Data from nine different elections show that Congress can be on the winning side but not the winner
- The vote share of Indian National Congress (INC), which has been the dominant political party in India for decades, is expected to fall to single digits in the recently concluded Delhi assembly election.
- Data shows that in states where it’s a two-way fight between BJP and Congress, BJP has an advantage.
- In states where it’s a 3-way fight, Congress ends up on the losing side yet again unless it ties up with a regional party.
- This data will reduce Congress’ bargaining power in upcoming crucial elections in states like Bihar, West Bengal, and Tamil Nadu.
This will be yet another embarrassing tally for Congress that ruled Delhi for 15 straight years between 1998-2013 with the late Sheila Dixit as Chief Minister.
Congress’ performance in the
|Election||Seats Won||% Vote share|
|2008 Delhi Assembly Election||43||40.13|
|2013 Delhi Assembly Election||8||24.55|
|2015 Delhi Assembly Election||0||9.65|
|2020 Delhi Assembly Election||0-2 (as per exit polls)||5-7|
A Campaign that never picked up pace
Delhi seemed set for a two-way fight— between the Bharatiya Janata Party and AAP— right from the time the election was announced. While Union Home Minister Amit Shah jumped into campaigning mode early— meeting people in street corners before going door-to-door aside from large rallies— the senior national leaders of Congress joined the campaign only in the last eight days.
Reports also surfaced pointing out at a rift between Congress’ Delhi President Subhash Chopra and Kirti Azad, the head of campaign committee who defected to Congress from BJP last February.
Political analysts believe that by not campaigning enough, Congress has given AAP a walkover and a lot of its voters are expected to have voted for AAP.
Nine different elections, same story— Congress’ declining vote share
In the last 9 elections that have happened in the Capital, there’s just one thing that has been consistent and it’s the Congress’ declining vote share. After 2009 Lok Sabha polls, its vote share has kept on declining, except for in 2012 polls for the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, where it managed to bag 30.54% votes and yet, only managed to emerge as the second-largest party after BJP.
The following two tables show how Congress has performed in recent elections at both local and national levels:
Congress’ performance in Municipal Corporation Elections Delhi (2007-2017)
|Election||Seats Won||% Vote Share|
|2007 Municipal Corporation Delhi Election||67||29.17|
|2012 Municipal Corporation Delhi Election||77||30.54|
|2017 Municipal Corporation Delhi Election||30||21.09|
Congress’ performance in the Lok Sabha Elections (2009-2019)
|Election||Seats Won||% Vote Share|
|2009 Lok Sabha Elections||206||28.55|
|2014 Lok Sabha Elections||44||19.31|
|2019 Lok Sabha Elections||52||19.01|
Going into the Delhi election in 2020, it would have been fair to expect better morale, and performance, from Congress after the party tasted success in some states, most recently in Jharkhand, in alliance with the regional outfit, the Jharkand Mukti Morcha.
Moreover, there has been some anger against the BJP that has been gaining momentum after the recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act sparked widespread protests across the country, but none more intense than the one in Delhi. Congress could have cashed in but it couldn’t.
BJP gains in states where Congress is the only rival
Chhattisgarh and Punjab are the only two states where Congress has a clear majority in the state assembly. Everywhere else — Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Karnataka (where the Congress-JDS coalition government toppled in 2019 and is now ruled by BJP and its allies)— they either had to fight the election in an alliance or had to stitch a post-poll coalition to stay afloat.
From the last few elections, it is clear that people vote for Congress only in states where there is anti-incumbency is loaded against BJP or when the Congress has tied up with a dominant local party.
For instance, in the 2013 Delhi election, Congress was able to form the government in coalition with AAP but when the tie-up snapped and polls were held again in 2015, it was a 3-way fight and most of the Congress votes went to AAP while BJP vote share remained almost constant.
In Rajasthan, where people were angry against the BJP government under
The situation was similar in Jharkhand where the incumbent Raghubar Das-led BJP had failed to impress the voters in their full term of five years and voters actually decided to vote for Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) despite Congress having a full-fledged presence in the state. The Congress then had to stitch a pre-poll alliance with the JMM and formed the government.
At the national level, Congress’ appeal, particularly the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, among voters has been appalling. The tally of the Congress in Lok Sabha— the lower house of the Indian Parliament— rose to just 52 after a record drubbing in 2014 when the party got 44. Even then, the party’s vote share at the national level fell a percentage point to 19% in 2019.
The next big tests — Bihar, Tamil Nadu, and Bengal
There are three big state elections coming up in the next two years, Bihar, West Bengal, and Tamil Nadu, and the Congress has little to fight for in at least two out of those three states.
In Bihar, it is friendly with the Lalu Prasad Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the key challenger to the ruling Janata Dal (United) government led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar that has been in power since 2010 as part of one coalition or another. So while the anti-incumbency may favour the Congress-RJD coalition may have, the Congress party itself may have little sway.
In Tamil Nadu, the voter sentiment is heavily in favour of the challenger party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), an ally of the Congress. However, the national party only has to facilitate the victory of DMK leader MK Stalin because national parties, including the BJP, have little or no impact in the state.
West Bengal is the only state where the fight will be three-cornered, between the BJP, Congress, and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) led by the incumbent Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. As data from recent elections has shown, a three-way fight in states only helps the BJP. And if the TMC and Congress come together, TMC gets the edge.
Anyway, Congress needs a few good shows to improve its bargaining power with state parties in pre-poll coalitions.
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