Congress leaders see in K’taka verdict signs of fatigue with Modi govt

The Congress-led alliance got a comfortable majority of more than 335 members out of 543 with the help of its allies whereas the BJP managed to win only 138 seats despite riding high on its India Shining campaign…reports Anandh Singh

The thumping victory in the Karnataka assembly polls has given the Congress a much needed boost as it had been on a losing spree in several assembly elections after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. And with the victory in one of the big southern states, the Congress feels that what it managed to do in 2004 can be repeated in the crucial 2024 Lok Sabha elections “as there is no invincibility to the BJP”.

The Congress had won 145 seats in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections when the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee recommended premature dissolution of the 13th Lok Sabha (in accordance with a provision of the Constitution) to pave the way for early elections apparently in view of the good showing of the BJP in the Assembly elections in four states.

However, despite many poll analysts believing that the NDA would manage to pull in the Lok Sabha elections, the result was completely the opposite and the Congress, which had remained out of power for eight years from 1996 to 2004, managed to come to power.

The Congress-led alliance got a comfortable majority of more than 335 members out of 543 with the help of its allies whereas the BJP managed to win only 138 seats despite riding high on its India Shining campaign.

Congress treasurer Pawan Bansal said, “We will win. We may not have done well for some time but it does not mean that we will not bounce back. We will bounce back. And it will happen.” He was responding to a question, if he feels that the Congress can pull off another 2004 in 2024.

Commenting on the reason why he feels the Congress will make a comeback in the Lok Sabha elections next year, Bansal, who had also served as minister in the UPA government said, “The popularity of the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) and the BJP is on its way down. So there is every reason that if we get our own act together then the BJP would be defeated.”

He said, “It (BJP) has been defeated and it will be defeated, there is nothing invincible about it.”

When asked about the party’s attempt to bring the like minded parties together ahead of the crucial Lok Sabha elections next year, Bansal said, “All the opposition leaders were here in Bengaluru (for the swearing in ceremony of the Congress government in Karnataka) and they joyfully participated in the swearing in ceremony here.”

Bansal added that “I cannot talk of the contours as such like what would happen and how it would happen” (about like minded parties coming together), but I am certain that the party will get all together and defeat the BJP. What will the contours, I cannot say at this juncture but one year is a long period in politics,” the veteran leader stated.

Meanwhile, Manish Tewari, who also served as a Union Minister in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, cited the results of the Karnataka assembly elections where the people rejected the BJP.

Tewari said, “Karnataka elections clearly demonstrate that there is a fatigue with the central government because the entire campaign in Karnataka was not fought on local issues but was led by the national leadership of the BJP. So therefore under those circumstances 2024 is quite doable for Congress.”

When asked about the party’s attempts to bring together the like minded parties, the Congress leader said, “Well let’s see, it’s a work in progress. More importantly there is fatigue on the ground and so therefore other people are also seeing what is happening.”

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress was reduced to 44 seats and till 2019 it lost state after state in the assembly elections. Even in 2019, despite projecting former party chief Rahul Gandhi as the face of the party and launching an aggressive campaign targeting the BJP over the alleged corruption in the Rafale fighter jet deal, the party could manage to win only 52 seats.

Following the dismal performance of the party, many party leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kapil Sibal, Jitin Prasada, RPN SIngh, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sushmita Deb and several others left the party.

The Congress in April this year initiated the talks for bringing the like minded parties together after party chief Mallikarjun Kharge spoke to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is also the Janata Dal-United leader, an alliance partner of the party in Bihar along with the Lalu Prasad-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).

Nitish Kumar along with his deputy and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav met Kharge and Rahul Gandhi in the national capital on April 12 and the talks of bringing the like minded opposition parties together gained momentum.

Since then Nitish Kumar has met NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, JMM leader and Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray, Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

Barring Patnaik, all the opposition leaders have spoken on the need of bringing the like minded parties together ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Meanwhile, the Congress is also hopeful in 2024 that with the success of the over 4,000 km Bharat Jodo Yatra of Rahul Gandhi from Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari to Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar, it could change the fortunes of the party as it has energised the party’s cadres in several states across the country.

The party leaders also feel that the result of the Karnataka assembly polls has given it confidence after a gap of several years. The Congress last year only won in the Himachal Pradesh assembly elections.

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