Ahead of 2017 Uttar Pradesh state assembly elections, the Congress went into an alliance with Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, calling it the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ to defeat the BJP. This was forged on the lines of successful ‘Mahagathbandhan’ ahead of 2015 Bihar polls where JDU’s Nitish Kumar had joined hands with RJD’s Lalu Yadav. The 2015 Bihar elections were won the ‘Bihari vs Bahari’ (Bihari vs outsider) rhetoric as PM Modi as well as then BJP President Amit Shah were from Gujarat.
Similar strategy was sealed for 2017 UP elections. Rahul Gandhi, who is born in Delhi then represented Amethi, which has traditionally been a Congress stronghold. In fact, Rahul Gandhi’s parents, grandparents and greatgrandparents and other extended family have UP connections either by birth or by electoral victories. Akhilesh Yadav and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav and extended family have been associated with UP politics over the years. Hence, “UP ke ladke” strategy was decided for Rahul and Akhilesh to woo the voters.
Except, the “UP ke ladke”, failed to create magic on ground. In fact, so bad was the outcome that Samajwadi Party not only lost, it faced a humiliating defeat, thanks to its alliance with Congress. It was so bad that Samajwadi Party alliance went from 252 seats it had won in 2012 to as low as 54 seats in 2017. The BJP alliance which had won 47 in 2012 surged to 312 seats forming a very decisive government.
Analysts believed that the fact that Samajwadi Party offered over 100 seats to Congress, of which it won just 7 might have been one of the major reasons that Mahagathbandhan failed miserably. Of 298 seats Samajwadi Party contested from, it won only 47.
Evidently, Samajwadi Party learnt its lessons and in 2019 general elections decided to go solo.
Similarly in recently concluded Bihar elections, analysts believe the fact that RJD allied with Congress may have been the reason the Mahagathbandhan failed. Congress contested on 70 seats of which it won just 19 seats, thereby bringing down the Mahagathbandhan tally in an election that was so closely fought.
As per reports, Bihar Congress leaders feel that the top leadership failed to understand the pulse on ground. Several top candidates who might have won were dropped. The local leaders are especially upset with the fact that leaders from outside the state, with zero connect to ground reality, were calling the shots.
This, followed by the dismal performance of the grand old party in Gujarat, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh bypolls where the BJP had a clean sweep has now made Congress allies apprehensive. With fast-dwindling relevance, reports are now coming in that in Tamil Nadu state elections, the DMK might be reconsidering forging the pre-poll alliance with Congress as well.
The disastrous results in assembly elections and bypolls is not the only concern with Congress which is also struggling to have an inspiring leadership. The entitlement of the Gandhis who cannot seem to let go of the power and adds to their woes. With the Congress fighting for its relevance, one can only wait and watch which way things go for the grand old party.