The Congress party is undoubtedly the biggest loser in the recent Bihar crisis. Not only has it lost many states to BJP but the so called experiment of “Maha Gathbandhan (grand alliance)” which was presented as the starting point for the united opposition for 2019 general elections is in complete disarray.
On the other hand, the biggest winner in the grand alliance’s debacle is the BJP which has added one more state to its kitty. The saffron party now rules more than 70% of the population. Not only this, seven out of 12 states which send more than 20 MPs to the parliament are ruled by it. Moreover, the other big states ruled by parties such as AIADMK and TDP are also cozying up to the BJP.
Congress has lost more than a state in this fiasco. Nitish Kumar was not just the chief minister of Bihar but also a leader who was expected to take on Narendra Modi in the next elections. The grand alliance even though it had remarkable complexities, was successful in giving BJP a bloody nose. Repeating any other such alliance in the future in any other state with such intricacies is almost impossible. For example in Uttar Pradesh, despite forming an alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP), the coalition remained far away from winning, mainly because the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was not on board to present a formidable challenge for the BJP. Had the alliance of SP-BSP-INC been forged in the UP, the vote percentage would have been much above 40 per cent, and the scenario could have been different.
The Congress party would be facing other difficulties in forming an alliance at a national stage. Mamata Banerjee and the left have their own ideological battles while Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi has his own plans and is unlikely to forge an alliance with Congress.
All of this brings us to an important point—Rahul Gandhi. These setbacks raise pertinent questions on Congress’s scion, the party Vice President Rahul Gandhi. Questions about his ability to lead the party have long been raised but any other defeat can build a ground for a revolt inside the party. Despite being the single largest party in Manipur and Goa, Congress failed to form a government. Although it can derive some solace from the fact that it formed a government in Punjab, there is no getting around the fact that Gandhi is an unmitigated liability for the Congress party.
Punjab happened not because of him but because of Amarinder Singh and unfortunately, the party does not have many state leaders of comparable stature. On top of it, states such as Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka where Congress is ruling currently, it is marred with graft charges and is likely to slip from the helm in the next elections. Recent resignations of MLAs in Gujarat and along with their leader Shankar Singh Vaghela demonstrate the complete failure of the Congress high commands sitting in Delhi. All of this points towards political immaturity and lack of political acumen of Gandhi.
More than a century old party is now facing survival crisis where once it had a pan-India appeal. The party suffers from a crisis of narrative and is unable to give reasons to the voters to vote for them. It lags far behind the saffron party in terms of social media campaigning and the ground work force. If major organizational changes and its mode of tackling the policies are not changed, the grand old party would itself be contributing to making this country a “Congress-Mukt Bharat!”