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First time ever, INC in opposition for 15 years

As the dust settles down and the BJP leadership realises that nothing has changed and the party has “really not been defeated” and it is very much in power for a record third term, the Congress will start realising that it has lost the election for the third consecutive time and term. 

News Arena Network - New Delhi - UPDATED: June 7, 2024, 05:34 AM - 7 mins read

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Jairam Ramesh and Mallikarjun Kharge.

First time ever, INC in opposition for 15 years

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Jairam Ramesh and Mallikarjun Kharge.


Thanks to the extra hype created by the Bharatiya Janata Party that it will be getting 400+ seats in the 2024 General Elections, the 240 seats it won, looked “very small”. 

At least, the opposition Congress made it look “quite small”, even though the party had not even crossed the double-digit mark. 

The BJP on its own, has won more seats than the INDIA bloc combined. 

 

The BJP, despite leading the National Democratic Alliance to a clear and emphatic victory with 293 members, 21 more than the required majority, appeared in shock.

The party seemed to have forgotten for a while that it had won the elections for a record third time, a rare feat in modern Indian democratic history. 

 

As the dust settles down and the BJP leadership realises that nothing has changed and the party has “really not been defeated” and it is very much in power for a record third term, the Congress will start realising that it has lost the election for the third consecutive time and term. 

It may also not be possible to hold the INDIA bloc together for a long time. 

 

The Aam Aadmi Party has already announced to go separately in the next year's Delhi assembly elections.

 

It is for the first time in post-independent India that the Congress will be looking forward to sitting in the opposition for five years more, 15 years in a row. That is quite a long long period. 

 

It is a different story that the Congress leaders, particularly its former, and possibly the future president, Rahul Gandhi are making it look like a “grand victory” for the “grand old party”, while actually it is not. 

 

The harsh fact is that Congress, on its own, has not been able to cross the “double-digit” mark, for the third time in a row, a record in itself. 

 

Rahul Gandhi seems to believe that he has achieved a great feat.

So much so, during a press conference at the party headquarters on June 6, he told reporters that they must be “in awe” as to how Congress could do this as he believes that his party did some miracle by winning 99 seats. 

 

If this is the standard of achievement the party had set, the Congress revival looks out of question shortly. Even of the 99 seats it won, 31, about one-third, it got with the help and support of allies only. 

 

It won six seats with the help of the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, 3 in Bihar in alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal, 13 in Maharashtra in alliance with the Shiv Sena (UBT) and NCP (Sharad Pawar). In Tamil Nadu, it won 9 seats, again with the support of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. 

 

Even in Haryana, where it won five seats, it had an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party. However, the AAP does not have any significant presence there, hence the Congress victory in Haryana was of its own. 

 

Compared to that, the BJP has won most of its 240 seats on its own in the states of UP, MP, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal. It did have alliances like in Bihar with Janata Dal-United and Lok Janshakti Party, in Karnataka with Janata Dal-Secular and in Maharashtra with Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party, unlike the Congress it has been in a dominant position even in these states also.

 

One important factor is that during the last three General Elections, while the BJP has maintained a consistently impressive performance with 282, 303 and 240 seats in the parliament on its own, the Congress has struggled to get out of the double-digit figure even. 

 

Congress will need to identify and redefine its core ideology. The BJP has embarked upon the “nationalist” plank and has adopted right-of-centre policies on politics as well as economics. 

 

The Congress does not have a clear policy and agenda to pursue. Known to adopt the left-of-the-centre approach, this time the party adopted an ultra-leftist agenda with promises like wealth redistribution among the poor and massive direct cash subsidies.

 

Although it did manage to build up a narrative against the BJP that it wanted to change the constitution and do away with the reservations, which did yield some dividends for the party, that issue will automatically die down as the new government has been formed and there is, as there never was, not any threat to the constitution or to the reservations. 

 

In all probability and in all likelihood, the BJP-led NDA government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to complete another five-year term. That means another five-year term in opposition for the Congress. 

 

For the first time in the history of independent India, the Congress will be sitting in the opposition, continuously for 15 years. The longest so far it had remained in opposition was eight years, between 1996 and 2004. In this period, between 1996 and 1998 it wielded considerable influence as it was supporting the United Front government from outside. Effectively, it remained out of power only for six years. 

 

Congress will need to do much more to redeem itself as a national party than just the Mod-bashing. It does not seem to mind handing over its space to political parties like the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and the AAP in New Delhi. It was even prepared to concede its precious Punjab space to the AAP had the state leadership there not resisted and threatened to revolt. 

 

The party will need to shift its focus away from  Modi-bashing and should instead focus on building itself on a positive agenda independent of Modi. For that it needs to accept and acknowledge that Modi, although this time with lesser mandate, has been elected by the people of the country for a third term. By refusing to acknowledge that, the party is not doing any good to itself, besides dishonouring the popular mandate.

It is a long and not so easy road ahead for the Congress, although the Gandhi family may have managed to tighten and strengthen its grip and hold over the party with an increased number of seats it has won. That has also been one of the prime concerns and agendas, besides forming the government. It is widely believed that firm control over the party, with a few state governments at its  disposal, has been the first priority among 'the powers that be' within the party.   

 

 

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