Sonia Gandhi (L), Rahul Gandhi (R). Photograph:( DNA )
The inability of Congress to maintain governments or form governments in the states for various factors has eroded its natural brand value
Whatever may be the fate of the Rajasthan government, political developments in the state has damaged brand Congress immensely, especially after Madhaya Pradesh.
Life for many legislators would be fixated on the survival of the Rajasthan government but the inability of the Congress to manage states is robbing it of its fundamental brand value.
Congress was known as the party of natural governance. For decades, Congress leveraged this fact against the rag-tag coalitions which came into existence sporadically. Congress was known as the party which could run the administration ceaselessly. However, the last six years has proved otherwise.
The inability of Congress to maintain governments or form governments in the states for various factors has eroded its natural brand value. It was this brand value which the Congress was able to sustain for years despite the lack of performance. For some years, it became coterminous with the TINA factor which literally translates into - there is no other alternative.
Congress was able to consolidate its brand value by ensuring the non-Congress governments did not finish its term. It was able to project the image of an Opposition as an assembly of ambitions than of a coherent organization.
It was in 1967 that the Congress confronted non-Congress tie-ups all across north India. It did not allow non-Congress governments in states to complete their full term. Most of the state governments fell and many leaders joined the Congress.
At the Centre, it allowed friction between Morarji Desai and Charan Singh to play out leading to the fall of Janata Party government in 1980. Charan Singh went on to become the Prime Minister with Congress support after splitting the Janata Party. In the 1990s, the story repeated itself. Chandrashekhar went on to become the Prime Minister with Congress support in the 1990s but did not last long.
Congress again repeated the experiment in 1996 propping IK Gujaral against Dewe Gowda but the BJP filled the space in 1998 by churning out a broad-based alliance with regional parties. The broad point is that when Congress was being opposed by socialists of various shades and colours, people repeatedly voted back the Congress because they felt that only Congress could govern the nation.
This vacuum was filled by the BJP when under LK Advani Indian politics became bi-polar.
The 2014 elections instead of continuing with bi-polarity recreated uni-polar political environment which was prevalent till 1989. This brand has been further eroded by leaders leaving the Congress party and the inability of the Congress to recreate the vote of dissent into a vote of consent.
Congress must think about this damage as it has impacted the new voters. The larger Janata Parivar could never become an alternative to the Congress as the BJP occupied the centerstage because people felt that they lacked the ability to govern and stay together.
In this case, if Congress governments continue to topple, it will impact the Congress Party in a way where its return as a major principle in Indian politics will become next to zero.
There is no point crying and saying that rules are being bent to suit the BJP. Rules have always been bent to accommodate the ruling dispensation.
It is here the tenacity of the Opposition party comes in. If the Congress does not show tenacity to rule and ensure smooth functioning of governments at the state level, it may never get the chance to govern at the Centre ever again.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)