This is something unique in the grand-old party's long history. For whenever the party had faced adversity in the past, it was the Gandhi family which came to its rescue. This time, after the worst-ever defeat in a parliamentary election since 1947, the Congress is trying to shield the Gandhis, may be to generate a sympathy wave which had worked in its favour often in the past.
But can the party still manage to overcome its woes? It is very unlikely that it can and in fact, it looks in a serious danger of going to the oblivion permanently.
What next for Congress? Frankly, the tunnel looks endless
There is no clear answer to What Next for the Congress from here on. The party put into use whatever resources it had (including an apolitical Priyanka Gandhi) before this prestigious Lok Sabha battle and yet was routed. It means that even the Gandhi magic has faded now to turn its luck around. Even the victories of the mother-son duo in Uttar Pradesh were results of a still existing sympathy factor but there is no guarantee that it will be there in 2019.
A non-Gandhi leadership is unlikely to work
The only other option left is to hand over the reins of the party to a non-Gandhi leadership. But given the nature of the Congress's elitist organisation, handing over the party to a secondary leadership will only mean a change of face and not the luck. The image of the party has been tainted beyond repair, so much so, that even an honest politician like Manmohan Singh has been left to be cursed by history in times to come.
A crippled Congress will have to bank on regional players' favour to survive now
The high-level of sycophancy is another obstacle in the way of the Congress surviving in the hands of a non-gandhi leadership. When even a highly educated leader like Salman Khurshid says that Sonia Gandhi is the mother of India and not just the Congress, one feels little enthusiastic about a bright future of the party. [Read: Will Mother India part 2 deliver, Mr Salman Khurshid?]
It is difficult to predict the future of the Congress at this hour. Routed in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Assam, West Bengal, Haryana, Delhi and many others, the Congress, for the first time in the history of Indian politics, looks irrelevant. The process of centralisation started by Indira Gandhi in the past has boomeranged and to believe that today's Gandhis can script a new beginning for the Congress from the grassroots is hard. The Congress system has virtually met its end on May 16, 2014.
Rahul Gandhi's unimpressive leadership has fuelled dissent in the party
But while writing an obituary of the Congress, a mention must also be made about Rahul Gandhi, the party's informal face in this election. The scion has completely failed in his task to even boost his party workers, leave apart the masses. The tiring repetition of 'Bhojan ka Adhikar' in almost all his speeches failed to break the ice, particularly after Rahul openly flouted his own government and made a mockery of his party's prime minister. The reluctance punctuated by occasional high pitches did not establish what the 43-year-old leader aimed in his life politically.
Rahul's team also faces the flak
There has been disappointment over the functioning of the Gandhi scion's team as well. After the debacle, the dissent in the party has begun to surface. The advisers of Gandhi have faced the flak for allegedly misdirecting the leader in crucial issues. It has also been said that some of the senior assistants of Rahul Gandhi messed up things before a crucial battle. The Congress top brass's lack of initiative to forge alliance with regional parties in key states was also shocking. It is possible that none would have shown interest in them but yet there was no effort on the Congress's behalf. It even failed to make any benefit out of the creation of Telangana.
Too much of a task now for an ailing Sonia Gandhi to repeat 2004 in 2019
The Congress had seen a tough phase in the late 1990s too when a number of senior leaders had left the party and ultimately Sonia Gandhi had to step in to save its grace. It is too much of an ask to expect an ailing Sonia again to take up the baton today while her son has failed miserably in a number of elections since 2009.
Forget the tigers, save the Congress. Only 44 members of the grand-old party are left in the parliament.