Former Union Minister Ashwani Kumar, who quit Congress last month, said the ragtag Congress was desperately pretending to be relevant.
New Delhi: The biggest losers in the just-concluded assembly elections are Rahul Gandhi, his sister Priyanka and the Congress party. The grand old party lost Punjab to hardly a ten-year-old AAP, and it also failed to wrest power from BJP in any of the other four states. Congress failed to win Assam and Kerala and drew zero in West Bengal in last year's elections.
In Punjab, Congress, at the insistence of the Rahul-Priyanka duo, dumped Capt Amarinder Singh, and in Uttar Pradesh, the so-called 'Priyanka factor' simply could not connect with people. The Congress vote share in UP has come down to around 2 per cent. The grand old party is a zero-MLA outfit in West Bengal, Nagaland, Delhi, and Tripura. It now has chief ministers of its own only in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. It shares power in Jharkhand and Maharashtra.
Lawmaker Shashi Tharoor, a key member of G-23, already ventilates the idea of 'change'. He stresses on "reform our organisational leadership" in a manner that will reignite those (original Congress) ideas and inspire the people. "One thing is clear – Change is unavoidable if we need to succeed," tweets Tharoor.
Having won in Punjab, AAP now signals plans to enter states like Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, where polls are due December 2022, and possibly Haryana, where it has a base. If it replaces the Congress as the challenger to BJP, this will further shrink the Congress base.
Former Union Minister Ashwani Kumar had quit Congress a month back and said the grand old party had no chance of winning in Punjab. As his prediction came true on Thursday, Kumar said, "My long years in politics have taught me that people must not test the endurance of people beyond a point. Congress has tested the endurance of its loyalists for a very long time. This is the end game for the Congress." He also maintained that the "ragtag" Congress was "desperately pretending to be relevant".
In an episode that adds insult to injuries, Trinamool Congress leader Farid Hakim took a dig at the 'parent Congress party' and said it should 'merge' with the Trinamool and accept the leadership of Mamata Banerjee. Another Trinamool leader Kunal Ghosh said Congress's failure to put up a fight has led to BJP's victory in the assembly polls in four of the five states.
"We have been saying this for a long time that Congress in its present form is not suited to fight against the BJP," he said, adding, "To fight against a formidable force like BJP, you need a leader like Mamata Banerjee".
Predictably, the West Bengal Congress president and party's floor leader in Lok Sabha, Adhir Chowdhury, said "agents of BJP" should not advise the party how to fight the Lotus party. "Trinamool is the biggest agent of the BJP … Rather, TMC should merge with Congress if it is so serious about fighting against BJP," said Chowdhury.
The Trinamool Congress had made a big hype about its entry into Goa polls and even fielded prominent candidates. But in the ultimate, it could draw only 5.6 per cent of total votes, and the score sheet is obviously zero.
Among its candidates, former chief minister Churchill Alemao lost the election from Benaulim to the AAP nominee. TMC's key candidates, including Goa party chief Kiran Kandolkar and his wife Kavita Kandolkar, couldn't win in the state.
Churchill Alemao had quit the NCP to join Mamata Banerjee's outfit and his daughter Valanka, who contested on the TMC ticket, lost in the elections.
"We accept this mandate with all humility," the TMC's Goa unit said on its Twitter handle. Surprisingly, Trinamool Congress did not take its contest seriously in Manipur, where it once had elected MLAs.
The poor performance of Congress would be possibly reflected in the party's organisational polls due September. Rahul Gandhi did not give any indication of owning moral responsibility. Of course, he had resigned as Congress president in 2019 after the Lok Sabha poll debacle, but only to pull strings so that the 'power' remains with him indirectly through his mother.
In fact, most of the doing that damaged Congress prospects in Punjab was Rahul's decision to remove Capt Amarinder Singh as the Chief Minister. He had shown immense trust in Navjot Singh Sidhu and later brought in a Dalit face as their chief minister, Charanjit Singh Channi.
Punjab watchers say the move had probably irked Jat Sikhs, and they reposed faith in the new entrant AAP.