Last chance of revival
Congress’ revival after a dismal fight in Delhi is only possible through leadership changes
Instead of dancing to Bhartiya Janata Party's defeat in the Delhi assembly elections, Congress leadership must focus on revival of the party whose base has gone down to a pathetic figure of 4.26 per cent. BJP might be losing its shine but scattered Opposition is not in a position to generate hope among the masses.
Those who think Aam Aadmi Party's big win will turn the tide against Narendra Modi in coming months must realise that despite AAP getting 62 out of 70 seats in Delhi, its vote share has actually decreased in a majority of seats compared to 2015. Though in 32 seats AAP's vote share increased, in 38 seats, its vote share decreased with a drop of 13.56 percentage points in one of the assembly segments. The reality behind AAP's victory is that 2015 saw AAP winning many seats by a huge margin but in 2020, the margins have come down.
One must not ignore the fact that despite getting only 8 seats after blowing all its resources — human and financial — BJP's has managed to increase its vote share in 63 assembly segments in Delhi compared to 2015 poll.
It should be a cause of genuine concern for Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and Priyanka that the Congress vote share decreased in a whopping 64 seats out of 66 it contested this time. The biggest drop came in Mustafabad, where the party's vote share dropped by 28.79 per cent. Even in constituencies such as Mangolpuri, the vote share decreased by 26.12 per cent. If the fact that a party which was in power in Delhi continuously between 1998 and 2013 has ended up with sub-5 per cent votes does not attract the required attention of its leadership urgently to take robust steps, Congress will fail to play its role as the leading participant of the Opposition alliance. Not long ago, in 2008, Congress had a vote share of 40 per cent in the assembly elections.
In 2018, when the AAP won a historic mandate, it registered a vote share of 54 per cent while the BJP polled 32 per cent of the votes, holding on to its vote share. The Congress, however, polled only 9 per cent of the votes, registering a dramatic decline. But the party gained some ground in the Lok Sabha elections of 2019, registering 22 per cent of the votes and sitting behind the BJP's 56 per cent vote share, while the AAP stood third with only 18 per cent of the votes. This means that Congress can potentially regain its lost glory if it works cohesively and assigns responsibilities to fitting individuals.
In the last Lok Sabha election, the BJP polled 56.86 per cent of valid votes in Delhi and in the recent assembly election, AAP ended up with 53.57 per cent vote share. However, in absolute terms, AAP polled 65,981 votes more than BJP. In May 2019, when BJP won all the seven seats in Delhi and fought in the name of Narendra Modi, it got 49,08,541 votes. And this time, when AAP asked Delhi to vote it back to power in the city and make Arvind Kejriwal chief minister again, it had 49,74,522 people voting for it. Clearly, AAP has managed to draw more support now than the BJP could in the Lok Sabha polls.
Between the Lok Sabha polls in May 2019 and now, AAP improved its performance significantly. The party's appeal for votes in the name of the Kejriwal government's performance and its decision to not let the BJP draw it into the issue of the anti-CAA protests clearly worked for it. From getting just 15,71,687 votes and an 18.2 per cent vote share in the Lok Sabha polls, AAP made deep inroads into the hearts of the voters. Ultimately, it managed to influence over 34 lakh more people to vote for it.
Congress had secured the second position in the Lok Sabha polls, the loss was even sharper with its vote share dropping by over 18 per cent and with over 15.58 lakh people who voted for it seven months ago not returning to vote for its candidates this time. A comparison between 2015 and this 2020 assembly election shows AAP's vote percentage dropping marginally by 0.77 percentage points to 53.57 per cent. The total votes for the party increased by just 96,125 over the period. Considering that the total number of voters has increased by nearly 14 lakh during this five-year period, this is a small number. BJP's vote share has improved by 6.32 per cent to 38.51 between the two assembly elections and it bagged nearly 7.85 lakh more votes this time.
The Congress, which had a vote share of just 9.70 per cent in the 2015 polls, when it failed to win even a single seat, fared even worse with a 4.26 per cent vote share this time. It also saw an erosion of nearly 4.70 lakh votes during the last five years. Congress has secured only 3,95,924 votes out of more than 92 lakh valid cotes polled this time.
Real revival begins with conviction and repentance. Therefore, Rahul Gandhi will have to function as a tough taskmaster in the coming months. It is high time that he re-joins as the head of the Congress party. The revival of the party is possible only with a complete takeover by Rahul and Priyanka. It is already very late and if Congress does not realise this even now, it will be too late. Dismissing revival will dismiss all scope of Congress' return at the centre in the near future.
The writer is Editor & CEO of News Views India and a national office bearer of the Congress party. Views expressed are strictly personal