Home >Politics >Policy >Election results: Losing streak puts the spotlight on Congress dynasty

New Delhi: The rout suffered by the Congress party on Thursday in the assembly elections has put the focus back on the party leadership—its president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

After its historic defeat in the 2014 general election, Congress governments have been ousted from six states within just two years—five of them went to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies, signalling a clear shift in India’s polity.

The party’s inability to form a government in any state after the 2014 general election, barring Bihar where it was the third partner in the Grand Alliance, points to a possible systemic failure in the party.

That the Congress was defeated by the same party in Kerala with which it was in alliance in West Bengal stands out as the biggest political irony of the results announced on Thursday.

While the Gandhis often hold a media interaction after election results, they skipped it on Thursday.

Rahul Gandhi “accepted the verdict" and wrote about it on the micro-blogging site Twitter.

“We will introspect into the reasons for our loss and will rededicate ourselves to the service of the people with greater vigour," Sonia Gandhi said in an official statement.

As the party moves from one defeat to another, some Congress stalwarts say the top leadership has no long-term political strategy in mind and is not doing enough to reach out to the masses and re-connect on the ground.

“Unless the party decides that it wants to change, no amount of cosmetic steps are going to lead to any signs of revival. The top leadership is responsible for failing to take tough decisions and understanding the pulse of the people. We have lost a lot of space to the BJP and what can be a more alarming example of it than Thursday’s results," said a senior party leader, who has worked in Kerala on the condition of anonymity.

The leader gave an example from Kerala where he said the party’s only defence to corruption allegations was “show us the proof". “We forgot that voters don’t go to the polling booths with legal proofs in their hands against governments. We took no action against those named in the series of scams," the leader added.

Analysts feel the top leadership of the party needs to be squarely blamed for the repeated defeats and erosion of political clout.

“Congress needs to go out of the dynasty. Sonia and Rahul are unable to galvanize new supporters for the Congress. The party needs to introspect. The leadership should go to a person who can rejuvenate the party. Dependance on the Gandhi family will cost the Congress enormously," said Bidyut Chakraborty, a political science professor at Delhi University.

One of the key reasons why the Congress lost Assam was that the government led by three-time chief minister Tarun Gogoi could no longer inspire confidence among voters and the BJP emerged as a viable option.

In Kerala, the Congress-led government was battling corruption charges and lost out to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM-led Left Democratic Front.

“This is one of the worst phases for the party, but the alarming part is that the bigger problem is going to begin now. We have faced defeat after defeat but no one seems to have any idea of how to deal with this on a more long-term basis and come up with political strategies that actually work," said another senior leader of the party, also requesting anonymity.

Thursday’s results were also a reality check on the Congress party’s failed political strategies. The party chose to be a junior partner in an alliance with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu and with the CPM in West Bengal, but refused to have any alliance in Assam, a state where the BJP led a coalition including regional parties.

“The Congress party had a reasonable line-up of regional leaders in both Assam and Kerala but still they lost. Questions would naturally be raised on the top leadership and why it has failed to galvanize the party. The bottom line is unless there are credible, ground-level regional leaders who are given a free hand and a top brass which is there to back them consistently, defeats like Thursday’s will continue to get repeated," said Sandeep Shastri, political analyst and pro-vice chancellor of Jain University, Bengaluru.

The party is now in power only in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Karnataka apart from the north-eastern states of Meghalaya, Mizoram and Manipur.

Party leaders feel that the results of Kerala could have serious implications in Karnataka, which goes to polls in 2018.

“The Congress party has to shed its tendency of believing that a loss will have collective responsibility whereas a win will be credited to the top leadership," Shastri added.

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