Post Polls, Congress Has Two States Left Under Its Rule: Will They Survive?

Two states of Congress have kept the party's baton high — Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

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Post Polls, Congress Has Two States Left Under Its Rule: Will They Survive?

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With the Congress' debacle in the recently concluded Assembly elections – and now the 'rebel' G-23 leaders challenging the party's top brass – the Congress is in a tight spot.

There's no doubt that the party, which ruled quite comfortably for a long time after independence, has been reduced to a position where no formula has worked for them ever since the Modi wave took its course.

But two states of the Congress have kept the party's baton high — Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. But for how long? As the party faces major challenges after the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) clean sweep in the recent polls, we take a closer look at the Congress in the two states.


Rajasthan More Vulnerable Than Chhattisgarh?

Although the Congress enjoys a majority in both states, various factors such as tussle among the party stalwarts, and the current government's performance, put Rajasthan in the hotter seat than Chhattisgarh.

Rajasthan's 2022 Budget has all qualities to be an example for other states, but it comes with a big if – and not just one, but many.

Ranging from the challenge of conveying the Budget and its features to the common man to ensuring its implementation on ground, the Ashok Gehlot government has big tasks ahead.

Even if he does perform well at both the jobs, the rising Sachin Pilot faction and its growing discontent might just set back the government to continue post the 2023 Assembly elections.
"Experience is the criterion on which Ashok Gehlot got the upper hand, and he became the chief minister after the 2018 Assembly elections. He has done okay till now and has been able to subdue the in-party tussle to some extent, but he is very clearly a member of the Sonia Gandhi group, while Pilot is backed by Priyanka Gandhi. Now if the Rahul Gandhi and the Priyanka Gandhi groups start sharpening their swords, then the Congress government in Rajasthan will see a wide divide."
Dr Arvind Singh, senior journalist based in Jaipur

"However, having said that, it's less likely to happen right away. The party would want to present a united front and hold its fort wherever possible. Also, Gehlot is an experienced legislator and enjoys popularity among both the masses and their representatives. What troubles Gehlot more is not just the BJP, but also a mix of internal rifts, his own performance, and his delivery on his promises," he added.

Congress' Loss May Increase Uncertainty for Gehlot 

"The Congress' rout in the 2022 elections is surely going to widen the already wide gap among the top leadership. They might not change the guard in Rajasthan at the last minute because they have had a bad experience in Punjab, but there seems to be less hope for Gehlot returning in Rajasthan."
Journalist based out of Rajasthan

Explaining further, he said, "First, because the anti-incumbency mood in Rajasthan has always been high since the last two decades. Second, because going to elections, the Congress' morale is down. The Delhi leadership has rendered devastating results. And when the central leadership weakens, state leadership gets empowered, and this happening in Rajasthan will not be good news for the Congress."

Rajasthan's lower-rung Congress leaders are also dissatisfied with the current environment of the state. With time slipping away for Gehlot, his attempts to satisfy them haven't been commendable. The amount of effort he put into accommodating Pilot group's members portrayed his lack of seriousness, experts said.

"He is the one with the ball in the court. He has to perform...he has to show and convince the people. He hasn't been able to do this in the past. Although the Congress will be going against a divided BJP too, but considering the situation with the recent election results, and comparing the two leaders Ashok Gehlot and his counterparts in the BJP, the latter have better chances with the public."
Another Rajasthan-based journalist

UP Results Demoralised Party Workers in Chhattisgarh

While Rajasthan looks at a tough future, Chhattisgarh has some problems similar to Rajasthan and some completely of its own making.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has been lifted up to Delhi politics with the party pushing him as a national OBC leader, however he couldn't sway the voters of Uttar Pradesh.

As Baghel struggles to make his mark beyond Chhattisgarh, internal party strife has haunted his tenure in the state, too. The talks of a 'dhai-dhai saal formula' (chief minister contract lasting two and a half years each) between him and state Cabinet minister TS Singh Deo has caused an uproar in the state.

It took a lot of effort from Delhi to mitigate this issue, and still many in the Congress believe that Singh Deo still has "ambitions that might burst out anytime again".

Apart from this, Baghel suffers from public discontent across the state.

Protests have erupted in:

  1. Northern Chhattisgarh against the coal mining projects and Baghel's actions

  2. State capital Raipur where a farmer's protest, which started in January still continues

  3. Down south in Bastar, which is brimming with protests at multiple places against the decade-old issue of atrocities against the tribals

It is evident that Baghel has more or less failed to address the issues on which he rode to the state administration.

Add to this the failure of Delhi leadership over the years and the Congress' poor performance in UP, have started the talks of saving whatever is left of the party.

"They had a lot of expectations from UP. Baghel was tasked to look after UP elections, and even till the day of counting, Chhattisgarh leaders and Congress workers were sure of gaining at least 35-40 seats in the state. To an extent that now the party workers have started talking of ways to save the regime in Chhattisgarh at least."
a senior journalist from Chhattisgarh.

Dissent Among Booth Members, a Big Challenge For Bhupesh

While the Congress continues the journey through one of the toughest times since independence, the only remaining hopes, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, will have to deliver to save the party from extinction.

"The Congress is at its peak in Chhattisgarh. What the leaders here have to understand and address is the dissent and dissatisfaction of party workers at booth levels. The lower cadre is feeling left out and unattended. Only those close to the chief minister are reaping all benefits, and the pipe goes dry to the end of the line. This will have devastating effects if left untreated for Bhupesh Baghel."
Another senior journalist from Chhattisgarh

For most part of the previous year, Baghel has been reaching out to the workers, but the lowest rung has a lot of complaints.

"Unless the party takes a step back, prioritises its focus, and ensures satisfaction among the ground workers, it might face an even bigger problem than the anticipation nearing election. Bhupesh has the factor of regionalism on his side; some bits of schemes for the tribals and small farmers might also help him, but a lot of work still needs to be done. This present and growing discontent will be too much to handle after a few months."
Journalist from Chhattisgarh

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