Sheikh Manzoor Ahmed- India
Indian National Congress which is often called Congress was virtually disseminated in the last Parliamentary elections. Established in 1885, the grand old political party of India is now showing the signs of revival and gradually trying to return as a major political force in the Indian politics.
The right wing Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) won the massive mandate, pushing the Congress to a distant second position with 44 members in the house of 543. It was followed by series of defeats in many state assembly elections which embolden BJP Chief Amit Shah to claim that the Congress will be wiped out in next few years. The congress rule is now confined to five states while Bhartiya Janata Party rules in nineteen Indian provinces. The ruling BJP is also making determined bid to consolidate its base in the Southern provinces of India where its influence has historically been limited.
But from the past few months, the Congress is slowing gaining confidence of the people and its leaders are now concentrating on the issues concerning to ordinary Indians such as unemployment, slow economic growth, corruption and divisive policies of the BJP government in a sustained manner. Its impact was felt in the recently concluded state assembly elections in the Prime Minister Modi’s home state of Gujrat where Congress performed fairly well and sent jitters to the incumbent BJP which has been ruling that state from the last 22 years. The BJP was aiming to get 150 seats in the house of 182.
The ruling party barely managed to get 99 seats out of which some seats were won by a wafer thin margin of few hundred votes. New President of the Congress Party, Rahul Gandhi, who was considered political lightweight by many politics pundits led his party from the front and saved the party from the disgrace predicted by most pollsters.
Since Sonia Gandhi fell ill the party was in disarray and it has lost the direction and contact with the workers as well as people. Corruption charges against some of the ministers of the previous Manmohan Singh government complicated the problems for the party as people were disillusioned. This provided an opportunity to the rival BJP to strike and its high command decided to project Narendra Modi as their Prime Ministerial candidate, who marshalled all resources to ensure major victory for the party. Mr. Modi has dominated India's political scene for the past four years. He became not only a crowd puller but the main vote catcher for the party.
However, his decision of demonetization caused economic crisis in the country. As if that was now enough introduction of Goods and Service Tax (GST) affected all sectors of economy, rendering millions jobless. It also slowed down economic growth from 7.5 % to barely 6.5 %. More ever divisive politics of some of the fringe elements has caused social unrest in the country .Attacks on Dalits and minorities by the right wing groups has resulted into disharmony and no serious action is being taken against these elements. Prime Minister and other leaders in his party on many times condemned cow vigilantes and other divisive forces, but it proved mere rhetoric.
This upcoming assembly elections to be held in many important states of India and it will be test for Rahul Gandhi's leadership, who has recently took over as President of the Congress from his mother Sonia Gandhi. The party must pull its socks and work hard to win some of the elections in the state.
With active public appearances, witty social media presence and interaction with Indian diaspora in many part of the world, President Rahul Gandhi is on a mission to revive the congress party. It is expected that the Congress may be able to retain power in Southern State of Karnataka, but can lose in North-Eastern state of Meghalaya. In Other state of Mizoram the Congress has decent chance to retain power. But the main battle will be fought in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh which are going to election later this year.
If the Congress party succeeds in dislodging the BJP from these two important states, it would galvanize the party cadre and help fight next year's general elections in a combative manner. On the other hand Prime Minister has to prove his mettle to face next parliamentary elections without any big challenge from his rivals.
This results of this year's state assembly elections, the first after Rahul Gandhi assuming the charge Congress party President, will indicate which way the winds will blow. Efforts by some opposition parties to form a grand alliance against the BJP are also underway, but impact of this year’s state elections will have bearing on it.
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