Undoubtedly, 2014 turned out to be one of the worst years for the party which brought freedom to India and presided over its destiny over most of the time since Independence.     

It failed to secure even the Leader of the Opposition post in the Lok Sabha with its tally down to just 44 in a House of 543.
As if this was not enough, the Opposition space too turned competitive. While it was denied the LoP status in Lok Sabha, Trinamool Congress, BJD and SP tried to form a triumvirate group seeking the post as an alliance in place of Congress.

After two tenures in power, Congress' tally plummeted to a mere 44 from 206, it had notched in the 2009 general election, marking the dramatic slump in its popularity within a span of five years. It also suffered reverses in the states that went to assembly polls.

Questions were raised about the efficacy of Rahul Gandhi's leadership after successive defeats but the party mandarins were quick to snub the dissenting voices and the Congress vice president in the fag end of the year held a meeting with party general secretaries on the strategy to arrest the decline of support base and revive the party.     

While everything went right for BJP, disaster struck Congress this year.

Its defeat trail did not stop at the Lok Sabha elections. The party lost power in two states Maharashtra and Haryana in October after ruling them in alliance and alone for 15 and 10 years respectively while the year-end saw its exit from power in Jammu and Kashmir and Jharkhand where it participated in government in alliance with National Conference and JMM-RJD

The ambitious UPA experiment through which Sonia Gandhi had brought the Congress to power a decade ago was in tatters.

UPA ally NCP decided to support BJP in government formation in Maharashtra after it fought the Assembly election in Maharashtra separately from Congress breaking the 15-year-long political alliance between the two parties in the state.

Congress had fought the election in Jharkhand in alliance with JD(U) and RJD but had broken off from the lead partner JMM. The result in the state has put some sort of a question mark on the efficacy of the proposed grand alliance of the three parties in Bihar, where elections are due by October next year.
Soon after the result, a senior party leader put the blame on state leaders for the loss in Jharkhand saying it happened because the alliance was not continued due to their insistence to go alone.
Ever since the Lok Sabha defeat in May, blame game has continued in Congress with some saying poor communication strategy led to defeat and others holding the UPA government responsible.

The year also saw Sonia and Rahul offering to resign owning defeat for Congress' Lok Sabha debacle.     

Soon after the results were announced, both of them made an offer to resign at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee, which was, on expected lines, rejected overwhelmingly with the party reiterating its belief in their leadership.

A few in a hush hush tone put the responsibility for defeat on Rahul's team, an euphemism to criticise the leadership of the Congress Vice President, who was clearly the face of the party for the general elections.

Some others saw too much focus on minority issues and "reducing party's ideology from equal importance to all sections to somewhat crass minoritysm", as a reason why different sections of voters from the majority community rallied around BJP.

The soul searching continues even as a panel led by party veteran A K Antony submitted a mammoth report on reasons of the defeat and the way ahead.

After the disintegration of the erstwhile Janata Parivar, the constituents of the axis power have now started the process of coming together in an apparent bid to thwart BJP in the Hindi heartland and beyond.

Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party, Lalu Prasad's RJD, Nitish Kumar's JD-U, former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda's JDS and some other splinter groups have decided to come together.

While this may pose some challenge to BJP, it also takes away the leverage from Congress of staking claim on Muslim votes more so in Bihar.

There was no sign of the AICC getting its act together to shed the dismay, despondency and disillusionment set in after the electoral shocks.

There were occasional voices of bringing Priyanka Gandhi to the fore to "save" the party, but those in the know understood that Rahul's leadership would be there till at least the next Lok Sabha polls.

A handful of leaders like Digvijay Singh wanted Rahul to take over the leadership. Leaders like Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi have more than suggested that Sonia is a stabilising force whose captaincy was needed to sail the ship through turbulent waters ahead while Rahul should play the second in command.
A senior Congress leader, who declined to be identified, remarked aptly that the tragedy of the 2014 polls was three- fold: "Sonia Gandhi was reluctant to lead us, Rahul Gandhi did not lead us and Manmohan Singh was never the leader."

According to many, non-communication of the three top leaders of the party was a sure recipe for disaster in the wake of the campaign by Modi who emerged the first leader from a state to emerge on the national scene flaunting the cards of development and good governance.
The Congress downfall was not unexpected as after a dream run in UPA-I, Congress leaders especially Union ministers lost direct connect with the masses and complaints kept pouring in from party workers regarding the attitude.     

In many a party meetings before the polls, Sonia Gandhi impressed upon the need for a better connect between leaders and workers in the party also connecting people on issues concerning them.

Allies like DMK and NCP were on their own trip with some of their leaders doing everything that could not have happened in a single party rule.

Party leaders said a serious introspection was needed in view of the fact that youths who played a key role in the Lok Sabha polls virtually swung completely towards Modi-led BJP notwithstanding the projection of Rahul as an icon of the youth.

The backbreaking prices of essential commodities were always sought to be wished away as due to the global slowdown that has affected the economy, an attitude which cost the party dear as its credential of championing the cause of 'aam aadmi' was seen as having been seriously compromised.

People who had voted Indira Gandhi to power some 40 years ago on her 'Garibi Hatao' plank found that Sonia Gandhi's Congress is changing its priorities.

Internally, a kind of tussle between the old guard and the new generation leaders emerged in the party. While one section wanted Rahul to immediately took over, some of the old guard silently start their own operations to preserve their turf and power. And there were occasional outbursts as well.

Despite being in active politics since 2004 and his projection of being a youth icon, Rahul never gave the impression of a willing politician focused on winning elections for the party. His "NGO style" functioning came in for muted criticism many times.

The rise of the Aam Aadmi Party and the decimation of Congress in the last Assembly elections in Delhi was a forewarning of the impending electoral disaster.
While victory and defeat are part of the political ballgame which a party like Congress has experienced for long, observers of the political scene were wondering over its failure to get the pulse of the people even over six months in the Opposition.

 With the return of a single party rule at the Centre after 30 long years, there is a long road ahead for recovery for Congress. It had failed to secure a single seat in some 10 states and just two seats each in politically crucial Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Bihar.

The New Year will see organisational elections being rolled out in the party with a sizable section among the senior leaders and rank and file still favouring the continuance of Sonia Gandhi as the party chief despite her record 18-year run at the helm.

At a recent meeting of general secretaries, Rahul Gandhi asked them to hold discussions in states with grass-root leaders on a wide range of issues regarding the party's revival on the line what he himself did here and submit those suggestions by February end.

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