The third election in Delhi in a little over a year hasn’t brought any joy for the Congress. A sense of despondency, now all too familiar, permeated through the party office, as exit polls predicted its decimation in Saturday’s polls.
After the 2013 Assembly elections, the party was reduced to 8 sitting MLAs from 43. But with some exit polls predicting a complete rout in Delhi, a leader summarised, “The party is virtually finished in Delhi. The question is how soon can be bounce back.”
Some party leaders were quick to paint the exit poll projections as a defeat of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “The most important message is the puncturing of the BJP’s ego and arrogance. It is a clear slap on the BJP’s face…,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.
However, he admitted that if the exit polls are true, then it is “very distressing” for the Congress.
The day began with Congress leaders coming out to vote, smiling optimistically. Party president Sonia Gandhi, told the media that the poll results would reflect the will of the people, while Ajay Maken said that the Congress would do “exceedingly well”.
“We are going to form the government on our own. People are in for a big shock and surprise on February 10,” Maken insisted. But by evening things were very different. While the AAP office resounded with exuberance and BJP’s state headquarters remained resolutely optimistic, all optimism had left the Congress office. A DPCC official said, “Last time, we couldn’t believe it. Honestly, many thought we were invincible. But this time, we really put in a fight. A huge defeat will completely destroy the morale of workers.”
Most candidates chose not to comment, stating that exit polls aren’t the same things as results. “We’ll know what the result will be. After all, who predicted the party would get 8 seats in 2013 or that the AAP would form the government,” Mateen Ahmed, sitting MLA from Seelampur said.
With another defeat seeming to loom for the party, the time has come again for introspection and already questions are begging to be answered. A former member of the Delhi cabinet said, “It was the Congress that was supposed to be the alternative to Modi. But the anti-BJP, anti-Modi votes was successfully converted into votes for the AAP. We need to be occupy that space again.”