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10 Reasons Why BJP’s Dream of Congress-Mukt Bharat Won’t Come True

Congress is not yet worn out and will give BJP tough competition in 2019, write Amitabh Tiwari and Subhash Chandra.

Updated
Opinion
6 min read


Congress is not yet worn out and will give BJP tough competition in 2019. (Photo: Lijumol Joseph/ <b>The Quint</b>)

The Congress marked its 131st foundation day on 28 December. The party’s historic poor performance in 2014, followed by losses in six states, clearly shows that the Grand Old Party is facing its biggest crisis ever. It failed to open its account in Delhi, though it was a junior partner in the coalition that trumped Narendra Modi’s BJP in Bihar.

Congress-mukt Bharat was Modi’s election slogan during the 2014 Lok Sabha campaign. This was lapped up by the public, reeling under scams during the UPA regime. The alleged involvement of the family in National Herald and Agusta, followed by the leadership crisis (flip-flop on whether Rahul Gandhi is ready to take over the party’s leadership) is adding to the Congress’ woes.

Can India be Congress-mukt in the near-term? Here’s a list of challenges that could be an impediment to realising Modi’s dream of ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’.

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1. India’s Oldest Party

The Congress is not only a political party but an ideology and a philosophy deeply ingrained in our political and social systems. It is the oldest party, credited with being at the helm of India’s independence movement. It has a hardcore support base across class and castes. Many parties came and vanished into oblivion in the last 130 years. For many voters, the Congress is the only political party in India.

Many people have voted only for the Congress throughout their life. The average age of major political parties in India is approximately 42. Only eight other parties have been at the forefront for more than four decades – Akali Dal, CPI, AIFB, AIADMK, DMK, Shiv Sena, CPM and BJP-Jan Sangh combined together.

The Congress is in power in seven states across India. (Infographic: Rahul Gupta/ <b>The Quint</b>)
The Congress is in power in seven states across India. (Infographic: Rahul Gupta/ The Quint)
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2. Pan-India Presence

While the BJP has nine CMs, the Congress has seven, with the latter being in power in states that are smaller in size. However, the Congress is not far behind the BJP in the number of MLAs across the country – 1,041 vs 863. The Congress has the maximum number of MPs in the Rajya Sabha and this would continue till the end of 2017, according to our research.

The Congress has a relatively higher number of MLAs than the BJP in 17 states, the corresponding number for the BJP being 13. The Congress is the principal opposition party (PoP) in: Seven of nine states which have a BJP chief minister, four of seven states which have BJP-backed (part of NDA) chief ministers, and three of seven states ruled by non-Congress and non-BJP CMs.

The Congress is either at first spot or plays second fiddle in more states than the BJP. It means that the Congress always stands a chance to win the state at the time of re-elections despite good performance (anti-incumbency, poor rainfall, inflation or any other silly reason). The 2004 general elections bear testimony to this fact.

3. Survived Crises

The party has always bounced back from earlier similar crises – 1969 (split), 1977 (JP movement), 1984 (Indira’s assassination), 1991 (Rajiv’s assassination), 1996-98 (infighting) and 1996-2004 (longest period without being in power at the centre).

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4. Only Alternative to BJP

The Congress is the only party that provides an alternative to the BJP on a pan-India basis. It is difficult for parties like the AAP or other regional parties to gain ground in all these states in a short time frame and dislodge the Congress. In 2014, the party came second in 224 seats with 67 seats having margin of less than or equal to 10 percent. A small 5 percent swing in favour of the Congress could deliver an additional 60-70 seats, making it a much more powerful rival.

10 Reasons Why BJP’s Dream of Congress-Mukt Bharat Won’t Come True
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5. Sahara vs Agusta Diaries

The Gandhi family is embroiled in two controversies – the National Herald Case and AgustaWestland. However, the long and arduous judicial system in India and the fact that the BJP government is also trying to gain political mileage rather than try the Gandhis legally means that most likely nothing will come of the cases. A three-tier appeal process means it could take years to book the Gandhis even if they are implicated.

The Congress recently targeted Modi for personal corruption in the Birla-Sahara diaries case. With the Congress upping the ante on this front, it would be difficult for the BJP to convince the public that diary entries in the Agusta case are valid, while Sahara-Birla diary entries are bogus.

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6. Congress Tends to Gain When in Opposition

The Congress has rarely lost vote share when it has been out of power in the Centre. Secondly, recent by-elections and municipal elections suggest that the Congress is gradually gaining share from the BJP vis-à-vis Lok Sabha elections.

7. BJP-Ruled States Fraught With Anti-Incumbency

Three states – MP, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat – where the BJP has been in power for more than 15 years are due for polls in next two years. The period is long enough for anti-incumbency to turn the sentiment against any government. Chhattisgarh has always witnessed close contests. It’s also likely to lose Punjab as per initial opinion polls. Rajasthan has witnessed alternate BJP-Congress governments over the past three decades. In all these states the Congress could gain at the BJP’s expense.

The BJP, on the other hand, was leading opinion polls in UP (before demonetisation) and would also make a serious bid for power in Karnataka. The Mahagathbandhan between SP-INC-RLD could spoil BJP’s chances in UP. Uttarakhand and Goa are expected to witness close contests.

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8. Creating Jobs

The overall employment situation is not great, with 2015 recording the lowest job figures in the last seven years. Though the economy is growing at a rate of over 7 percent, we have issues around exports and credit growth. The recent note ban step is likely to shave off a few basis points of GDP growth for FY17 and FY18. With elections in 2019, the recovery therefore may be too late to accommodate a large proportion of young people who could still be unemployed because of the demographic bulge.

These unemployed, who numbered around 85 million in 2011, could increase to more than 100 million or about 10 percent of the voters in 2019. Many of these voters could be angry and may go for opposition parties instead of the BJP. In 2004, Vajpayee lost the election because employment was a big issue together with drought.

10 Reasons Why BJP’s Dream of Congress-Mukt Bharat Won’t Come True
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9. Too Early to Write Off Rahul

With the Congress likely to appoint Rahul as party president soon, there are many questions on his ability to go head-to-head with Modi. However, recent Pew surveys show Rahul gradually reducing the gap with Modi. While the gap is still large, a win in Punjab and steady performance in UP may reduce this gap further. At the other end, the demonetisation debacle will tarnish Modi’s image in the next few months.

10. Congress’ State Units Gearing Up

Across the country, the state units of the Congress have begun to mobilise themselves after concluding that the battle with Modi and the BJP is going to be a long drawn one. The direct and indirect support for agitation methods as well as improved coordination within the party has picked pace. While this is nowhere near the standards of the BJP, it is likely the party may gather pace over the next couple of years.

To sum up, the Congress is certainly likely to increase its tally in 2019 owing to its alliances’ strategy. Any failure on part of the BJP on employment or growth front will lead to significant gains for the Congress and other regional rival parties significantly weakening the BJP. The Congress is down but not yet out.

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(This article has been co-authored by Amitabh Tiwari and Subhash Chandra. They are independent political commentators and can be reached at @politicalbaaba and @schandra_100 respectively. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

Also Read: Winds of Change? Congress in UP Luring Most Number of Suitors Now

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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