Can Congress bounce back with New Leadership?

Even as the BJP was rejoicing over its stupendous victory of 351 seats for the NDA and Narendra Modi becoming the Prime Minister for a 2nd term to head the 17th Lok Sabha, Congress was staring at the erosion of its political credibility. So much so that Rahul Gandhi owned moral responsibility for the defeat for a 2nd time, this time as the Congress President, and offered to quit in all earnestness.
Undoubtedly Rahul Gandhi has matured as a leader and spoke fairly well at the hustings but the party got the entire strategy wrong in the elections and left it to the clever leadership due of Modi+Shah to hijack the election propaganda shifting gears from its failures on the economic front to more serious national issues as security of the country and its citizens. Congress should not have pooh poohed this in the 1st place, but diverted attention to the economic ills of the country, just as BJP shifted gears from economics ills to national security. Congress should have projected Dr Manmohan Singh as the messiah, big blunder it did not.
Strategy got the Congress defeated. The party which ruled the country with the charisma of Jawaharlal Nehru (17 years), Indira Gandhi (18 years) and Rajiv Gandhi (five years), has somehow lost the charisma, which has virtually been duplicated or replicated or Xeroxed by Narendra Modi who has ruled his home state for four terms with an iron hand like his mentor Sardar Patel, home minister under Nehru who reorganised the country under linguistic basis emerging from the shadows of princely states and alien rule of the Moghuls and the British.
Modi reminds you so much of Mrs Gandhi, the way he rules the country by his divide and rule policy on the hindutva card, he successfully polarised the Hindu votes under one banner BJP, just as Mrs Gandhi legalised all the refugees from Bangladesh and made a strong vote bank for herself. By adding another 10 seats to it current strength of 44, against an expectation of 150 seats, the congress stands virtually decimated. Like 1977 when Janata party came to power against the emergency of Mrs Gandhi, it stands in the same place. Question is will it rise from the ashes like a phoenix when Mrs Gandhi returned to power in 1984 but only to short-lived as she was assassinated by her Sikh security guards angered over the desecration of the Golden Temple when the army flushed out the Sikh terrorist Bhindranwale, who had sought refuge there. Mrs Gandhi assassination brought a massive sympathy wave to give the Congress an historic 400 seats to rule the country under the soft spoken, politically not inclined, reluctant but charismatic PM who was an epitome of etiquette and good manners towards all.
Now Congress is staring at a credibility crisis following its poor show in the Lok Sabha elections, particularly when it comes to taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).The results are a poor reflection on party president Rahul Gandhi’s leadership capabilities, besides the Congress’ election strategy to take on the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The gravity of the loss can be understood from Gandhi’s loss to Union minister Smriti Irani in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh, which was represented by the Gandhi family for over three decades.
India’s oldest political party was limited to just 51 seats, marginally improving from its worst ever tally of 44 seats in 2014 with a 19.3% vote share, reports indicate. Congress has for the 2nd time failed to claim the opposition leader’s post falling short of the minimum requirement of winning one-tenth of total seats, or 54 seats, in the Lower House.
Rahul Gandhi told a press conference the “public has given its mandate”. He soon submitted his resignation owning up moral responsibility but the 54 member CWC rejected his resignation because it has never lived without dynastic rule , albeit in the 1990s when Rao became PM.
Congress faced a bloodbath performing poorly across all key states in North India, where only last year it had wrested three heartland states from the BJP ( Rajasthan, MP and Chattisgarh), in assembly polls, but only to lose ground again in the LS polls. Even in Gujarat, where it had remarkably improved its performance in the assembly polls, the Congress did not win any seats this time. The same story played out in direct contest states such as Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, where it failed to open its account. The shrinking of electoral footprint in the North-East continued, with the Congress conceding half of its 2014 seats largely to a resurgent BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), media report say.
“As a political party, we need to decide whether our main aim is to take on the BJP or grow as a party. Both can happen simultaneously, but if at all we have to choose one, there should be a uniform approach. Even in states where we did have an alliance, there was hardly a common narrative,” a senior party leader from Bihar said, requesting anonymity. In all, the party drew a blank in over a dozen states. Its only bright spot came from Kerala and Punjab, which together accounted for 23 out of the 50 seats it won. Congress gained maximum seats from the south, including Tamil Nadu.
The Only way Congress can once again rise from ashes like the phonexi, as it always does time and again, CWC needs to take Rahul Gandhi’s resignation more seriously and appoint someone like Sachin Pilot or Scindia as the new leader to gather forces, put the disillusioned cadres together and prepare to come back to power drawing strength from the south. BJP is weak in south, Congress is strong, if Congress consolidates the south under one banner and takes one third of the BJP strength from the northern states, the congress is back in the game for 2024 elections. A lot can happened in the next five years, Modi and Shah have to play their cards right againt the rise of hindutva elements, and Congress focus on the economic ills of the country.

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