Analysis | Delay in decision-making, absence of clear strategy and factionalism led to Congress wipeout in Delhi

The narrative was not of the future but of the past — focus on the development of the Sheila Dikshit government.

February 11, 2020 07:10 pm | Updated February 12, 2020 01:49 pm IST - New Delhi

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala (left), Delhi Congress Chief Subhash Chopra (centre) and Delhi Congress in-charge P.C. Chacko addresses a press conference in New Delhi on February 11, 2020.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala (left), Delhi Congress Chief Subhash Chopra (centre) and Delhi Congress in-charge P.C. Chacko addresses a press conference in New Delhi on February 11, 2020.

The wipeout of the Congress in the Delhi Assembly elections almost disproved the saying that change is the only constant in life.

“No-change” seemed to be the constant for the Congress as it drew a blank again.

If anything, the change was for the worse. Its vote share went down to below 5% from 9% in the last Assembly polls in 2015 and 22% in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

“We’re again decimated in Delhi . Enough of introspection, time for action now. Inordinate delay in decision-making at the top, lack of strategy and unity at State level, demotivated workers, no grassroots connect... all are factors. Being part of the system, I too take my share of responsibility,” tweeted party spokesperson Sharmishtha Mukherjee , daughter of former President Pranab Mukherjee.

Sandeep Dikshit, ex-MP and son of former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, was another party member who had been critical of the Delhi leadership.

Despite the Congress trying to showcase his mother Sheila Dikshit’s development legacy, Mr. Dikshit was absent from party forums.

He did, of course, bring out regular video messages, called “ Jan Ki Baat” , where he attacked the Arvind Kejriwal government on key issues such as education, health among others.

So what went wrong? As Ms. Mukherjee's tweet pointed out, delay in decision making, no clear strategy and factionalism were some of the most easily identifiable reasons.

After the sudden and unexpected death of Sheila Dikshit last July, the Congress leadership took an inordinately long time to appoint her successor.

Incumbent Congress chief Subhash Chopra got a little over three months to prepare his party for the battle of Delhi. The party, that ruled the capital for three consecutive terms between 1998 and 2013, was marked by pronounced ad-hocism.

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Though many believe that the party had given Delhi up to ensure that the Aam Admi Party’s (AAP) victory and defeat the BJP, party insiders argue it was more a case of lack of clarity in terms of strategy. Who should the Congress attack more, the BJP or the AAP?

While a section of the Congress party wanted the BJP to be defeated at any cost, the Delhi unit had identified the AAP as the main opponent.

And finally, the narrative was not of the future but of the past, focussing on the development of the Sheila Dikshit government.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son and former party president Rahul Gandhi leave Parliament in New Delhi on February 11, 2020.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son and former party president Rahul Gandhi leave Parliament in New Delhi on February 11, 2020.

 

True that Delhi had witnessed quite a transformation during the 15-year rule of Sheila Dikshit-led Congress government but it had its share of problems.

The massively inflated electricity bills (running into thousands of rupees) after the Sheila Dikshit privatised the government-run power corporation Delhi Vidyut Board was one of the main catalysts for Mr. Kejriwal .

The image of Mr. Kejriwal challenging private power companies — who used to cut power connections to homes that had not paid these inflated bills — by forcibly reconnecting the snapped wires caught the imagination of the people.

Since then the promise of free water, cheap electricity, better government schools and a clean government have only added to his aura, one that his rivals have not been able to diminish.

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