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Congress Wins 100 Seats, Stealing BJP's 400 Paar Dream. Here's What Worked

The Congress party has significantly improved its performance since 2019, despite contesting on fewer seats in 2024.

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Elections
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Video Editor: Mohd. Irshad Alam

Defying all exit polls and much of the popular analysis, the Congress party is set to win around 100 seats and the INDIA bloc around 240. Moreover, the Congress party’s vote share stands at around 22 per cent. This is a significant uptick from its 2019 Lok Sabha elections performance where the party won just 52 seats and had a vote share of around 19 per cent. This is important more so because in 2019 the Congress contested 421 seats and this time it was just 328. Now while the Congress' tally is still less than the BJP's tally, neither of the two parties have been able to earn a majority by itself. The Congress party’s resurgence in the parliamentary polls can be chalked out to multiple reasons.

What Worked For Congress

Bharat Jodo Yatra and Rahul Gandhi

In September 2022, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi commenced what went on to become a 150-day and 2500 mile long journey called the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’. A year later, Gandhi did a 2.0 of the original yatra, called the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra. Both yatras were instrumental in not just mobilising the weakened Congress cadre across various states, but also helped re-imagine Rahul Gandhi as a leader connected with the masses.

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Judicious With Alliance Sharing

This election, Congress only fielded candidates on 328 seats—its lowest ever. In many states, such as West Bengal, the party chose to let the regional parties part of its INDIA alliance take center stage. This showed great prudence on the part of the Congress, which resisted the urge to be greedy by fielding candidates all over, and prioritised a sensible alliance partnership over petty ego battles. Their own choice of candidates was also astute, exemplified by the choice of Kishori Lal Sharma who fought against and defeated BJP's Smriti Irani from Amethi.

A Strong Ideological Pitch 

Over the last decade, the Congress has lost two Lok Sabha polls and multiple state elections and across all these losses there has been a common theme—that of a lack of a strong ideological pitch. This time around though, the Congress’ entire election campaign was based on providing alternatives to what the ruling BJP has offered over all these years. This allowed the party to make inroads in the rural belt of the country across states like Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Haryana, which are facing immense rural distress. It also allowed for a strong consolidation of poor, minorities and large sections of the Dalit behind the Congress.

Playing On Own Turf  

From the second phase of the election till the very end, PM Modi had repeatedly targted Congress for its manifesto promises and a lot of times for the promises it hadn’t even explicitly made— for example the magalsutra-wealth redistribution matter. It became evident that the BJP wasn’t playing on its own performance of the past decade but on the issues propped by the Congress. The congress however, set its own narrative and largely stuck to it.  

Manifesto Promises 

From Rs 1 lakh in the account of women of poverty ridden families as part of the Mahalakshmi scheme, to a legal MSP guarantee for farmers, to scrapping the widely unpopular Agnipath scheme—the Congress manifesto made a wide range of some very pointed and rural-friendly promises in its manifesto. These translated well, especially across the north Indian rural belts.  

While the Congress did improve its performance, the fact of the matter is that the NDA still made the majority mark, while the INDIA didn't. Here's what didn't work for Congress.

Unable To Open Balance In Multiple States

Despite doing well in states like Maharashtra, Punjab and Haryana, the party failed to counter BJP in states like Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh which were a complete BJP sweep. The fact that Congress failed to even open its account in any of these states reflects that the party didn’t really put in much effort to break the BJP stronghold in these states.

Losing Key Allies

Despite attempting to keep the INDIA alliance together, the Congress did lose key allies like Nitish Kumar at an early onset, causing it a severe dent in Bihar. Had it been able to glue a wider alliance together, this could have been avoided.  

Poor Performance In States With Congress Governments 

Despite being in power in states like Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh, the Congress hasn’t done too well in either. In both these states, not only does the Congress have great resources at their disposal but also very strong regional faces to campaign for them. The party failed to leverage these to its greatest advantage.  

Issues Which Didn't Get Traction 

In the run up to the polls, the Congress tried to make an issue out of the caste census it was promising as well as matters like electoral bonds, but the party failed to make any of these issues stick among the masses on the ground. The Congress should have recognised and had a better sense of what issues are gaining traction on the ground and what aren't.

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