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

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Can the Congress Recover?

Its dismal state is reason for despondency, as India needs a strong opposition.

Is the Indian National Congress, which has ruled the country for all but roughly 14 years since August 1947, in a state of terminal decline? The staunchest supporter of the Congress will surely acknowledge that the party is today weaker than it has ever been—arguably ever since it was established in December 1885. This question, raised many times in the past, acquires relevance in the wake of the party’s electoral defeat in Assam and Kerala. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would like us to believe that we are moving inexorably towards a Congress-mukt Bharat. But there could be a difference between perception and reality.

The Congress, which used to boast that it was not just the “world’s largest political party” (bigger than the Chinese Communist Party) but had a presence in each and every one of the more than six lakh villages in the country, has fallen and risen on a number of occasions. But each time it bounced back, it has found it difficult to return to its earlier peak. Each new trough has touched a nadir, the last being the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when the party’s share of the total vote crashed below the 20% mark for the first time and the number of MPs (Members of Parliament) owing allegiance to it in the Lok Sabha plummeted to just 44. So can the Congress descend to even lower depths after the 17th general elections scheduled to take place in April–May 2019? Much depends on the performance of the Narendra Modi government over the coming three years. Still, the party led by Sonia Gandhi currently seems to be at a complete loss as to what strategies it should adopt to rejuvenate itself. It is helplessly hoping the BJP government will self-destruct. And the not-so-young vice president of the party—Rahul Gandhi turns 46 on 19 June—remains as diffident as he has always been to lead the Congress in the way a dynamic leader of the biggest opposition party should.

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