I stood alone in election, Rahul Gandhi tells Congress. Here’s the reason he is correct
In his parting letter to the Congress leaders, Rahul Gandhi said he “stood completely alone” in the Lok Sabha election challenging the BJP led by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.
- Rahul Gandhi had earlier criticised Congress leaders for putting self interest before party in election
- In Congress-ruled Karnataka, Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh, it could win only 5 of 94 LS seats
- In his letter to Congress, Rahul Gandhi said people should be made accountable for party’s loss
With party leaders dilly-dallying over his suggestion to find the next Congress chief thinking it is “one of those mood swings” of their leader, Rahul Gandhi finally decided to go public.
“I am no longer the party president,” Rahul Gandhi told reporters in the Parliament complex this morning ending speculation that he might continue in the view of pressure from senior Congress leaders.
The Congress president followed it up with a four-page letter, addressed to party members, posted on Twitter. Rahul Gandhi said, “[N]umerous people will have to be made accountable for the failure of 2019. It would be unjust to hold others accountable but ignore my own responsibility as president of the party.”
“I personally fought the prime minister, the RSS and the institutions they have captured with all my being. I fought because I love India,” said Rahul Gandhi before adding, “At times, I stood completely alone and I am extremely proud of it.”
This sentence of his sums up his angst against the party leaders, who were seen lax in Lok Sabha contest against the BJP, a well-oiled election-winning machine of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.
How Rahul Gandhi challenged Narendra Modi
Momentum for 2019 Lok Sabha election started building with the assembly polls in three Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in November-December 2018. The BJP was in power in all three — for 15 years in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
It was during his campaign for the Rajasthan assembly election in December that Rahul Gandhi coined the “chowkidar chor hai” (the watchman is a thief) slogan to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had sought votes in 2014 Lok Sabha election calling himself a “chowkidar”.
The “chowkidar chor hai” slogan set the narrative of the Lok Sabha election when the poll schedule was announced in March. It became so powerful that a separate Wikipedia page came up on it.
The same slogan also landed Rahul Gandhi in trouble with BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi filing a defamation suit in the Supreme Court. His charge that the prime minister was “personally involved in Rafale scam” and his slogan put the BJP on defensive until Modi launched a “mein bhi chowkidar” (I am a chowkidar too) campaign.
Rahul Gandhi had emerged as the front-line challenger to Narendra Modi and his popularity soared in surveys. Unfortunately for him, his party organisation did not match up with his relentless campaign. While the Congress leaders and workers failed to emulate “chowkidar chor hai” sentiment at the ground level, the BJP cadre took Modi’s “mein bhi chowkidar” counter to every corner of the country.
The result was that the Congress won only 52 Lok Sabha seats with Rahul Gandhi losing from his pocket borough of Amethi while the BJP won 303 seats taking the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) tally to 353.
How Congress party fought Lok Sabha election
Uttar Pradesh was crucial for the Congress to win the Lok Sabha polls or halt the juggernaut of the BJP. Rahul Gandhi attempted to make Congress a force in Uttar Pradesh by insisting on revival of party organisation and a tie-up with the Samajwadi Party for 2017 assembly polls.
The Congress leader, however, failed to find resonance with the Samajwadi Party ground-level workers. The state leaders resisted Rahul Gandhi’s idea of alliance with the Samajwadi Party and considered it contrary to his emphasis on reviving the party organisation.
The tussle between the local Congress and SP members finally led to a stalemate when it was time for an alliance for the Lok Sabha polls. With Rahul Gandhi not sure of support from the party leaders and hence delaying talks of alliance, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati buried their 24-year-old rivalry joined hands leaving the Congress in the lurch.
Rahul Gandhi made a last ditch effort to infuse some life in the Congress’s practically moribund organisation in Uttar Pradesh by bringing Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in the forefront making her in-charge of East UP. She made the right noises during election campaign and established some connect with common people. But the local leaders did not galvanise the grassroot workers, who are key in bringing people to polling centre and vote for the party.
The discord was to such an extent that Congress functionaries close to Rahul Gandhi at the central level did not promote Priyanka Gandhi’s programmes. Even her tweets were not shared by the Congress’s official Twitter handle that was prompt in giving out information about Rahul Gandhi.
In neighbouring Bihar, the Congress leaders kept fighting with the Rashtriya Janata Dal leadership of Tejashwi Yadav and Rahul Gandhi’s appeal to put up a united front had no bearing in the state unit.
In Bengal, the Congress unit was a divided house while the BJP expanded its base extensively. Both Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury won their seats on their own.
Congress in ruling states
The Congress has formed governments in five major states in the past two years — Punjab, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The party was expected to do well in these states. But except for Punjab, the Congress was crushed in all other states.
Out of 93 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the Congress could win only five. Two of them came from Chhattisgarh. In Punjab, the Congress got eight of 13 Lok Sabha seats.
Rahul Gandhi campaigned extensively in all these states. Farm distress — his campaign theme had ensured victories only a few months back. In Rajasthan, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot was found spending most of his time in Jodhpur managing election for his son Vaibhav, who lost to Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, who was rewarded with a cabinet berth in the Modi government.
In Madhya Pradesh, Chief Minister Kamal Nath did a Gehlot for his son Nakul Nath, who scraped through family bastion of Chhindwara. Kamal Nath, Digvijaya Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia were found to be pulling in different directions in the Lok Sabha election while Rahul Gandhi toiled hard holding rally after rally in the state.
No wonder, Rahul Gandhi named Kamal Nath and Ashok Gehlot soon after the results were announced while listing reasons for the Congress’s disastrous performance in the Lok Sabha polls.
In contrast, Rahul Gandhi’s decision to contest from Wayanad Lok Sabha seat in Kerala saw the Congress decimating the ruling CPI (M). The Congress won 15 of 20 seats in Kerala while the CPI (M) could win just one. Many poll observers credited this to Rahul Gandhi.
In this Lok Sabha eleciton, Rahul Gandhi was standing alone in the Congress and against the BJP led by tireless campaigner Narendra Modi and astute poll strategist Amit Shah who had formidable cadre base of over 10 crore.
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