Congress Decline Continues by Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam (October 22, 2014)

With the convincing win of the BJP in Haryana and Maharashtra earlier this week the Congress Party’s steady decline has despened. There is a clear ominous signal in Maharashtra that forebodes a UP-Bihar like long-standing setback in this state also.

So far, if the party has polled less than 20 per cent of the total vote caste, it has never come to power again for decades in that particular state. In Haryana, its vote share has been less gloomy.

The point is, why did it fall so precipitately after a relatively better showing at the Lok Sabha byelections recently? One answer is that people generally want to be on the right side of power at Centre if they want to get a good share of Central help for development projects.

Another reason is that the opposition was badly fragmented. Shiv Sena and MNS were fighting on their own. The NCP was not cooperating with Congress and there was factional infighting in the Congress.

In Maharashtra, a 15-year long Congress rule had created a strong anti-incumbency sentiment. In Haryana, too, 10 years of Congress rule had created a similar desire for change. This desire for change as a major factor for BJP win has been recognised by the Congress leadership as well.

The break-up of Congress-NCP pre-poll alliance was a great policy disaster as shown by their joint vote share. Jointly, they could have done much better. This is a failure of the leadership vision. The Central party has held state leaders responsible for the fiasco.

The disappointment of Muslims with both the NCP and Congress was another factor. This is shown in Asaduddin Owaisi’s MIM getting 25 percent of the Muslim vote. Two MIM candidates won and seven were in the second position. Whether this is an appropriate choice for Muslims is yet to be seen.

As usual, the media are tomtoming Narendra Modi’s charisma and Amit Shah’s alleged managerial and organisational skills as the main reason for the victory. This may not be wholly true. If there was one single most important reason, it was the five-corned contest in Maharashtra in which many voters decided not to take chances and vote straight away for the party ruling at the Centre. Haryana voters did not want the same party in power a third time. As simple as that.

What does all this add up to? With two more states in its kitty, BJP has emerged a strong adversary for the Congress Party in future elections. This calls for serious stocktaking and a better survival strategy for the Congress Party.


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