Video Editor: Rajbir Singh
The Congress party has witnessed a major drubbing in the 2022 state elections, losing in all 5 states that were up for polls. This means that the party presently remains in power only in 2 states by itself: Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
The party is in power in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu but only as a junior alliance partner. The election results come as a big setback for the party, which was expecting to perform well in at least Goa and Uttarakhand.
The loss will effectively weaken the party’s attempt at presenting itself as a reliable alternate in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. More urgently, the results will also impact the internal dynamics of the party, with the underlying resentment against the top leadership likely to only grow stronger.
Several within the party have been calling for internal elections for the post of the party president as well as for the Congress Working Committee (CWC), but the party high command has been delaying them for nearly two years now at the pretext of state elections or Covid.
The Quint analyses what the loss of each state in the 2022 elections will mean for the Congress.
The Aam Aadmi Party has won a total of 92 seats in the 117 member Assembly. This is by every measure a historic victory for the party. On the other hand, the Congress' tally fell to just 18.
For a party that came to power with a comfortable majority in 2017 (77 seats), this is a clear vote against the Congress where many of its loyal supporters also turned against it.
In general, there was a strong mood in favor of ‘change’ on the ground in Punjab. This was a consequence of a sense of growing fatigue among the masses over all the traditional parties failing to address their issues of unemployment, drug abuse, and farmers’ woes.
More specifically, for Congress, former CM Amarinder Singh’s tenure was marked by mediocre governance. His grand promises to act against the sacrilege aggressors, and then failing to do so, especially contributed to his downfall. It then only added up that he lost his own Patiala seat, his home turf, by a significant margin to the AAP.
For the Congress as a whole, the repeated bickering and constant infighting presented a completely disunited picture of the party in the state.
Amarinder Singh was removed as CM in 2021, in a very public falling out with the Congress high command. He then floated his own outfit and allied with the BJP. The Congress tried to control the narrative, but failed, as Priyanka Gandhi termed the Amarinder Singh government as “being run by the BJP from the center”. This, to many, seemed liked a self-goal, and an admission of the party’s ignorance of who was running its own government for 5 years.
The appointment of Charanjit Singh Channi, a Dalit face, was termed as a “masterstroke”. And while he did have some appeal among the masses, there was very little time for the party to actually get its act together.
As per the current projections, the Congress party is looking at a result even worse than its 2017 performance in Uttar Pradesh.
The party would have expected to significantly improve on its previous performance, where it won 7 seats in 2017, given how it was comparatively much more active in campaigning this time around.
Embarrassingly, the Congress has lost all 10 assembly seats that fall in the traditional Gandhi family bastions of Amethi and Rae Bareli.
Priyanka Gandhi, general secretary of the Congress, had led much of the campaign in the state, shouldering the ‘ladki hoon, ladh sakti hu' campaign. The party gave 40 per cent of the tickets to women, a move that was lauded but also viewed being mere symbolism.
Another pitch of the party was its outreach to marginalised communities, and Priyanka Gandhi took several visits to families of the victims of the Hathras rape and murder in 2020, the anti-CAA killings and the Sonbhadra Massacre of 2019, along with others. But these visits, while good for political optics and signalling, did not have an impact whatsoever on improving the organisational rigor of the party or re-energising the party cadre. The spate of exits from the Congress in the state also weakened the party worker’s resolve: from Jitin Prasada and RPN Singh moving to BJP, to Imran Masood shifting to the SP.
Of the 70 seats in the Uttarakhand assembly, the BJP is inching towards an easy majority. This came as a big shocker for many, as even the exit polls had largely predicted a hung verdict in the state, with some even predicting an edge to the Congress.
The Congress had hoped to capitalise on the BJP’s own confusion—which has changed three of its CMs in a span of four months: starting with Trivendra Singh Rawat, who had been the CM of Uttarakhand for four years, was replaced with Tirath Singh Rawat in March 2021, who was then replaced with sitting CM Pushkar Dhami in July 2021.
But the Congress’ own house wasn’t in order either.
Congress' poster face in Uttarakhand was the former chief minister, Harish Rawat, who has failed to win from the Lalkuan seat. In 2017 Rawat had contested from two seats-- Haridwar (Rural) and Kichha, and had lost both. However, there was still some popularity that the leader enjoyed, but got little time in the state ahead of the polls.
The leader was embroiled in Punjab for at least a year before the polls, as the state’s Congress in-charge, as part of which he spent most of his time resolving the Sidhu-Captain-Channi infighting.
After that, when the leader finally began dedicating time to the Uttarakhand campaign, he had hoped to get a ticket from Ramnagar constituency. But just ahead of the elections, he was asked to contest from Lalkuan, a constituency completely unfamiliar to him.
All of this indicates a clear lack of coordination and strategising in the Congress ranks in the state.
Of the 40 seats in the Goa Assembly, the BJP alliance has already won 20, while the Congress alliance has won 11 seats. This, like Uttarakhand, will come as another disturbing shock for the party.
The BJP had gotten weakened in the state ever since the death of former CM Manohar Parrikar, a sentiment echoed by former BJP minister Michael Lobo. Lobo quit the BJP and had joined the Congress just last month along with his wife. The Lobo factor was expected to work in the Congress’ favor but it wasn’t so.
Some reasons could be that despite getting a mandate by the people of Goa last time around, the party wasn’t able to sustain its popularity during its tenure. The party also didn’t have a CM face in the state, unlike the other contenders. Goa’s election is known to be a personality-centric one, and so a lack of face on ground may have acted against it.
The Congress has won 3 seats of the 60 seats in Manipur, while the BJP has won 20 seats and is leading in 7 more in the state. While Congress was never expected to do too well in the state, it had gotten 28 seats in the 2017 assembly elections, so this election seems a further erosion of its voter base in the state.