The election results in four states came on expected lines except those who were thinking too high of Rajasthan’s ‘schemes’ and Chhattishgarh’s ‘governance’ model. In both the places, the Congress chief ministers were overconfident of their schemes. The governance structure remain lackluster and no effort was made to create an ideological projection of the rule of law and constitutionalism to counter the BJP narrative. In fact, in all the states, Congress tried hard to look as BJP. The leaders who were ‘projected’ the OBC face, rarely bothered to speak about the OBC, Dalit Adivasi issues. They were purely fixated to the brahmanical narratives. Congress needed to promote rule of law, secularism, inclusion and constitutionalism. Invoke the legacy of the great leaders of the past but that is not possible if you dont follow what you preach. Rahul Gandhi’s caste census plank looked absolutely hollow when the party leadership and structure does not have the space for Dalit, OBC, Adivasis and Muslims. I mean, how many national spokespersons or state level leaders in the party belong to these segment.
Rahul Gandhi campaigned sincerely and is the biggest influencer for the Congress party. There remain no doubt about it that he had tried hard to build a counter narrative but those are entrusted to reach to the masses have no connect or no sincerity on the Dalit OBC Adivasi issues. Look at Kamalnath, who failed to deliver , a single Lok Sabha seat in 2019 despite being a chief minister, did not take moral responsibility for his failure along with Ashok Gahlot , ultimately damaged the Congress. The infighting in Rajasthan cost a lot and Congress need to rebuild the social coalition inside the party apparatus. Let me be very clear, people will never trust Kamalnath over Shiv Raj Singh Chauhan. Despite, all his drawbacks, Shiv Raj Singh Chauhan remain the most agreeable and acceptable face in the BJP. Sidelining him would be extremely difficult.
When Rahul Gandhi was raising the issue of caste census in these states and at the same point of time, his party had no time to speak to smaller parties, who could have settled in less than 20 seats but provided him a bigger help, then, things are clear, Congress suddenly championing the OBC cause will only help if it has leaders from the communities on the ground. This issue will come in Talangana too and the party need to be ready for such issues because the communities want their share in power.
The result also show the crisis of First Past the Post system which means that there is not much difference in the vote share between the BJP and Congress but the difference in seat is too big and here comes the importance of alliance with smallar outfits. Congress need to nurture such alliances. It remained arrogant.
I personally feel that it can be good for the party if it learn a few lessons. Dump Kamalnath and Ashok Gahlot. Develop leadership on the base of social coalition with strong ideological shift. Most importantly, respect powerful kshatraps of the state but they must work in coordination with the central leadership and follow the guidance of the professionals.
Kamalnath never wanted Rahul Gandhi to campaign in Madhya Pradesh and instead focussed on Priyanka Gandhi who did the temple hopping. Rahul was speaking about Caste census. Ultimately, the party never attempted to reach the Dalit OBCs and lost the upper caste votes too. Rahul Gandhi must remember that his slogans will be empty if the party does not cadres and leaders to take the message at ground.
Also, it need to do lot of research for the Congress that what is fit for Congress in Telangana may not fit in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Rahul Gandhi need to pick up state issues, community issues but his voice will be taken seriously only when he show them his own model of governance which is inclusive.
Ashok Gahlot was unable to counter Hindutva narrative ideologically, failed to act against the cow vigilante and did not provide confidence to Dalits in Rajasthan. Instead, he thought that his ‘welfare schemes’ will win him the day. It helped but fell far short off.
I would say, the battle is still open as far as Lok Sabha election are concern. Yes, it will help BJP enormously in building the narrative but remember, Congress had not won a single seat in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan despite governments in these two states. Now, it has lost them, let the leadership focus strongly on the next election, build alliance every where to stop a single split in the opposition votes. Even if the Congress stick with this vote percentage in the Lok Sabha in these states, it may win a huge number of seats. So, no need for disappointment. After a few days, there will be new battle to fight and we must be ready.
Rahul Gandhi and Congress also need to be careful of their words in public. Frankly speaking, Hindi is not the forte of Rahul Gandhi and therefore he should be extremely careful and not compete with Modi on these counts. He must present the power of secular values, rule of law, constitutional morality, India of Gandhi, Ambedkar, Bhagat Singh, Maulana Azad, Nehru, Birsa Munda, Subhas Bose’s dream. Remind people all the time and present his alternative. It is important.
Lastly, the issue of level playing field, authenticity of EVMs, failure to maintain impartiality. VVPAT counting, misuse of the officials, raids on opposition during elections, are equally important and can not wished away. It is time, our institutions reflect the will of the constitution and play an impartial role so that democracy is strengthened.