AAP sweep endangers Congress

Party taking comfort in BJP’s decimation

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:31 pm IST

Published - February 11, 2015 03:12 am IST - NEW DELHI

By now a veteran of successive electoral defeats, the Congress on Tuesday took comfort in the decimation of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Delhi Assembly elections, but the repeated demonstration that parties other the Congress can defeat the BJP is bad news for the grand old party.

Even in the Lok Sabha elections when the Narendra Modi wave swept the Congress away, regional leaders such as Mamata Banerjee, Naveen Patnaik and Jayalalithaa stood their ground.

The Aam Aadmi Party has consolidated behind it a whole range of social groups that traditionally supported the Congress — the Dalits, the Muslims and the poor in general. “These sections feel that Congress can no longer protect their interest,” a party leader said. All the eight seats that the Congress had won in the 2013 Delhi elections were on the strength of minority votes, which did not stay with the party this time.

The AAP’s near-clean sweep of Delhi would impact the Congress’s prospects of a comeback in Punjab. As it is the AAP had spoiled the Congress’s chances of tapping the anti-incumbency mood in Punjab during the Lok Sabha elections by winning four seats from the State and cornering about 24 per cent of the votes. “If we do not set our house in order in Punjab and resolve the factional war, we might as well concede since AAP in Delhi walked away with our votes,” was the refrain among Congress functionaries.

Even now, when the Congress is fighting for survival, the party is beset with factional problems; something evident in Delhi during the campaign which was barely visible in the face of the high decibel electioneering of the BJP and the AAP.

In fact, the Congress went into the campaign without any organisational structure. All that the Delhi unit had was a Pradesh Congress Committee president Arvinder Singh.

The inability of the Congress to stem the slide since the 2013 winter round of Assembly elections is frustrating a section of leaders who have been murmuring against the clique that surrounds party vice-president Rahul Gandhi. Thinking of a non-Gandhi leadership is a total no-no but the Delhi results saw a sporadic burst of slogan-shouting for bringing in “Priyanka [Vadra] to save the Congress.”

Reacting to the manner Mr. Gandhi comes under attack after every electoral debacle, Congress leader Anil Shastri — whose son Adarsh Shastri won on an AAP ticket — said the entire party was responsible for the defeat and it was unfair to single out one person. “We have all become disconnected with the people.”

This disconnect was further aggravated by the absence of an organisation in Delhi and, according to senior party leader P.C. Chacko, the big lesson for the Congress from AAP’s performance is that party work cannot be sporadic or election-driven. Having tried and failed to replicate the Kerala model of political work in Delhi just ahead of the polls, he stressed the need to constantly nurse party workers and work round-the-clock.

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