It’s never easy to plan after a debacle. For political parties, such luxuries don’t exist, especially in times of 24x7 media scrutiny, which in India can be partisan, motivated and spiteful — aimed at pleasing the winner.
The transition to normality is likely to be painful, with difficult questions cropping up and adherents and allies turning vindictive. A blast from NCP’s Majeed Memon on Friday — in which he put the entire blame on the Congress for the defeat in Maharashtra — was a disproportionate response calculated to duck one’s own share of blame, but the Congress should avoid getting drawn into a squabble. It has an all-India ideology and interests, unlike the NCP.
The Congress’ foremost responsibility ought to be to take evasive action against the bouncers and googlies the BJP will bowl to it in the vulnerable states of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. The Congress did disgrace itself in these states, where it was in the saddle since last year. If any of these, won only last year, are lost to the BJP’s manipulations, the sting of the Lok Sabha defeat will be a lot worse.
The nationwide results have practically handed the BJP a monopoly over national power. If the principal Opposition party keels over in state Assemblies, any potential process toward constitutional authoritarianism could be hastened. This must be guarded against.
Although the Congress had only 44 seats in the last Lok Sabha, it did well as the national Opposition in the past two years. That is when it won a clutch of Assembly elections, and gave the BJP a fright.
It is evident the Congress couldn’t keep up the pressure in these states as it lacked grit, and in Karnataka failed to act against party factions that made trouble for ally JD(S). Now is the time for urgent action. The matter is crucial for self-preservation.
For starters, this means no factional bickering, the Congress’ age-old problem. When the Congress Working Committee meets, this issue should be the priority. The Congress has lost two consecutive Lok Sabha polls in 1996 and 1998, and bounced back in 2004 to rule for 10 years. But life was easier then as the BJP, its main adversary, was not a well consolidated entity on the national stage. That phase is over and the party of the Modi-Shah combine is a very different kettle of fish which is getting ready to unleash its own expansion plans.
The Congress does not need an “introspection” camp. For this party, that word is a long-running joke. It’s best to stick to common sense, rather than pass lofty, bogus resolutions. To take moral responsibility, Rahul Gandhi should offer to resign as party chief and mean it too. But the party should let him carry on. The party has no better or more energetic leader....