Congress president Sonia Gandhi
Congress president Sonia Gandhi

Challenges mount for Congress in Delhi, party on sticky wicket in triangular contests

By Prashant Sood | Updated: Feb 11, 2020 21:58 IST

New Delhi [India], Feb 11 (ANI): Congress drew a blank in the second successive assembly election in Delhi making the task of its revival even more challenging. The results on Tuesday again showed the Congress finds it difficult to hold its ground in triangular or multi-polar contests.
The party's vote percentage at 4.26 per cent is its lowest in an assembly poll and a sharp decline from 22.5 per cent votes it polled in the Lok Sabha elections last year.
A senior Delhi Congress leader, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told ANI that the poll results showed a "monumental failure" and "sheer incompetence" of the leadership of the local unit.
He said the Congress virtually gave the AAP a free run over the past several months and no concerted campaign was organised even though it was the bigger rival of the party than the BJP.
The results again showed that Congress finds it difficult to retrieve its support base from regional parties.
In state after state where regional parties have emerged, the Congress has been pushed to third or fourth spot.
Some of the leaders including Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee, K Chandrashekar Rao, and YS Jagan Mohan Reddy have floated their own parties after leaving Congress and their parties are in power in their respective states. Congress is also a part of the ruling coalition in Maharashtra but had finished fourth in the assembly polls last year.
The Congress is in the fourth position in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, two states from where 120 members are elected to Lok Sabha. It is also third or fourth force in Jharkhand, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Jammu and Kashmir and has considerably weakened in the northeast, which was once its bastion once.
"In states where there is a third dominant party, the Congress is normally out of the power equation. The party is a major force where the BJP is its main or only rival and in states like Kerala where the polity is still bipolar. In bipolar contests where the party wins, it appears people vote against BJP and not for Congress," a party functionary told ANI.
He said that the emergence of a caste-dominated party or a strong regional party was proving nemesis of the Congress in many states but in Delhi, it was also the nature of polity that has contributed to the party's problems.
"The voters in Delhi have shown a lot of flexibility in recent years and their preference has varied from election to election. We had won 22 per cent votes in the MCD elections which should have translated to seven-eight assembly seats," he said.
The functionary said the Congress support base in Delhi has been mainly poor who have shifted their loyalty to AAP and the party has not made any concerted effort to bring them back in the party fold.
The Congress, which ruled Delhi successively for 15 years from 1998 to 2013 with Sheila Dikshit as chief minister, had won eight seats and 24.55 per cent votes in 2013 polls - the first polls contested by the Aam Aadmi Party.
The Congress won 9.65 per cent votes in 2015 assembly elections though it could not win a seat.
A party leader said that BJP's campaign in which they targeted Kejriwal also appears to have taken away minority votes from the party even though Congress was the only party which had taken a clear and unambiguous stance on Citizenship Amendment Act.
The problems for Congress are not only about strategy but also of leadership both in states and at the central level.
"Often existing leadership in states is weakened through factionalism. Later, these leaders are expected to deliver results," the functionary said.
A Delhi Congress leader said that an organizational revamp was needed and a young and energetic leader should be brought at the helm who takes on the AAP government aggressively.
They said after Ajay Maken quit as party unit chief, young leaders should have been entrusted with leadership but it was given to the old guard.
The Congress is also facing organizational issues at the top with Sonia Gandhi technically an interim president after Rahul Gandhi quit over party's debacle in Lok Sabha polls.
Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had campaigned in Delhi elections also. Congress leaders said that Kejriwal's handsome victory has raised his political stature and he has emerged as a front-ranking opposition leader. (ANI)