The Delhi Assembly Election results are pouring in and from what we know thus far, one thing is pretty clear – the Congress party is never recovering certain spaces it lost to other parties between 2014 and 2019. Delhi is a Union Territory where the Congress had ruled comfortably for years and yet, in this year’s Assembly Election, they are nowhere to be found. The Aam Aadmi Party has eaten into their voter base for good and it is extremely unlikely that the Congress party will be able to gain them back in the years to come.
For a great many years, the Delhi Assembly Elections had been a bipolar contest between the BJP and the Congress party. While the BJP still remains a credible opposition in terms of vote share, the Congress has been obliterated. The AAP has swallowed into its voter base lock, stock, and barrel. In 2020, they are nowhere near to being a valid alternative to the AAP or the BJP. Delhi still remains a bipolar contest and unfortunately for the Congress party, they are not one of the two credible alternatives.
Worryingly for the Congress party, there are a lot of other regions where it is extremely unlikely that the Congress party will be competitive again in the near future. The losses it suffered between 2013 and 2019 seem permanent in many regions of the country. The Northeastern region of the country is one of those.
In Uttar Pradesh, where it has enjoyed great results in the past, Congress can only piggyback on the success of the Samajwadi Party and the BSP. In Maharashtra, where it has dominated in the past, the Congress party is at the mercy of the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party. In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the Congress is nowhere to be found. In Odisha, the fight is between the BJP and the BJD.
There are a number of states where the Congress party remains a tough competitor or the single largest opposition or even in power. Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Goa, and many other states but it is undeniable that in the larger scheme of things, the regions of the country where the party was competitive on its own has declined significantly and it has not been able to recover all the losses it has suffered since Narendra Modi’s rise to national politics.
Ever since independence, the Congress has dominated national politics and at its worst, has been competitive in areas where it couldn’t win. Even when they were out of power in the centre, the Congress was the nucleus around which the Opposition revolved. It can no longer be said that it is the case. And what is worse for the Congress party is that it is extremely unlikely that they will be able to become competitive again in the near future in certain areas they have lost. The Delhi results are only a further confirmation of this fact.
Another aspect of the Delhi results that needs special mention is the fact that the party has lost support among some of its core vote banks. The Muslim vote bank which has supported the party for a long time in Delhi has abandoned it completely for the Aam Aadmi Party. It was the same vote-shift that helped the Aam Aadmi Party win 67 seats in Delhi in 2015. With the political developments since then, the shift appears to have become permanent, at least for the near future. During the Exit polls, for example, the Axis polls analysed that the Muslim voters had summarily shifted from the Congress to AAP because they thought AAP was better positioned to defeat BJP.
In desperation, the Congress party appears to be allying itself more and more with the radical elements within the Muslim community in its bid to win over the vote bank.
In Kerala for example, Congress even allied with Jinnah’s off-shoot party IUML.
The Indian Union Muslim League has been notoriously known for flaring up communal incidents in the state of Kerala. The party was found involved in the planning as well as the execution of the brutal Marad massacre in Kerala in 2003 as per the report of Justice Thomas P Joseph Commission which was set up to investigate the incident. The report had declared the massacre as “a clear communal conspiracy, with Muslim fundamentalist and terrorist organisations involved”.
Further, in 2017, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had registered a fresh First Information Report (FIR) in connection with the probe and had named Indian Union Muslim League leaders P.P. Moideen Koya and Moyeen Haji as an accused of funding, conspiring and executing the riots.
Simultaneously, the radical factions, in turn, are demanding more and more from the Congress party. In Kerala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan targeted the SDPI over its role in the anti-CAA protests. However, it led to a spat between the Opposition and the CPIM in the Assembly which prompted even Vijayan to ask “Why is the opposition getting agitated when I mention the name of SDPI? Are they saying that I should not talk about SDPI and extremism?”
Even during the anti-CAA protests in Delhi, while the AAP sensed the public mood and said that the Shaheen Bagh protesters should consider retreating from their protests and Kejriwal could even be spotted singing the Hanuman Chalisa, a Congress candidate declared that he was helping the anti-CAA protesters and that they were in touch with him. It was because the Muslim vote had shifted to the AAP and the Congress was trying hard to win them back. Going forward, one can expect the Congress party relying more and more on its Muslim vote bank and the secular parties try to make a hard bargain for the Muslim vote.
While AAP has overtly tried to appease Hindus in the last leg of campaigning, one has to remember that AAP has tried its best to help the Muslim rioters during anti-CAA riots as has Congress, however, the electoral benefits of aiding the mobs accrued to AAP.
While AAP’s Amanatullah Khan was booked for inciting riots and Kapiil Gujjar, the Jamia shooter, who pretended to be a ‘Hindutvawadi’ turned out to be an AAP leader, and AAP’s links with PFI emerged, it is pertinent to note that several Congress leaders have been booked for the anti-CAA riots by Muslim mobs that have gripped the nation.
While investigating the incidents of statewide violence which occurred on December 21, the Patna Police recently got their hands on Congress leader Ashutosh Sharma who has been accused of attacking media people during the Bihar bandh and has been on the run since then. Congress leader Ashutosh Sharma was caught on camera assaulting journalists at the Dak Bungalow Chowk in Patna. The Congress leader was reportedly on the run after the case was registered against him.
The crime branch of Ahmedabad police had nabbed a Congress leader for posting a fake and misleading video on social media which incited a Muslim mob during a protest march at Shah-e-Alam, Gujarat, where several police officials were brutally attacked by Muslim mobs.
Congress party’s minority cell member Umar Khan Pathan had shared a video on social media in which a police action against rioters from Lucknow was passed on as an incident in Ahmedabad stoking violence in the Shah-e-Alam. The fake news had unleashed a violent Muslim mob, who attacked and injured more than 25 policemen on duty.
The Ahmedabad Police had arrested Congress Corporator Shehzad Khan Pathan along with 32 others for carrying out the deadly attack during anti-CAA riots on police personnel. They have been booked for attempt to murder, rioting and assaulting police.
Additionally, Six people including four local politicians and the former Congress MLA were named as suspects in the Delhi Police FIR related to Jamia violence. The Delhi Police had named former Congress MLA Asif Khan as one of the accused in its FIR.
While AAP and Congress both indulged in competitive communalism against Hindus, AAP managed to accrue the benefits while Congress is now left as an option that not even Muslims trust.
The fact that Congress has stopped being the first option for Muslims was prominent even during the Lok Sabha elections. The disregard with which the Mahagathbandhan between the Samajwadi Party and the BSP treated the Congress was symbolic of this fact.
The single biggest takeaway from the Delhi election might well be the fact that the Congress party might never be able to regain its place as the nucleus around which the secular parties revolved around.