Thiruvananthapuram: Message from the north-eastern states for the Indian National Congress (INC) is loud and clear. Slow and unsteady will never win the race. No one expected that INC would make a stunning comeback in Nagaland and Meghalaya, where the regional parties hold the fort.
But there was a sliver of a hope that the Congress-Left combine would scrape through in Tripura. The results from all the three states are morale-shattering for the Grand Old Party (GOP).
The rout is all the more glaring as it came when the party had been hyper-indulgent over the Bharat Jodo Yatra (BJY) spearheaded by Rahul Gandhi (RG). Not just party functionaries in all tiers but RG himself have gone overboard in an orchestrated and self-delusional attempt to create an impression that BJY has been a political game-changer.
The narrative is that the vast majority of people in the length and breadth of the country have been carried away by the Yatra. This boastful self-assertion has not been borne out by the outcome of the assembly polls in the three states. The victories in assembly by-polls in Maharashtra and West Bengal alone came as a consolation prize for an otherwise all-round loser.
The INC leaders are yet to wake up to the reality that in a highly competitive political milieu elections cannot be won easily by outbursts of moral indignation and emotional speeches. Messages and perceptions do matter in electoral battles. But tenacious and unsparing efforts on the ground are critically important in translating messages into votes.
True, elections have their own chemistry and not a process in which arithmetic alone counts. Still, except in extraordinary situations, messages and rhetoric react themselves and result in electoral victories. Electoral wins require catalysts to key elements to react, pumped in by the organization, strategy and leaders.
Time and tide will not wait. Months have passed since the much-hyped Udaipur Chintan Shivir promised to deliver. The self-proclaimed self-critical brainstorming drew to a close with loud assertions. No less a person than RG promised that the party was set to open a new chapter. Democratic revamping of the organization was the key takeaway.
Then came the election to the post of the AICC president. Anyone with a little understanding of Indian politics knew it well that Mallikarjun Kharge was the official candidate enjoying the blessings of the first family. Then it took several months for the AICC plenary session to be convened. Of course, the entire party was preoccupied with the Bharat Jodo Yatra in the intervening months.
The campaign saw RG returning to the centre stage as the supreme leader, though without holding any official position. If anything, the AICC plenary at Raipur only reflected the party’s structural weaknesses as it had to conclude without putting together a Working Committee. The things are back to the time-honoured practice of top brass handpicking the nominees for the CWC.
The party’s state units are in a shamble across the country. Look at Kerala, where the Congress is still a force to reckon with due to its strong grass-roots presence. Still, the party affairs are in a poor state. Attempts to revamp the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) are still dragging.
The incumbent KPCC president K Sudhakaran and Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly V D Satheesan are pulling in different directions. Outspoken Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor has been run down by the traditionalists. The party has not been able to launch a massive agitation against the LDF government, which is under the cloud of serious allegations and scandals.
It is said that factionalism used to keep the Congress in Kerala fighting fit. This was true when the party was sharply polarised between two groups led by the late K Karunakaran and veteran A K Antony. The situation now is different from the leader-centric factionalism. The prevailing scenario is chaotic where a few self-propelled leaders with some personal following around them, and indulging in mutual acrimony and mudslinging.
At the national level, a hard credibility test is awaiting the Congress with the count-down for assembly elections in Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan beginning. If the party fails to win these states, or put up a credible performance, its stock as a national party would further plummet. The energy infused by the BJY will dissipate soon. The resurgence of the Congress under the leadership of RG will remain an unfulfilled dream.
Excessive and abusive tirades against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and business tycoon Gautam Adani are not going to pay off. The party has to regain its steady gait and act fast to survive.