As the Congress suffered another humiliating defeat, the big question now is what next for Rahul Gandhi, the grand old party’s chief who had waged a fierce battle but could not translate any of the issues that he had been raising – be it Rafale, ballooning unemployment or widespread agrarian distress, into votes and seats.
Party leaders in private conceded Thursday that the Congress faltered by turning the campaign into a bitter battle against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who anyway was itching to make the election a presidential contest between him and the undeclared opposition Prime Ministerial candidate.
The TINA (there is no alternative) was Modi’s best bet and the Congress walked into the trap willingly with hands tied behind its back.
This election also exposed another big myth – that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has a connect with the people and was a vote catcher. She was to the Congress’s big bramhastra that the party unveiled for this election.
After the results are out, the conclusion is inescapable: She may be a good communicator, an easygoing leader, and may have retained some of the charisma that her father Rajiv Gandhi and grandmother Indira Gandhi had, but the India of 2019 is not the India of 1970s or 80s.
Congress insiders do not anticipate a major rebellion against the Gandhis. They pose a counter question: Who in the present Congress has the mass base and popularity to call for a Perestroika in the Congress party? But many in private admit that the election results were not surprising, and it will herald a new chapter in Indian politics. And the sooner the Congress realises this, the better for the party, as one senior leader put it.