April 29, 2004
As fate would have it, the Congress has to pin its hopes again on Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan where it was routed in the 2003 Assembly elections.
In the third phase of polling on May 5, Congress finds the two states — MP with 29 seats and Rajasthan with 25 seats — crucial to prevent the BJP from getting the required numbers in the Lok Sabha.
Anticipating such a situation, a roadmap for Congress revival was suggested by the Pranab Mukherjee Committee which was set up on December 15, after the Assembly results last year. But none of the recommendations have seen light of the day. With the demoralised cadre and both BJP governments still enjoying the honeymoon period with the voters, the third phase has the potential of taking away the Congress’s ‘feelgood’ after the second phase exit polls.
In Madhya Pradesh, the report stated that had the Congress ‘‘assessed the erosion of Congress support after 10 years in office, an electoral alliance might have staved off the massive victory won by the BJP’’.
‘‘Congress voteshare tumbled by nearly 11 pc from 40.59 pc in 1998 to 30.12 pc in 2003…However, the BJP voteshare increased by just about 1.5 pc from 30.26 pc in 1998 to 40.64 pc in 2003,’’ it added.
‘‘The erosion in Congress support was to the advantage of other parties. The BSP voteshare that has always been between 6 to 7 pc all through the last 10 years, touching 6.93 per cent in 2003. The Gondwana Ganatantra Parishad has emerged as the decisive spoiler in Mahakaushal region. The SP had 3.57 pc voteshare,’’ it stated.
For LS 2004, however, the Congress is going alone in Madhya Pradesh with both the BSP and the GGP in fray. The report had also found that the Congress lost 24 of the 28 reserved ST seats it had won in 1998, 13 of the 16 reserved SC seats it had won in 1998.
This was despite the much-hyped Bhopal Dalit Agenda, which the report said was not implemented. The Congress, in essence, is left with no points to score with the SC, STs and Dalits this elections.
The report had noted that the organisational deficiencies should be addressed so that there is a ‘‘cohesive’’ campaign management in place. In MP, the Congress has put in place Digvijay Singh detractor Subhash Yadav as the PCC chief, instead of bringing in a leader who is seen as ‘neutral’.
Similarly, in Rajasthan, the report noted that the Congress voteshare had declined by nearly 10 per cent and the seats came down from 153 to 56 in 2003 with ‘‘the BSP getting four per cent and Rajasthan Samajik Nyaya Manch got 2.23 per cent votes’’. Despite the panel suggestion, the Congress has no alliance here.
To improve ‘‘cohesion and coordination’’ in the state unit, the AICC has brought in Narayan Singh, a Gehlot detractor, as the PCC chief. Sitting in the Opposition in the Assembly, the Congress can do little in terms of healing the damage done by offering OBC quota only to the Jat community.
The report notes that this move had ‘‘alienated the upper castes and causing concern in the SC community, division were also stoked with the OBC community while the Gujjars started a movement for their inclusion among the ST’’.
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