It seems senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal spoke the gospel truth about his party after the Bihar elections. He said that people no longer saw the party as an effective alternative. He was reacting to Congress' dismal performance in the assembly polls.
Kapil Sibal made this statement in November last year, but it still rings true for the Congress, and the results of Gujarat civic polls have once again set alarm bells ringing in the party.
The warning signal is not only in its perpetual drubbings at polls by the BJP but also in the rise of debutant Aam Aadmi Party which replaced Congress as the main opposition in Surat municipal corporation. The local body poll results hint at a political churn raising the question 'if the grand old party is gradually ceding the space of opposition to other political parties? Congress is no longer an alternative to the BJP?'
The saffron party has once again swept Gujarat civic polls, winning 6,236 out of 8,470 seats across various municipalities, while the Congress scored 1,805 seats and Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on its debut bagged 42 seats. What's even more interesting is that out of six crucial municipal corporations in the state, AAP recorded stunning victories at 27 seats in Surat last week, enforcing nil on the Congress and emerging as the principal opposition in the municipal corporation.
Is Congress losing opposition space?
One can't ignore the fact that the Aam Aadmi Party has almost no weight beyond Delhi, while the congress is a national party that has ruled Gujarat for years and it registered a strong performance in the 2017 assembly elections improving its tally to 77 as compared to 61 seats in 2012.
That further raised hopes that the Congress will gain more ground, but a year ahead of the next assembly elections in Gujarat, it has lost some to AAP, which has been slowly increasing its base in the BJP's bastion since 2017-18. Essentially, the anti-BJP votes galvanised towards AAP in Surat because it exposed some scams in the civic body.
The significance of these losses in Gujarat is self-explicable by the resignation of state Congress chief Amit Chavda and legislature party leader Paresh Dhanani.
But the malaise is too deep to be cured by a few resignations taking moral responsibilities for the defeats. The Congress has just lost its lone government in south India (Puducherry) due to defection and survived infighting in Rajasthan. Barring Punjab and Chhattisgarh, the party remains just a part of a ruling alliance in states like Maharashtra and Jharkhand.
To stem defections and stop the growing infightings, Congress needs strong leadership, a command from the top to motivate the leaders and groundworkers alike, but the party seems in a deep slumber. The cadre is clueless about its commander and the Senior Congress leaders are squabbling in the open, while four crucial states are soon going to the polls.
The ongoing fight between West Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma over the party's alliance with Muslim cleric Abbas Siddiqui-led front in West Bengal is just an example of lack of leadership in the party.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of India TV. The author can be reached on Twitter @iamomtiwari)