By Saturday evening, we will get to know if Rahul Gandhi-led Congress party be able to arrive back in relevance in the national politics. Carrying an ever-inflating bag of losses, its vice president Rahul Gandhi is up against time to prove his mettle. On Saturday, his role to come in Indian politics may well be defined.
The Congress party is reduced to a bit player with just holding Karnataka and five small states of Uttarakhand, Manipur, Himachal Pradesh, Pudducheery and Meghalaya ever since the massive loss in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
But the maths may change after the results of five assembly polls. Either it could lose the first two of the smaller states, getting even further on the margins or may add Punjab and Goa to its tally, scripting a revival.
Though, going by the exit polls, the party is, tentatively, to win only Punjab and retain Manipur, and lose Uttarakhand and end middle of nowhere in Goa. Also, it may be a distant number 2 in Uttar Pradesh, where Congress is in alliance with Smajawadi Party.
Rahul Gandhi has rejected the projections of exit polls where it is shown losing or trailing, a reaction not unexpected.
But the party, looking tired, jaded and nearly faded needs a dose of victory to break the shackles and arrive back in the national political scenario. The loss may also pose serious questions on Gandhi and his style of leadership. Though, it will not be the first time that Rahul Gandhi will come under the scanner.
Since the winter of 2013, the grand old party has been ending up on a losing side and now it runs a risk of being replaced by AAP as the locus of opposition parties, at least in perception, if it loses Punjab to them.
Though there were exceptions in Bihar and Puducherry, but that is too few to even conclude any reasonable merit of its health.
Reduced to just 44 in 2014 General Elections, Rahul Gandhi and his much discussed and debated methods to turn his party’s tide faced only losses and that too in its strongholds.
Worse, it was routed in even municipal polls in Maharashtra last month. That was the phase when the principal opposition party had gone to town opposing and flaying Modi government on its demonetisation move, terming it “anti-people”.
The vote in Maharashtra firmly proved that the issue of demonetisation raised by Opposition was a non-starter, to term the least, and the popularity of Modi-led BJP has not waned.
The results on Saturday will also be closely analysed from this perspective, but before that Rahul Gandhi may well become the talking point.