In both cases, there was a threat perceived by the grand-old party, which had a hegemonic presence in those days. But when the party begins to assume a same stand vis-a-vis popular movements by Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal and also the rising popularity of Narendra Modi and opinion polls speaking largely in his favour in this era of liberalised media, then a serious question mark is raised on its credibility.
Take for example, the party's latest demand to ban opinion polls. Nothing could have been more humiliating for the world's largest democracy when the leading party of its ruling coalition wants pre-poll surveys scrapped just because they are showing unfavourable results.
In 1975, Indira Gandhi had done a similar act by trying to hijack the democracy when chips were down but she had failed to dictate the democracy and it was proved within two years when the Congress was thrown out from power for the first time in independent India.
By taking the poll opinions too seriously, has Congress conceded defeat?
In 2013, when the political landscape of the nation is different from what it had looked in those years of Congress dominance, such plan of subverting the spirit of democracy looks suicidal. But as one rightly said, old habits die hard.
The UPA backs the theory that no other speech should be telecast the day when the prime minister speaks. The target is clearly Narendra Modi who had taken on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the Independence Day this year by giving a strong message his state challenging the Centre. Such idea basically negates the constitutional provision of right to free speech. On the demand to ban opinion polls, the Congress said it was backing the election commission's stand, but can anybody seek to put a curb on the right to free speech?
The Congress's problem is that it has failed to adjust with the fast-changing urban India. Be it 24X7 media channels or an assertive social media, the Congress has struggled to keep pace with their views. We see leaders of the party often fail to control their tongues while speaking to the media (Beni Prasad Verma and Digvijay Singh are two notorious examples) and even those who do not use bad language, the content of their statements is pitiable. On the contrary, the BJP is a party which makes full use of social networking and the media and handle them in a smart manner.
'Opinion polls mislead people' is a bad argument. Opinion polls can not influence public opinion if the public is mature and well-informed. Neither are these polls foolproof. If the Congress is so rattled by the results of shadow-voting, then what it would do if the real results also reflect the same? Will it demand cancellation of voting then? The UPA government is not doing its battered image any good by making these demands in the public. It has no right to influence people's thought nor can it project the prime minister as its own property.
In 2004, the BJP could not fathom the real mood and was confident of returning to power through its India Shining campaign Blitzkrieg. Wasn't the Congress happy then? Does it feel bad when predictions are made about its victory in many states in the northeast? So why can't it be a sport and expect that the so-called pro-Modi wave could also be a flop in 2014 and it might return to power again?
One suspects that it's a matter of the psychological set-up. Has the Congress lost even before the game started?