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Congress’s Coalition Dilemma and Other Crises in 2016 Elections

May 21, 2016

For a child initiated to English medium schooling, it is well impossible to avoid the “great fall” that Humpty Dumpty had. Can the century-old Indian National Congress’ drubbing at 2016 Assembly elections be seen as analogous to that of the fall of Humpty Dumpty? In the nursery rhyme, all the King’s horses and all the king’s men could not put Humpty Dumpty together again after the fall. Can the Congress be resurrected by Sonia and Rahul’s men? At the moment, the party seems to have fallen in bottomless pit of electoral politics and, indeed, the party seems to lack horses for courses!

Congress’s Fortune Nosedives

This brings us to the desperation of the Grand Old Party to get rid of the present dilemma. As the proverb goes, A drowning man catches at straw. But what if the straw fails him? This is exactly what is happening to the Congress at the moment. The more it is looking for support from outside, the more it is getting fragmented within.

Of late, this has been a trend assuming the proportion of a joke and it poorly reflects the dire straits that the party has plunged into, particularly after its disastrous performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Overnight, the rulers had become beggars, not just figuratively but literally.

Pre-poll Alliance Strategy

Take the example of Bihar, the only somewhat bright spot in an otherwise glum scenario. But here, the party had to sacrifice its self-pride to join hands with its rivals as its junior partner in a desperate bid to cling to power in the 2015 assembly elections in the cow-belt state. The erstwhile rivals, Nitish Kumar of Janata Dal United and Laloo Prasad Yadav of Rashtriya Janata Dal, had then even refused to share dais with the desperate Congress scion Rahul Gandhi, during the election rallies in the state! But then, all’s well that ends well!

Keeping ideology aside, the Congress did repeat a Bihar in West Bengal – where the Centrist party felt no compunction in unabashedly embracing the Leftist/Marxist foes. As the result showed, this move backfired on the Left rather than the Congress this election. While the Congress could well refer to its marginally raised election tally in West Bengal this time, but isn’t the Left Front facing the flak for the decision in West Bengal?

Slump in Vote Share for Congress in Tamil Nadu

The Congress’s nightmare continues even in a rather friendlier terrain of Tamil politics where it did enjoy the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s bonhomie without risking its ideological moorings. (But hasn’t ideology given way to political opportunism since the beginning of the coalition era in Indian politics?). For once, all psephologists, unlike in other poll-bound states post 2014, were unanimous in giving an outside chance to the DMK to form the government in Tamil Nadu this time.

Even history supported this possibility given the fact that the state had seen alternate governments every five years since 1970s! But while the DMK could marginally raise its vote share from 39.4% in 2011 to 40.8% in 2016, the Congress’s vote share slumped further from 9.3% in 2011 to 6.4% in 2016.

Drastic Drop in Vote Share

With the exception of Bihar and an insignificant Puducherry (where the party had to struggle hard to defeat the incumbent All India Namathu Rajiyam Congress this election), the Congress graph shows a downward curve since 2014. It has lost power in Haryana, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Jammu & Kashmir, Delhi, Assam and Kerala. In the just concluded elections to the four state assemblies in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Assam this month, except for West Bengal, its vote share has again dropped drastically.

This does not augur well for the Congress. It goes beyond doubt that its various acts of omission and commission when in power at the centre for 10 long years till 2014 now weigh heavily against the party. At least the poll outcome post 2014 suggest so. The party is being clobbered everywhere and a leading English daily on 20 May, ingeniously expanded the abbreviated form of its governing committee, AICC, (All India Congress Committee), as All India Clobbered Committee!

It does look that the various scams such as the Commonwealth Games Scam, 2G Scam, AgustaWestLand scam during the Congress-led UPA’s reign, have now stuck to the party. Its one-time allies, too, have lost much relevance as of now and this explains the Congress’s efforts to forge new alliances with its traditional rivals to remain relevant in today’s politics which has moved the NDA way. But, if this slide continues, the Congress is in danger of becoming a Pariah. But how can this fall be stopped? Last but not the least, can all the king’s horses and all the king’s men put the Congress together again? They may, because unlike Humpty Dumpty, Congress is all about politics. And politics is the art of the possible, the attainable…

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