Even as the BJP and its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and its supporters are celebrating the historic victory in the Lok Sabha election of 2014 on May 16, it is also important to remember that it was on the same day that the Congress, the oldest political party in India, faced its biggest-ever electoral humilation.
The Lok Sabha tally of the party, led by the Gandhis, was reduced to just 44---the lowest-ever since the Independence of the country. Its previous worst was 114, registered in the 1998 election.
Party fared worst under future leader
It is a worry that the Congress was reduced to a shadow in the 2014 election, which it contested under the indirect leadership of its future leader, Rahul Gandhi. It meant that all that the party was looking forward to for its revival didn't materialise. The new Gandhi had no answer for Modi's Blitzkrieg that won him that election. [Achhe Din to Zara Muskura Do: Has Modi's 2nd anniversary seen a step back?]
A look at Congress's seats in all Lok Sabha election till date:
- 1952: Won 364 of 489 seats
- 1957: Won 371 of 494 seats
- 1962: Won 361 of 494 seats
- 1967: Won 283 of 520 seats
- 1971: Won 352 of 518 seats
- 1977: Won 153 of 542 seats
- 1980: Won 353 of 542 seats
- 1984: Won 404 of 533 seats
- 1989: Won 197 of 545 seats
- 1991: Won 244 of 545 seats
- 1996: Won 140 of 545 seats
- 1998: Won 141 of 545 seats
- 1999: Won 114 of 545 seats
- 2004: Won 145 of 543 seats
- 2009: Won 206 of 543 seats
- 2014: Won 44 of 543 seats
Congress continued to lose more states after LS poll
Even after the general election, the Congress has done itself little service. It lost power in Maharashtra and Haryana and could not capture the throne in Jammu and Kashmir or Jharkhand, where also the BJP came to power---in alliance or alone.
In Delhi, it was wiped out; in Bihar it was happy since Modi's BJP lost
In Delhi, the state which the Congress ruled for 15 consecutive years between 1998-2013, it was wiped out in the election of 2015. In Bihar, the Congress smiled because Modi's BJP lost but if it looks at itself, its own performance was a good one in a comparative analysis. In terms of stature, it remained the third best in the winning alliance-after Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar.
There is also very little reason for the Congress to feel optimistic in the 2016 elections. Pre-poll surveys have predicted the grand-old party losing Assam, on of its strong forts, to the BJP and Kerala, to the Left. In Tamil Nadu, its chances rest with the DMK and in West Bengal, with the Left. On his own, the party is next to nothing in the two important states as they send 81 MPs to the Lower House.
The Congress's best news in 2016 came from Uttrakhand, thanks to the BJP and the court
The only welcome news that went the Congress's way in this year was from Uttarakhand, where the BJP's blunder gave the former a new lease of life and Chief Minister Harish Rawat returned to the throne and headlines from the brink of an abyss. The Congress is likely to reap the benefits of the pre-election win again next year, when the state will go to polls.
But that apart, the Congress will remain in just five states: Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Manipur, if they lose Assam and Kerala this year.
Anti-incumbency high in Karnataka and Himachal
The party's top brass will know how sisnister the message is. Karnataka is the only big state remaining with the Congress now and as the mood is shaping up, the Siddaramaiah government there would face a tough anti-incumbency challenge in 2018.
If BS Yedyyurappa's return proves to be a boon for the BJP which lost the plot due to internal fight in 2013, then the Congress has every chance to be apprehensive about. Himachal Pradesh is another state which is known for choosing rivals for the throne every five years. Having won it in 2012, the Congress would have the same anti-incumbency to counter in 2017.
Otherwise, Congress has manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya left
That leaves the Congress in the three states of Manipur, Mizoram and Meghalaya---something which amounts almost to its disappearance from the federal structure. The party recently lost Arunachal Pradesh and was also on a shaky ground in Manipur, which is going to polls next year.
This is, in one word, an unprecedented situation for the Congress. Even after it had lost in the general elections in 1977, 1989, 1996, 1998 and 1999 (it failed to cross 200 seats in all of them), the Congress was still in power in a number of big and medium-sized states.
In 2014, when Modi came to power, the Congress was in power in 11 states. But things have gone worse from there.
Will Congress have even one state till 2019 LS polls?
With regional parties in no mood to give up their space and the aam Aadmi Party expressing a serious intention to give the national parties a run for their money, the Congress will only face bigger difficulties in days to come.
A number of states will go to polls between 2017 and 2019 when the next general election will be held. The Congress will desperately need to snatch back some of its lost territories or else it could be relegated to the dusty racks of the musuem. Will the party survive in even one state before the next Lok Sabha election is here?