New Delhi: On 11 December, 2017, Congress president Rahul Gandhi was elected unopposed to the top post after an internal poll did not have any challenger to him. Exactly a year later today, Gandhi is set to face the most crucial test of his tenure till now – results for assembly elections in five states.
In the past five years, the Congress party has not won any state election on its own with the exception of Punjab in 2017. While it did form governments in states with alliance partners, it has failed to win any state election in a direct contest with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 2014.
Today’s results of the five state elections – particularly Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh – are significant because these will be a key test for the Rahul Gandhi-led Congress party to improve its track record in a BJP-ruled state before general elections next year. If exit polls hold true, the Congress is likely to perform well in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh as well as a likely photo finish in Chhattisgarh.
The poll results are significant for Gandhi in the states of Telangana and Mizoram too. While in Telangana, Gandhi had personally played a role in forging an alliance with Telugu Desam Party (TDP) led by Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, Mizoram’s poll outcome will decide whether the Congress is able to hold on to its last bastion in Northeast or be out of power in the entire region.
For Gandhi, the party’s improved performance on Tuesday could help firm up his position within the organisation and take on critics over delivering elections for his party. If indeed the party performs well, another fillip for the 48-year-old leader could be greater a acceptability by other opposition parties who have renewed attempts to forge an anti-BJP alliance.
In the past year under Gandhi’s presidentship, the Congress lost Himachal Pradesh, improved its performance in Gujarat and formed the government in Karnataka in an alliance with Janata Dal (Secular) or JDS. As Congress president, Gandhi succeeded his mother, Sonia Gandhi, who has been the longest serving party president in its history.