Congress emerges clear loser in Delhi Assembly election: Lack of intent, infighting and missing cadre base contributed to party's poll rout

The Congress, a party that ruled the National Capital for 15 long years has registered a blank in the recently-concluded polls.

Debobrat Ghose February 11, 2020 21:03:24 IST
Congress emerges clear loser in Delhi Assembly election: Lack of intent, infighting and missing cadre base contributed to party's poll rout
  • The verdict in the Delhi Assembly election has delivered one clear winner, and it has also thrown up one clear loser: the Congress.

  • The party that ruled the National Capital for 15 long years has registered a blank in the recently-concluded polls.

  • Right from the beginning, the party lacked a serious intent to win. This was clear from the party’s public meetings and rallies, and its style of campaigning.

The verdict in the Delhi Assembly election has delivered one clear winner, and it has also thrown up one clear loser: the Congress. The party that ruled the National Capital for 15 long years has registered a blank in the recently-concluded polls.

The Congress' dismal show was on expected lines, given its anaemic campaign and lacklustre approach. The Congress is now reduced to a fringe player, at least as far the Assembly elections go. With the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) having usurped its core vote bank, the chances of an early revival appear slim.

What led to the Congress's debacle? Right from the beginning, the party lacked a serious intent to win. This was clear from the party’s public meetings and rallies, and its style of campaigning.

Here are a few factors that may have led to the Congress' rout:

Low-key campaign: The Congress appears to have intentionally carried out a low-key campaign, and its aim seemed to be prevent anti-BJP votes from being split, rather than to make an attempt to win. In fact, on 9 February, Congress Rajya Sabha MP KTS Tulsi remarked, “The Congress seems to have made a sacrifice for preventing the splitting up of votes which would have resulted in a victory for the BJP.”

Misdirected firing: Instead of targeting the ruling AAP, the top Congress leadership targeted the BJP in most of its rallies. In his rallies, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi had attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi by taking up topics like the inadequacies of the ‘Make in India’ campaign, selling of public enterprises, unemployment in the country, etc. Even while attacking Kejriwal, he dubbed the Delhi chief minister as an agent of the BJP, who was only there to disrupt the elections. Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also echoed a similar narrative at her rallies. Barring a handful of leaders like Ajay Maken, the top leadership failed to play up the party’s major achievements during the 15-year long rule of Sheila Dikshit.

Poor leadership: The Congress' performance in the Delhi Assembly polls reflects its poor leadership both at the national and local level. Neither Rahul Gandhi nor Sonia Gandhi have been able to infuse confidence among party workers and motivate them to regain lost ground.

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Infighting: The Congress has been best by infighting in many regions of late, and Sonia Gandhi could not rein in these power tussles in the party's Delhi unit. There was a major feud between Delhi Congress chief Subhash Chopra and campaign committee head Kirti Azad. There were also differences between Chopra and the party's Delhi in-charge PC Chacko. Several senior leaders had reportedly approached the central leadership of the party with complaints against Chopra.

No lesson learnt: The Congress failed to learn from its consecutive defeats in the 2013 and 2015 Assembly elections in Delhi. Acknowledging the 2013 defeat, Rahul had said, “I think the AAP involved a lot of people whom the traditional political parties did not involve. We are going to learn from that and do a better job than anybody in the country and involve people in ways you cannot even imagine now.”

Lack of decisive action: Delhi Congress leader Sharmistha Mukherjee tweeted today —

Indeed, after every election, top Congress leaders undergo a brainstorming session at Congress Working Committee meetings. These issues are flagged year after year, but to no effect. In spite of a large number of defeats, the Congress has failed to revive its grassroots connect. The party’s frontal organisation Seva Dal, that had earlier constituted the cadre base, has over the decades turned defunct. On the other hand, while the AAP strengthened its grassroots connect through its large band of dedicated volunteers in Delhi, the BJP did so through the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

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