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The marginalisation of the Congress continues apace. This has become evident in the Haryana State Assembly election, where an aggressive and energetic campaign by Dushyant Chautala’s new political outfit, Jannayak Janta Party – at one time called the ‘Baccha Party’, stole the anti-incumbency votes that could have propelled Congress to victory. Ditto, for the Maharashtra elections, where the aging Sharad Pawar’s NCP performed better, further underlining the marginalisation of what was once India’s grand old party. Even in Kerala, there is concern because of unexpected defeats in the bypolls. Such is the state of affairs that the rise in number of seats in Haryana is being attributed to the intervention of the party’s ‘old guard’, an unconscious acknowledgement that the ‘new team’ under Rahul Gandhi was out of touch with the political reality. In fact, the manner in which the Gandhi scion participated in the poll campaign was, to say the least, lacklustre. Although he has seemingly opted out of ‘competitive’ politics, many in the party still believe that, if things were to take a turn for the better, he would be back claiming the family throne. This naturally deters others from making the effort to lead the party. It is only natural that political experts are expressing concern that India could be left without an opposition. They are busy offering remedies in a desperate hope that somebody might be listening. On the other hand, the voting public seems to have worked out its own formula – selecting a robust opposition in every state that would ensure the BJP remains challenged. This has been seen in the latest round of elections. How would this work out at the national level? Regional parties need to come together on a coherent programme. Considering that something similar was tried before the last Lok Sabha contest and failed, necessary lessons need to be learned. This would require the Left and the Congress to be kept out, because their ideological hang-ups come in the way of a pragmatic approach. A federal polity needs to be adopted based on the common interests of states, which could even allow cooperation with the ruling BJP on certain issues. This has been shown by the BJD, for instance, which has made it difficult for the BJP to level anti-national allegations against it. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has adopted the same approach, as have the present CMs of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. People can judge the sincerity of parties and leaders – they will respond accordingly. If this means the emasculation of the Congress, so be it.