Updated February 29th, 2024 at 14:09 IST

Lok Sabha 2024: Blowin’ In the Wind For Congress

Abhishek Kapoor analyses how Congress has completely failed to read the script and why Lok Sabha 2024 looks like a done deal.

Reported by: Abhishek Kapoor
Empty chairs during Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra in Amethi | Image:Republic

New Delhi: Congress veteran Kamal Nath hogged headlines with his actions in what looked like a script straight from the 1994 Bollywood romance ‘Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na (KHKN)’ also completed three decades after its release last week. Like in the case of Juhi Chawla (for Shahrukh Khan), there was no reason for Nath to either say a yes or no to the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). Like Juhi in KHKN, Nath too thought keeping the suspense was the entire script. But then I am drifting!

Nath, of course, folded the script without an answer to the question ‘Why this gold rush for the BJP?’ The answer came, in fact, from a lesser-known Congressman, albeit of equal vintage, Naranbhai Rathwa in neighbouring Gujarat. A five-time Congress MP from Chotaudepur Lok Sabha seat, and sitting Rajya Sabha MP, Rathwa was Minister of State for Railways in the UPA-I era. What he said while quitting Congress and joining the BJP is telling of the times the Grand Old Party is going through. He said he had nothing to be unhappy about with Congress, just that those partymen on whose shoulders he stood as a leader in his constituency, most have crossed over to the BJP. “Sixty per cent of Congress workers have left. Those left also feel the advantages of joining the BJP. What would I have done,” he told media at the State BJP headquarters in Gandhinagar.  


Rathwa joined the ruling party with his son Sangram, a young municipal leader in Rathwa senior constituency. What was left unsaid in the Rathwa soundbites was the motive of self-preservation guiding his action, especially his son's political future. Now replace the Rathwas with Naths for the father-son duo, and you get the picture of the Congress doldrums on the ground. Simply put, the BJP's organizational juggernaut is too much to handle even for the most battle-hardened Congress leaders. From Naths to Rathwas, from Ashok Chavan to Jyotiraditya Scindia to innumerable others from the Congress fold, ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’, is the adage that seems to be the guiding force.

But more telling on Congress’ organizational atrophy was Naran Rathwa’s comment on Rahul Gandhi’s ongoing Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, set to cross Gujarat in a week. “If the objective of Rahul Gandhi is to reach out to tribal voters, the purpose won’t be served as there is no cadre left on the ground to communicate or participate in the yatra. The organization simply does not exist anymore.” The unflattering pictures of Rahul Gandhi trudging an almost lonely furrow through his yatra have been telling of a missing organization.  


The Rajya Sabha election fiasco of Himachal Pradesh is yet another example of the complete disconnect between the leadership and the organization machine they lead. What explains the pauperised thinking of releasing Sonia Gandhi’s thank you note to Rae Bareli voters the same day that Rahul’s yatra enters Uttar Pradesh?

A few days ago, I tried an experiment on air. Instead of getting the usual talking heads from each political party, I just got a third rung of Congress leaders to discuss their party. I thought with nobody to attack them or their party, they would open up about what ails the grand old party. I expected that they would speak about some aspects of the organization that make Congress so redundant heading into general elections. But the experiment failed of course. They remained defensive and nothing came out of it. The principal opposition party is completely psyched out by the BJP. One of the reasons why 2024 is a done deal!


Published February 29th, 2024 at 13:11 IST