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Future Path


While the BJP continued with its dominant performance in the latest round of elections, the Congress had three significant victories to show, albeit in assembly by-polls. These are significant in that they indicate the future strategy the party will have to employ in its bid to return anywhere near its former grandeur.

The first message is that it cannot return to power on its own. The odd victory, such as that in Himachal Pradesh, was possible because of local leaders with a hold over the electorate. These are not available in the bigger states for various reasons, not least because regional parties exercise considerable clout. The Congress won the bypoll in Maharashtra thanks to the backing of its alliance partners, the NCP and the Thackeray led faction of the Shiv Sena; in Tamil Nadu because of DMK support; and Communist support in West Bengal. The last is quite important because the victory was against the assertive TMC.

It is clear that the Congress is incapable of winning on its own without the crutches provided by others. These others will need to be identified – as there are likely to be contradictions with a party being an adversary in one state and an ally in another. There are lessons to be learned from the BJP which, during its rise to power, allied with strong regional outfits such as the Akali Dal, Shiv Sena, AIADMK, BSP, etc. Its rise in the North-East is marked by its numerous tie-ups with local parties, no matter how small. Similar compatibility will have to be worked out by the Congress with other outfits so that their votebanks can be consolidated. In cases where there is strong grassroots rivalry between cadres, the required transfer of votes will not take place.

Also, the Congress will have to admit to itself that it is in no position to claim the Prime Minister’s post if a coalition of the opposition does manage to upend the Modi Juggernaut. It cannot barter way its future just out of misplaced loyalty for the Nehru-Gandhi family. It must concentrate on reviving its cadre and be content with a junior role in any future coalition till such time its strategy unfolds. In times of crisis, mere survival can become the primary goal.