The fragile state of the Congress is always a blessing for Narendra Modi and the Hindu nationalist BJP to propagate their divisive politics of religion
The extent of defeat the Congress faced in the just concluded Delhi Assembly election is enormous, but not surprising compared to its steep fall in the last decade.
In Delhi it just maintains consistency in performance by bagging zero seats as it did five years ago in 2015. The fall began in 2013 when it was unseated from Delhi and got only eight out of 70 seats. So, the latest humiliation is not a surprising one.
Yet, it is a curious case how a party that ruled the capital territory for 15 consecutive years since 1998 touched a record low in the latest election.
It secured less than 5 percent votes and what is more shocking is 63 of its 66 candidates lost their security deposits – meaning none of them was able to obtain one-sixth of the total valid votes in their respective constituency, let alone win the polls.
The results say the Congress has been completely decimated in the battle of ballots shaped between Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist BJP and Aaam Admi Party led by Arvind Kejriwal, who is also known as a corruption crusader.
The election result, undoubtedly, is yet another setback for the Congress.
This humiliation is, however, a sequel to Congress' electoral debacle in the national elections in the last decade.
In the previous decade, the party was in a good health and maintained consistency in the four parliamentary elections between 1996 and 2004. Under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi, who had taken the party's charge in 1998, its average tally in the four elections was 135 seats.
It formed the government with its partners in the alliance in 2004 by winning 145 seats. The government led by Manmohan Singh performed well, resulting in a big boost in the 2009 election in which the Congress alone won 206 seats and returned to power. The urban middle-class, on the cusp of five years of 8 percent-plus GDP growth and placed its trust in his leadership.
But, severe anti-incumbency due to corruption and inflation pulled the Congress down in the 2014 general election that offered it only 44 out of 543 parliamentary seats.
Though the Congress sat in the opposition bench in parliament, it was not recognised as the official opposition due to its poor tally. The party again faced a disastrous result in the national election last year with only 52 parliamentary seats.
So, its debacle in the Delhi polls is not an isolated incident. It is a continuation of its fall.
The crucial question is: What went wrong with the Congress – the party that under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru had led the struggle for India's independence and ruled the country most of the times since its independence in 1947?
While results were coming out in Delhi polls, Delhi Mahila Congress chief and the party's national spokesperson Sharmistha Mukherjee in a tweet shed light on the causes behind the debacle.
In her assessment, "inordinate delay in decision making at the top, lack of strategy and unity at state level, demotivated workers and no grassroots connect – all are factors" that contributed to the humiliation.
Lashing out at the leadership, she said party leaders were too busy trying to fix their rivals in the state unit themselves rather than work together.
She did not name anybody. But Ruhi Tewari, an associate editor for The Print, directly put the blame on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for the humiliation. In an analysis, she wrote Congress' third consecutive abysmal performance in Delhi assembly election has its roots in a directionless, uninspiring top leadership.
"Rahul Gandhi may no longer be at the helm, but his term as Congress chief saw a complete decline in the party's electoral and political fortunes," Tewari noted.
She listed five weaknesses in Rahul Gandhi's leadership – presiding over a steep fall, frequent absence, inability to establish ground connect, reluctance to develop leadership, and poor internal management.
Records testify her findings. Rahul Gandhi led the Congress campaign in the 2014 parliamentary election. The party touched historic record low result with only 44 seats. His mother Sonia Gandhi was the party president then.
Yet, three years later Rahul was made the Congress chief to face Modi's mighty BJP in the 2019 national election in which the Congress bagged disastrous result again by securing only 52 seats.
Following the humiliation, Rahul Gandhi resigned as the Congress president. His mother Sonia Gandhi was made the party's interim chief.
His abysmal leadership may indicate an end to the decades-long Nehru dynasty in Congress politics.
The BJP's desperate bid to retake power in Delhi failed. But the party high command may feel less pain considering decimation of their arch-rival Congress in Delhi.
The fragile state of the Congress is always a blessing for Narendra Modi and the Hindu nationalist BJP to propagate their divisive politics of religion.
Alongside with the fall of the Congress and the landslide win in the last two parliamentary polls made the BJP over-confident to go ahead with its core political agenda – turning India into a Hindu state through implementation of the controversial citizenship law.
The absent of a strong opposition in parliament means a free rein for the ruling BJP to take it above any scrutiny. This paves a perfect ground for Modi and the BJP to establish an authoritarian rule in India in the guise of democracy.