The much-hyped ‘Udaipur Declaration’ has nothing to do with the party’s attempt to reverse its election fortunes.
We have reached that point in Indian politics where the Congress is losing elections even before they are announced.
Each time the Indian National Congress, under the leadership of the three Gandhis, regroups for an event that does more for the headlines than their votes, their visible disconnect from the electorate only gets more obvious, and to make it worse, ushers high-profile exits from the party.
Less than a week after the regrouping in Udaipur, where the party workers hailed Rahul Gandhi for his leadership, the Congress has witnessed the departure of Hardik Patel from Gujarat and Sunil Jakhar from Punjab, thus effectively decimating their prospects for the assembly elections later this year, and that’s merely the first political calamity.
The elephant in the room that Congress has refused to address for over a decade now has now evolved into a dinosaur, thanks to the wheel of time and repeated hammering in two national and several state elections, and now it threatens to trample the party’s remaining limited prospects, and for the workers, it is an ominous sign to seek refuge elsewhere or to be prepared to go down with the ship.
The much-hyped ‘Udaipur Declaration’ has nothing to do with the party’s attempt to reverse its election fortunes. As is the state of politics in the country today, the people perceive Congress to be a national player, but not a national counter to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Even the staunchest of the loyalists of the Congress agree that each time there is a political showdown between Modi and either of the Gandhis or all of them, the latter would be defeated. Simply put, the electorate may want the party, but they firmly reject the Gandhi baggage that comes along.
Sonia Gandhi’s emotional call to the workers, asking them to repay the party’s debt, is another example of the party’s disconnect from the ground. In many states, even with the party shambles, the workers go all in, only to be disappointed by the mothership. The one-family-one-ticket clause, open to ridicule, fails to prioritise winnability and merit over service to the party.
Even if the party were to make an attempt to reach out to the electorate on the ground, their optics will continue to fail them, given the eccentricities of their leader.
Factor in the recent election results from five states. In Punjab, the party, literally, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, by first letting go of Captain Amarinder Singh, one of the oldest loyalists of the party, in a needless drama that unfolded in broad daylight, and then overplaying the Dalit card with Charanjit Singh Channi while sidelining Navjot Singh Sidhu.
In Goa and Uttarakhand, where they were expected to do well, they lost by a huge margin. In Manipur, their alliance was routed, and finally, in Uttar Pradesh, where Priyanka Gandhi was given another fresh start, the party won two of the 400-odd seats. All this decimation before Q1 of 2022 wrapped up.
Coming to the upcoming elections. The party is done and dusted in Gujarat, even before the Election Commission sits down to deliberate upon the dates of the polls. Not that Hardik Patel was critical to their fortunes in the upcoming elections, but even with his exit, the vote share would be further dented.
As of today, BJP is the favourite to register its biggest seat count in the state’s political history. In Himachal Pradesh, going to polls alongside, it being a swing state does fill the Congress with some optimism, but already, the BJP is making up for the lost ground due to inflation and other issues, keeping in mind the bypoll losses from last year.
In the North-Eastern states of Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Mizoram, going to polls in 2023, the party has very limited prospects that do nothing for its 2024 bid.
In Rajasthan, the party has been struggling with internal conflicts between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot and a defeat is on the cards, given the prevailing lawlessness in the state.
In Madhya Pradesh, the party has exhausted all its options after losing the government due to the exit of Jyotiraditya Scindia. In Karnataka, given BJP’s issues with the state unit, the party has the strongest chance to register another electoral victory, but too soon to rule the BJP out given the recent controversies around hijab, etc.
We have reached that point in Indian politics where the Congress is losing elections even before they are announced. Their allies and local level leaders are either deserting them or discarding them for the baggage they bring along. The leadership is in a cocoon of its own imagination, claiming the moral right to govern the country, even as every new political launch ends in an embarrassing crash.
To win 2024, Congress had to win 2022, and win it big. Perhaps, a start with the three states of Goa, Uttarakhand, and Punjab would have been ideal, but that is spilled milk under the bridge. If even after two years of a deadly pandemic, economic losses, cities on lockdowns, and individual suffering, the electorate chooses to rest its faith in the BJP or any other party but the Congress, the writing is on the wall for the Gandhis. They have lost 2024 in 2022 itself, but how much more can the party lose?
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