The recently concluded elections in Maharashtra and Haryana served the BJP a grim reminder of what could be the consequences of its state governments if they don’t get their act together. The Congress’ resurgence took many by surprise including the Congress leadership. The high command of the party had decided to throw the towel much before the poll bugle had been sounded and despite its increase in tally, it just wasn’t enough for the party to form the government in both Maharashtra and Haryana. Sadly for the Congress, the elections have become a case of “what if” as had the party not surrendered meekly so early, the BJP would have surely lost Haryana and Maharashtra.
The Indian National Congress came agonisingly close to dislodging the Khattar government in Haryana but it was a case of ‘too little too late’ as the party only intensified its campaigning in the state in the past two weeks. It was as if the Congress believed Manohar Lal Khattar’s slogan of ‘Abki Baar 75 Paar’ and refused to put up a fight. The perennial underachiever Rahul Gandhi was busy holidaying in Bangkok and could only attend two public meetings. Priyanka Gandhi’s gargantuan ego was deflated in the Lok Sabha elections and it seems that the entitled heir to Indira Gandhi’s legacy is still nursing her ego.
Only in Congress can the party president not even attend a single rally or a strategy session in a state which was about to elect the next government. The party was plagued with severe factionalism and infighting as Rahul loyalist Ashok Tanwar was removed as the state president and was replaced by Kumari Selja to placate ex-CM Hooda. The Congress cadre’s spirit was dampened after the Lok Sabha polls and the party was screaming out for a decisive leadership which never arrived. It was too late when the party realised that the Khattar government is on a sticky wicket as the BJP was battling the perception of poor governance. As it stands, except Anil Vij each Haryana Cabinet Minister has lost the election – a sign had the Congress not surrendered meekly, Khattar would have been on his way out. Instead, the BJP has managed to scrape through and emerge as the single largest party with 40 seats and is just 6 short of a majority and is set to form the government with the support of Independents.
The less said about Maharashtra Congress is the better. The party managed to improve its tally by just two seats to 44 and the entire state unit seemed to be in disarray. It is telling that 78-year old Pawar had campaigned more than most of the Congress leaders combined. The NCP witnessed more than 100 of its leaders quitting the party for the BJP-Sena alliance and despite the odds, the NCP has secured just two seats less than the Shiv Sena as the former managed to muster 54 seats and almost ended up repeating its 2009 tally when its alliance with Congress retained power.
The Congress simply piggybacked on Pawar led NCP to carry it through to a respectable tally. The Mumbai unit is in absolute shambles as no one knows who’s leading it – is it Sanjay Nirupam or Milind Deora? It’s a fact that over 90% of Maharashtra’s electorate didn’t know who’s the state Congress president is as Balasaheb Thorat ran a sinking ship. The BJP, Shiv Sena and the NCP each one of them had bankable leaders and fighting under a face while in Congress it was free for all as it seemingly had accepted the fact that it was going to spend five more years in the opposition benches. The NCP fought valiantly and had Congress matched NCP’s grit, Fadnavis would have been on a sticky wicket.
The problem with Congress and its leaders are that they reek of entitlement. They believe that it’s their right to be in power and are also under the delusion that they can enjoy power even while in opposition. The party thinks that it is undergoing a bad phase and expects the corridors of power to present in front of itself without doing anything. If the Congress doesn’t wake up from its slumber, it will only be able to enjoy ‘moral victories’ for the foreseeable future.