The assembly elections to five states held 34 months after the UPA-II assumed office has in no uncertain terms expressed the disapproval and disenchantment of the voter with the Congress Party. Congress, especially the Sonia Pariwar graph is sinking. Its lone success in retaining power in Manipur is a poor consolation for the stunning defeat in Punjab, UP, Goa and Uttarakhand. The party was not able to retain Goa. It failed to cash on the so-called anti-incumbency in Punjab and Uttarakhand. Its grandiose designs to foster Rahul Gandhi on the national firmament with a consolidation of position, at least overtaking BJP, in UP met with a shattering rebuke from the voter. It looks its traditional hold on the voters of Amethi and Rae Bareli is under siege. Rahul had a similar experience earlier in Bihar, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. He is a voter repellent and not a darling either of the youth or the mass. The UP situation for the Congress somewhat looks akin to the party’s rejection by the voter post-emergency in 1977. With one difference. Then it was a sudden explosion of mass anger, now it is a cool, calculated rejection of the dynasty politics in world’s largest democracy.
Opposition is gaining, and Mulayam Singh gets a chance to take revenge for all the humiliations heaped on him by Sonia Gandhi for not supporting her claim for prime ministership in 1999. After the 2009 victory, the Congress discarded Lalu Yadav, Ramvilas Paswan and Mulayam Singh. Though the party was dependent on the support of SP and BSP, it rubbed both on the wrong, without sharing power and hanging the sword of the CBI on their head because of corruption. For long, since 2004, Mulayam Singh wanted to share power at the Centre, like the NCP, he bailed out the government on many crucial junctures, but Sonia will never forgive him and make him a cabinet minister.
From Uttarakhand to Goa, Congress decline is total. And the Rahul-Priyanka flop show has put a question mark on the future of Congress first family.
The Congress success in Manipur is significant. In the North-east, in the aspirational search for safety and stability, it’s after all the Congress that fills the bill, in the absence of any other national party. Here, local factors rather than national issues of corruption, misrule, family splurge and stashing away of ill-gotten national wealth were not in debate.
Goa is the classic case in that sense. The BJP snatched power in a resounding mandate. The Congress had converted it into a laboratory of crime, cronyism, corruption, sleaze and communalism. Power was handed over to mafia war lords loyal only to the God Mother. As long as the family is kept in good humour, partymen can get away with murder, mayhem, rapine and rape. Voters rejected the idea and the numbers are reduced to a single digit. The biggest ever setback in Congress history, like the one in the UP turf.
Congress turned Goa into an entertainment and loot hub. Manohar Parriker’s track record and clean image bridged the communal divide which the Congress was banking on. Amrender Singh in Punjab personified this aspect. His entire approach was negative, while Akali-BJP, following the Gujarat model revived agriculture, ensured better compensation for farmers and presented a positive development agenda. Mr Clean image of Khanduri worked wonders in Uttarakhand. But in UP the BJP too suffers from a Congress patch—disconnect with its voter. So it has lost half its vote share in the last one decade. Core ideological issues, principled approach and credibility of leadership are needed to sway the voter. More than the party, the leader and more than the leader his track record (performance) determines poll outcome these days.