homepolitics NewsView: What Congress can learn from the Gujarat debacle and how AAP made a decent debut

View: What Congress can learn from the Gujarat debacle and how AAP made a decent debut

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By Vikas Pathak  Dec 8, 2022 6:09:17 PM IST (Published)

The Congress crashed to its worst defeat in the Gujarat 2022 elections. In the 2017 assembly polls, the grand old party of India had won above 70 seats but it has now fallen to below 20. Here is what Rahul Gandhi, Mallikaarjun Kharge, and the senior Congress leaders can learn from the debacle.

As results of the Gujarat assembly elections began pouring in on Thursday, the Congress crashed to its worst defeat and the BJP was on its way to winning an unprecedented mandate in the state.

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The tally of the BJP is expected to be around 157 out of 182 seats
, which makes its victory the biggest mandate any party has won in Gujarat since independence. The last biggest victory was the Congress’ 1985 tally of 149. The BJP had bagged 127 seats in what was seen as a landslide victory in the state in 2002.
As for Congress, it seems set to crash to merely 16 seats in what is a steep fall from its 2017 tally of 77.
The BJP’s vote percentage is a staggering 52.51 percent which is 25 percentage points higher than the 27 percent that Congress has been able to garner.
One key reason for the collapse of the Congress is Aam Aadmi Party splitting its votes. Leading in five seats till 4 pm, AAP seems set to win close to 13 percent votes.
Decent Debut By AAP
Thus, AAP has been able to convert the hype around its election campaign, in which it made promises of sops, into limited gains – it was leading in five assembly constituencies, namely Botad, Dediapada, Gariadhar, Jamjodhpur, and Visavadar, around 3 pm – but it seems to have dented the Congress enough to hand over to the BJP an unprecedented mandate.
With the boost that its victory in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi gave it on Wednesday, AAP is being able to send across the perception that it is capable of winning elections and that it may become an alternative to the Congress. However, it is winning fewer seats than it would have liked to in Gujarat.
Arvind Kejriwal, however, hailed his party for becoming, legally speaking, a national party within 10 years of its foundation.
Where Congress Slipped
One reason for the abysmal showing of the Congress in the state is also a low-key campaign where it was perceived as missing from the ground. The reason: much of the focus of the Congress was on the Bharat Jodo Yatra of Rahul Gandhi, who chose not to spend more than one day in the poll-bound state. In the absence of established regional leaders of the party in the state, particularly after the demise of Congress strategist Ahmed Patel, Gandhi’s presence in the state could have prevented a split in the party’s votes because of the buzz that Kejriwal created.
The takeaway for the grand old party from the drubbing it got in Gujarat is that its political strategy should ideally align itself with elections rather than claiming that elections are not key to its scheme of things. It is only in this way that it can shake the perception that it is moving towards a collapse – something that can confuse anti-BJP voters and make them split their votes.
Himachal Pradesh has come as a relief for the Congress, as it could edge past of the BJP. However, while the Congress seems set to cross the majority mark in the state with about 39 leads out of 68, it should avoid complacency on this count for two reasons: one, the vote shares of the Congress and BJP are almost identical and, two, the state has had a trend of alternating between the two parties in assembly polls but has veered towards the BJP in Lok Sabha polls since Narendra Modi became the party’s national leader.
As for AAP, it has made its presence felt in another state, but may not be satisfied with the number of seats in which it actually ended up leading. However, as this result comes just a day after AAP registered a simple majority in MCD polls, the party has managed to keep alive the perception that it has the ability to chart fresh electoral territories.
(Vikas Pathak is a columnist and teaches at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. The views expressed are personal.)
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