Among the five states which recently witnessed assembly polls, the election results of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab are politically more significant in preference to Goa and Manipur. In terms of national politics, the elections in Uttar Pradesh had gained more prominence than others. It was evident because the Congress Party had put its prestige at stake in UP elections. The way Akhilesh Yadav-led-SP ousted BSP from power in Uttar Pradesh and wiped out the two national parties- the Congress and the BJP- from the scene, it is enough to teach them a lesson. During elections in the state, Rahul Gandhi’s intense campaign trail generated a hope that the Congress Party was going to perform well in the state rather it failed eventually. Rahul Gandhi not only addressed rallies but he relentlessly visited to the residences of the Dalits and poor. He even held road shows at many places but all went in vain. After the election results were out, he came forward to own responsibility for his party’s debacle. He opined, the organization of the Congress Party in Uttar Pradesh is not stronger enough, nevertheless, it is clear that the people of the state didn’t like his method of election campaigns. Perhaps, calling the people of Uttar Pradesh as beggars cost the party heavily.

Rahul promised the people living in the state that if his party were voted to power, he would change the face of Uttar Pradesh in the next five years. One of the implications of his statement is that if the Congress Party is not voted to power in the state, then its government at the centre will not facilitate the development of Uttar Pradesh. It is a fact, wherever the Congress Party has a weak bone, it usually tries to criticise the ruling parties in the states in demand of its predominance. Now the voters too have started understanding this view of the Congress Party. It is unfortunate that despite such a stunning defeat in Uttar Pradesh, no sign of radical change in the Congress Party is visible. The Gandhi family is still considered to be the axis of the Congress Party and this family is largely credited for keeping the party united. Apart from this, the Congressmen are found taking on each-other inside the party. This is the reason for the Congress being weak in Uttar Pradesh. If Rahul wants to strengthen his party in Uttar Pradesh, he needs to appoint a leader of his party in the state unit who can take decisions as per his own discretions instead of looking at Gandhi family or Congress Core Committee for any cause.

Actually the Congress Party is faced with some major problems like- forcing the state units to abide by the decisions taken by central leadership in Delhi, overlooking the ground realities and acute delay in decision making process. These problems have acquired the form of such ailments of the party which are hindering its progress. These are largely responsible for the party’s poor performance in Punjab also. It is for the first time during last three and a half decades that a ruling party has been voted to power in the state for the second term. Internal bickering also weakens the party. Generally this problem seems apparent when a party has a weak leadership. Even the BJP is also faced with the same kind of problem and it finally failed to form its government in Uttarakhand. Both the Congress and the BJP are facing the crisis of leadership in respective states. This is the reason why both the parties normally avoid nominating a person as Chief Ministerial candidate prior to state assembly elections. Unlike the two national parties, the regional parties are much closer to the people and they are capable in taking fast decisions than the national parties. They are way ahead in selecting the names of their candidates. The names of their Chief Ministerial candidates were already known to the people. This factor has somewhat benefitted the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh and Akali Dal in Punjab.

There are many other factors which caused Rahul Gandhi’s failure. One such major factor is the Centre’s helplessness in reining in the skyrocketing prices and rampant corruption. Corruption became a sole reason for even BSP’s defeat. Elephant statues and parks emerged as a major poll issue. At the time of the construction of the parks and the statues, it was believed that they will be seen as the symbols of the Dalit pride. The construction of the parks and statues of the elephants might be a part of Mayawati’s political strategy, but it can’t be denied that they caused the non-Dalit voters like Brahmins and Muslims to drift away from the BSP fold. It is also understood that Muslim reservation issue had also marred the prospects of the Congress Party in the elections. The way Salman Khurshid and Beni Prasad Verma challenged the authority of the Election Commission prior to voting in UP, it reflected that the Congress Party was willing to go any extent to woo Muslims. The strategy of the Congress Party to offer quota for Muslims in the government jobs raised suspicion over the intentions of the party. Muslims were surprised to learn that if they were being promised nine percent quota, why did the Centre announce only 4.5 percent quota to them.

There were four main contenders in the electoral fray in the state, but all eyes were mainly on the electoral battle between the two youth icons Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi. At the end of the day, Ahilesh emerged as winner in preference to Rahul. In fact Rahul had always challenged the reach of the Samajwadi Party whereas Akhilesh continued to make his concerted efforts and achieved his zenith of success for the post of the state Chief Minister. Akhilesh was well aware of the ground realities and worked without any ado. Rahul Gandhi was active in Uttar Pradesh for the past two years but he failed to strengthen his party organization in the state. It is now clear that he has been unsuccessful in bringing out unity among the state party leaders. Evidently, despite his rigorous efforts, he has been unable to motivate people as he could not take note of socio-economic ground realities of Uttar Pradesh. He even failed to rein in the state party leaders who were apparently overzealous for the post of Chief Minister. Though, Sriprakash Jaiswal and Beni Prasad Verma were considered as strong contenders for the post of the state Chief Minister. Rahul was prompt in announcing Capt Amrinder Singh as the Congress’ chief ministerial candidate in Punjab, on the contrary he didn’t do the same in Uttar Pradesh. Similar mistakes were committed by the BJP too. The Congress Party in Punjab believed that the bickering in the Badal family will benefit the party, could not go in favour. Interestingly, the Congress Party has suffered a massive jolt in the state. Undoubtedly, the BJP has got confined in the state, seems to be a matter of serious concern for the party.

Being in power at the centre and having a prominent place in the national politics, it is not in good taste to find the Congress Party loosening its relationship with own allies and the state governments of the opposition parties. The Congress Party happens to be the grand old party of the country with vast mass appeal. The party should realize the fact that its diminishing rapport with allies, opposition parties and state governments of the opposition parties is strongly hampering the political scenario in the country. It will be better for the Congress Party to make an introspection after its debacle in UP and Punjab and find the failure of its political agenda in connecting with the ground realities of the people.

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on March 11, 2012 translated by the English Editorial. The author is Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)