ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Possible Pathways

Reviving the Congress

The change in governments from time to time, as mandated by the logic of democratic politics, is the best way to assure roughly fair representation for much of the population. This article argues that, at the all-India level, despite its much diminished stature, only the Indian National Congress has the necessary organisational strength and resources to challenge the Bharatiya Janata Party. It presents a few suggestions for the revival of the Congress Party.

The sweeping victory of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Narendra Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in India means that a single party has majority in the lower house for the first time in nearly three decades. In 1984, the Indian National Congress captured about 80% seats in Lok Sabha under the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi, immediately after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. After that “minority governments”—with no single party having absolute majority —became the order of the day. In the late 1990s, the country saw frequent elections and changes in governments. A visible section of the electorate was getting annoyed; and the 2009 elections somehow signalled this, when the chief partner of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)—Indian National Congress—was close to absolute majority on its own. Yet, its lacklustre performance on governance matters, marked by chronic corruption and indecision made the Congress extremely unpopular.

The electorate was probably looking for a party that would provide efficient governance and the mood was skilfully manipulated by the corporate-financed media. This led to the replacement of Congress-led UPA with BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). In fact, there seems to be an invisible set of choices. At certain times, the electorate prefers efficiency in market, while on other occasions it prefers redistribution of resources. In this century, NDA has come to represent the market dimension (of late, also governance), whereas the UPA is seen as associated with the redistribution agenda. The distinction is not clearly drawn—it is just a broad outline.

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