Congress prospects post 2024 Lok Sabha elections

opinionCongress prospects post 2024 Lok Sabha elections

In politics, like in cricket and life, almost anything is possible. Congress fans watching the World Cup match between Netherlands and South Africa (not to speak of the one between Afghanistan and England) must have dreamt of their favourite party doing something unexpectedly spectacular in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Who knows, Rahul Gandhi, or perhaps some bountiful tool of fate could pull off numerous rabbits off a single hat in a manner that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is denied a third successive Lok Sabha mandate? But there is rhetoric and there is reality on the ground based on data. There can be no doubt that approval and favourability ratings for Rahul Gandhi have improved considerably since his much talked about Bharat Jodo Yatra. Latest CVoter surveys and opinion polls indicate that the Congress is in a strong position to form state governments in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana. But the same CVoter surveys that indicate a Congress victory in these states also indicate a victory for the NDA in 2024. Barring some earth-shaking changes between now and March 2023, the authors do think Prime Minister Modi is the odds-on favourite to win yet again in 2024.
Yet, the nature of politics is such that the Congress can grow and prosper across India even if the party loses 2024 Lok Sabha elections. All parties go through cycles of growth, stagnation and decline. The BJP is currently almost at the peak level of its growth, thanks mainly to the organisational strengths of the Sangh Parivar and the incredible personal popularity and charisma of Modi. But the Sangh Parivar has already wooed most of the subaltern Hindu voters into the BJP fold and the Modi name doesn’t seem to work during assembly elections. It is here that the Congress faces a golden opportunity for becoming a serious contender for 2029. Do remember, a majority of “expert” commentators and analysts used to laugh out loud when some prescient non-experts said in 2012 that the BJP could win a majority in the Lok Sabha. The Congress, after all, has ruled India for almost six decades and it is not a snarky and sanctimonious political start up like the AAP.
So what can change the fortunes of the Congress in a slow and steady manner between 2024 and 2026? Let’s start with the 2024 Lok Sabha elections first. CVoter data shows that its projected tally would be a considerable improvement over 2019, though not to the extent it happened between 1999 and 2004 Lok Sabha elections. It’s core vote base of about 20% remained intact even during the 2014 and 2019 debacles. It could improve, thanks mainly to the new I.N.D.I.A alliance. That’s a modest yet decent enough foundation to build again. Soon after the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, there will be assembly elections in Haryana, Jharkhand and Maharashtra before the end of the year. The Congress had surprised virtually everyone (including psephologists) by getting close to 29% of the vote share and doubling its tally to 31 seats in Haryana. Contrary to public perceptions, it displayed strong staying power. If there is strong anti-incumbency against the M. L. Khattar led alliance government, the Congress does have a chance of sneaking past the winning tape in Haryana. It is part of the JMM led alliance government in Jharkhand. Going by historical data, it would lose in Jharkhand. But it is in the crucial state of Maharashtra that it could come out trumps. Surveys conducted by CVoter in Maharashtra seem to indicate that the MVA alliance comprising the Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena could well be in the drivers seat in the assembly elections there. In this state, the so-called power of “arithmetic” of the NDA doesn’t seem to be working very well as there is a lack of “chemistry”. In effect, the Congress could be in power in two more states by the end of 2024.
The first Assembly elections in 2025 will be for Delhi. The Congress doesn’t really have much of a chance there. But another major state Bihar will be up for grabs in 2025. Going back current indicators, it is very likely that the RJD, JD(U) (or its splinter) and Congress alliance will fashion a formidable victory in the Assembly elections. By the end of 2025, the Congress could be in power in Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Bihar and Maharashtra. Then comes 2026 when four more important states will go for Assembly polls. It’s important to note here if the projected Congress victories between now and 2025 do happen, it will have access to the most important leverage needed for funds: funds and resources. So what about 2026? One can safely write off West Bengal as far as the Congress is concerned. But it does come into play in the other three states. In Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK remains a potent force, but in the absence of a charismatic leader like Jayalalitha, the odds are that the alliance led by DMK, of which Congress is a part, will retain the state it swept in 2021. In Kerala, the Left Front had defied history in 2021 by winning a repeat victory. But odds are that 10 years of anti-incumbency could propel a Congress led alliance to a victory in the state in 2026. And don’t forget Assam. Despite two successive Assembly election defeats, it remains formidable. And 10 years of anti-incumbency against BJP will provide an opportunity for the Congress to stitch a workable alliance with the AIUDF and win Assam. It is both possible and probable.
If all this happens, what will the political map of India look like? The BJP will be in power at the centre. But the Congress-either on its own or as alliance partners-will be ruling Haryana, Himachal, Bihar, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. If the roll of dice and Lady Luck are both smiling on Rahul Gandhi, one can add Rajasthan and Jharkhand to the kitty. The fact is, even if the party fails in states like Haryana and Assam, it will almost certainly be part of the ruling alliance in almost 10 major states. This scenario has significant political messages for both the BJP and the Congress? For the BJP, the message is: are you becoming what the Congress was in the 1970s and 1980s? For the Congress, the messages is: do you have the political acumen, the long-term thinking and a coherent strategy to refashion the Congress after 2024; and is Rahul Gandhi the instrument who will do that? As they say, politics in India is never short of surprises.
Yashwant Deshmukh is Founder & Editor in Chief of CVoter Foundation and Sutanu Guru is Executive Director.

- Advertisement -

Check out our other content

Check out other tags:

Most Popular Articles