In 2013, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had mentioned that if India was a computer, then the Congress was its default program. The statement was broadly panned for betraying the feudal mindset of the Congress. But fact be instructed, he wasn’t far off the mark. Until 2013, the Congress had lost national energy just thrice: 1977, 1989 and 1996. On two of those events, it maintained a really healthy vote share of 39.5% (1989) and 34.5% (1977). A non-Congress government completed its first full term solely in 2004—a full 57 years after independence. And no non-Congress authorities has ever accomplished two consecutive full phrases yet.
What the Narendra Modi authorities will probably be hoping to achieve in 2019 elections is thus unprecedented. In 2004, no person gave any likelihood to the Congress: the get together was, like today, at its lowest-ever ebb of 114 seats and a well-liked prime minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in search of re-election. Yet the Congress bounced back, upstaging the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a detailed combat in 2004 and widening the margin in 2009. Can the grand outdated social gathering of India take heart from 2004 and stage a strong comeback in 2019?
To reply this, one wants to review the performance of the Congress in two intervals: a) 1952-eighty four and b) 1989-2014. The primary period was positively the era of the Congress being the default operating system of Indian politics. Despite the fact that its vote share fluctuated between a low of 34.5% (1977) and a excessive of 48.1% (1984), the pattern line was all the time above 40%. But the second interval saw a steep decline, both in terms of vote share and seat share.
2004 was not the very best comeback efficiency of the Congress. In 1980, it had increased its vote share by 8.2 share factors, and managed to spice up its seat tally by 199. But that was as a result of the Janata Party, the Congress’s main rival, had disintegrated utterly between 1977 and 1980. It is very unlikely that the Congress will receive such a windfall in 2019. The better indicators are the Lok Sabha elections in 1971, 1984 and 2009, when the Congress elevated its seats tally by 69, 62 and sixty one seats, respectively. A rise of approximately 70 seats in 2019 will merely help cut back the margin of BJP victory.
Four factors have to be saved in thoughts while assessing the possibilities of a robust Congress revival in 2019 elections. One, for the first time in put up-independence history, the nationwide vote share of the Congress has fallen below 20%. In the course of the interval of its dominance (1952-84), its vote share never fell under 34%. Even between 1984 and 2009, its vote share never fell below 25%. The Congress is in uncharted waters, with a brand new captain leading the ship. Can Rahul Gandhi help his social gathering tide over the rough waters?
Two, the BJP now has more state legislators than the Congress. It is kind of potential that the default operating system of Indian politics has modified. In that case, will the Congress now come to energy solely episodically, similar to its rivals did in the primary few a long time after independence?
Three, the Congress’s finest comebacks (besides in 1980) haven’t crossed 70 seats. But since it’s working from a very low base, it should, and might, aim for a soar of something like a hundred seats.
Four, one other challenge for the Congress shall be to get the opposition collectively to fight the BJP. If the example of the Bihar elections (2015) is something to go by, the arithmetic of a united opposition can create hassle for Modi’s re-election bid. But the shortcoming to craft the same opposition alliance in Uttar Pradesh (2017), Nitish Kumar’s defection to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the decision of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, not to enter into an alliance with the Congress for the 2019 elections, mean that the BJP is less anxious than it could have been.
The BJP will discover it extraordinarily troublesome to repeat its 2014 performance in states like Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The beneficial properties from states within the North-East and those like West Bengal and Odisha might not be enough to bridge the deficit within the north and the west. It will financial institution upon a divided opposition cannibalizing itself to not fall much under its 2014 tally of 282 seats.
The BJP’s greatest concern will likely be that shedding energy in even two of the three main states—Karnataka, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh—going to polls this year will create momentum in favour of the Congress. A loss in Karnataka for the BJP will certainly add impetus to the already widespread speculation about the prospects of an early Lok Sabha election. Then, there are already murmurs that a poor showing by the BJP might lead it to decide on a primary minister other than Modi to draw the required variety of coalition partners.
The Congress can have to vary the definition of victory within the 2019 elections. If it manages to limit the BJP to a quantity (200 or less) where the latter can not form a government or can kind a authorities solely with a different prime minister, Gandhi would have something to have a good time. His might no longer be the default operating system of Indian politics, however he can justifiably declare that even the BJP will not be there yet.