth and Lewis system and tedious calculations after the matter was referred to the election commission. Two votes of the BJP were declared invalid and Ahmed Patel was able to win on this basis. Rahul Gandhi again was absent in action owing to viral fever but this has greatly dented his image as the scion is known to remain incognito when the party is wholly under any significant crisis.
Nevertheless, even if Ahmed Patel won the battle, the war was comprehensively won by the BJP and Amit Shah. And Congress is in no celebratory mood either.
There are four reasons for the same.
Firstly, there are 57 MLAs of the Congress party in the Gujarat assembly and this Rajya Sabha election reduced their strength to 44. This will have a severe impact on its Gujarat assembly election prospects that are scheduled in the near future. The advent of cross voting had a significant impact and also highlighted discontent within the party fold. More importantly, the saviour was in the form of Sharad Yadav and the splinter JD (U) connection that gave Patel a crucial last minute edge to win the elections. With so much of cross voting, the Congress party now cannot depend on its own numbers to salvage a victory even for Rajya Sabha polls.
Secondly, never before a Rajya Sabha seat has garnered so much of a media attention. Invariably, the subtle power behind the throne of the Gandhi family was fully exposed. The frantic parleys to save his seat in front of the camera spoke volumes of the scramble the party had to indulge in which displayed their hopelessness. From a routine election, this entire drama converted it into a prestige issue of a Congress general secretary who yielded power at the behest of the Gandhi family. A mere re-nomination of the Rajya Sabha seat became an issue of whether the Gandhi family deserved to hold authority in the party. The Congress party was quick to call Ahmed Patel as a lion and an embodiment for morale booster. However it’s the opposite of what was highlighted. Even if the Congress tried to make it look as a victory of sorts, the defeat was clearly visible in the form of attempts that were made to keep its flock together.
Thirdly, the elections exposed few mass leaders like Shankersinh Vaghela openly revolting against the Congress and this election became a testimony to it. Vaghela openly retorted that it was no use to vote for Ahmed Patel and this somewhere resulted in further weakening the party at the grass root levels. Undoubtedly, this will percolate down to party cadre and workers to create further demoralising effect on them. The Congress is out of power in the state of Gujarat now for decades and just to save one prestigious seat they had to use so much of their resources. The subtle hijacking of the Congress party MLAs and bundling them into a resort in Bengaluru was a testimony for the same.
Fourthly and most importantly, this one election of Rajya Sabha seat is an indication of worse things to come. It also signals that Amit Shah is not going to guarantee safe seats in future. Seats like Amethi and Rae Bareli cannot be taken for granted and the Congress leadership may have to divert their resources further to save them. In the advent of this aspect, the media wrote headlines such as ‘is it all over for Gandhis in the Congress party?’ This scenario fortunately for the Congress managed to get postponed as the party just steered itself to win the seat narrowly for Patel. But the question may come back to haunt them.
The biggest fallout in this entire facade for the Congress is that it has rendered every election as a challenge to the Congress party and more importantly the control and hold the Gandhi family enjoyed within the party. Elections may come and go but here through this drama, Shah has managed to destabilise the Gandhi phenomena in the offing. Now whenever the next big seats of the Congress will get media attention, it would not be about obviousness of victory. Rather, the coverage will be about whether the Gandhi family can save their prestige and their face. If Gandhis are rendered as irrelevant, much part of Indian National Congress free country will be perfectly delivered. If seats like Rae Bareli and Amethi are given strong BJP candidates in 2019, the Congress may have to fight for its relevance then. Even if Ahmed Patel has technically won the seat, now the Congress has to fight next two years not only for their prestige but also for their numbers.
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