New Delhi: Counting for the ongoing Lok Sabha elections began on Thursday morning. While most exit polls have predicted a landslide win for Prime Minister Narendra Modi led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the result will have significant implications on the key opposition party - Congress.
The spotlight hence is on Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who is overseeing the first general elections for the party. In what marked a generational shift for the party, Gandhi took over to the top formally in December, 2017 from his mother and former party president Sonia Gandhi.
After a historic drubbing in the 2014 general elections, when Rahul Gandhi was serving as the vice-president of the party, Congress faced a series of losses in state polls. With the exception of Punjab in 2017, it did not win any state election without allies and lost most of the states to BJP.
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One of the biggest challenges for Gandhi has been to arrest Congress’ decline in states where it is in direct contest with the BJP. In December, Congress witnessed a bright spot as it defeated ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. For Gandhi, the biggest challenge in this election will also be whether Congress is able to continue the momentum from December or not.
Two of the biggest pitch by the Congress party in the campaign was the nationwide farm loan waiver scheme and the minimum income guarantee scheme or NYAY. In a bid to corner the Modi government over the issue of corruption, Gandhi often used the term “Chowkidaar Chor Hai" or the guard is the thief.
The outcome on Thursday will in a way shape Gandhi’s political future particularly on whether he is able to further cement his position as the chief of the party as also with respect to his acceptability among other senior opposition leaders. The party is of the opinion that if the NDA falls short of halfway mark, Congress would string together its old and new alliances to stake claim.