For the Congress, options are limited. Its battle has to be political. The BJP’s attack on it has been well-orchestrated and the relentlessness of it reflects sound planning. The party has done a brilliant job of being in power yet leaving the main opposition on the defensive all the time. It’s winning the perception game at the moment and the challenge before the Congress is to reverse the process. While corruption matters, including the AgustaWestland and the National Herald cases, will finally be decided by the courts, it will be a long time for any conclusion. So the task for the party is to swing public opinion in its favour in the intervening period.
It seems to be a really tough task. The ‘Save Democracy’ rally yesterday where all senior Congress leaders made the routine noises indicates why. In fact, the biggest shortcoming in it was the routineness of it. The Congress president uttered the expected lines, as did Rahul Gandhi and other senior leaders. If you were looking for a punch in it — the hint of a cornered party giving it all to its counter attack — it was conspicuously absent. If the party wanted to be seen as the target of political vendetta and witch-hunting, it didn’t come across convincingly.
It’s possible too many years in power has dulled the street-fighting ability of the Congress and along with political power it has lost public sympathy too. The bigger problem, however, is the party’s refusal to accept the reality. The Gandhi family stopped being a vote-puller long, long ago. They are no different from any other Congress leader at this point. Sonia and Rahul are no Indira Gandhi. The latter fought her battles within the party and outside as a political warrior. She had the spunk and the power of conviction. If she could project herself as the wronged person in the face of the corruption cases against her, it’s because she had that force of personality too.
That is not the case with the present leadership. Even if the Gandhis come clean in all the cases it would hardly make a difference to their popularity or that of the party. The problem is the Congress will simply refuse to acknowledge it. If the party faces the prospect of being a dead party after the 2019 elections, it has only itself to blame.
Now, consider this situation. Towards the end of this year or early next year the BJP will have the numbers in the Rajya Sabha. The Congress, which has been flaunting its muscle in the Upper House, may still make noise but it won’t be a force the government would be too worried about anymore. It will have its way in all important matters. The Congress will need to go back to the streets to find its feet again. And it won’t be easy.
In the two years after the humiliating loss in 2014 general elections, the party has done precious little to revive itself. In the states, where the party should be focusing all its energy, there’s no change visible. It is yet to come up with a message or a method to woo back the lost constituencies. If the BJP slides in popular perception, the gainer by default won’t be the Congress anywhere. Other players have started efforts to fill the vacuum left by the latter. It won’t be a surprise if a party like Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP marks its presence in several states at the cost of the Congress.
The point is while the BJP has strategised well to train its guns on the Gandhis and keep the Congress in a perennial fire-fight mode, the latter has done little to look beyond the trap of its own making. Will the party make amends? Not likely. Even if it does, it will be too sluggish. Too long in power dulls your reflexes and instincts.
Are we predicting the end of the Grand Old Party? Well, that's best left unanswered.
Updated Date: May 07, 2016 10:39 AM