Worried about its slump from the contemporary political picture, India’s grand old party is all set to hold a brainstorming session by June end. The session, dubbed as ‘chintan shivir’, is tipped to be held either in Himachal Pradesh or Uttarakhand. This will be first such exercise by the Congress party after a tremendous loss in Lok Sabha polls in May 2014.
However, two years since then, the script hasn’t changed much with Congress party suffering reverses in the recently held Assembly polls.
It lost Assam to BJP in a direct contest while Kerala to the Left parties-led front LDF. Moreover, its alliance couldn’t dent Jayalalitha’s fort in Tamil Nadu and posed no challenge to Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal. Only consolation was a narrow win in Puducherry.
While some leaders have gone on record citing mere arithmetic numbers that Congress got better of BJP in the polls, party-in-general is still struggling to explain the slide which is getting deeper with each electoral defeat.
For the record, Congress won 115 seats, while the BJP just 64 in the recently held polls. But for the relevance, BJP won Assam for the first time ousting Congress after 15-years of rule, bettered its tally by two seats in West Bengal and gained an entry in Kerala legislative assembly for the first time in its electoral history.
On the other hand, the Congress party had no such gains to show in its ledger.
While the 2014 Lok Sabha drubbing reduced its strength to just 44 seats, the successive defeats in Assembly polls of Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi has knocked a deep crack on its pan-India strength and relevance.
The only exception stands to be its performance in Bihar assembly polls late last year but that were seen mainly a windfall gain riding on the back of strong JD(U)-RJD alliance, rather than any charisma or strength of its own.
It is also expected that the party may deliberate on the question over elevation of its vice president Rahul Gandhi. Clamours for his elevation to take over as party’s chief has grown, especially after the latest round of elections. But there is a section within the party which is seen to be treading caution.
The brainstorming session may also see confluence of these two chains of thought.
First such ‘chintan shivir’ was organised in 1998 in Pachmarhi, Madhya Pradesh soon after Sonia Gandhi took over the reins of of the grand old party, followed by the one in Simla (2003) and the last one in Jaipur (2013), where Rahul Gandhi was anointed as party’s vice president.
While Congress was out of power during its 1998 and 2003 chintan shivir, it was much a stronger unit boasting well-oiled organisation ruling over dozen state governments. Things are different now with party ruling only six states, three of whom happens to be small north-eastern states.
It is also looking short of imagination and firepower to perform substantially in the state polls of UP, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur due to be held in the first half of 2017, followed by Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat in the later half.
Besides big electoral losses and question over Rahul Gandhi’s elevation, the party also seems to be battling issues that pose challenge to its credibility – National Herald case, AgustaWestland Controversy and the latest one involving Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra, where he is under lens over links with controversial arms dealer.