Ritesh Srivastava/Hemant Abhishek
While the main opposition party BJP created history riding on the back of the Narendra Modi wave, the ruling Congress faced its worst ever defeat in the high voltage 2014 electoral battle and conceded that it had failed to "connect" well with the voters across the country.
If the sheer scale of the Bharatiya Janata Party's landslide surprised the poll pundits, the fact that the ruling Congress could not even open its account in seven states also made the political observers gasp at its dismal performance.
Congress, India's oldest party, which had ruled the country for a decade since 2004, faced its worst humiliation as its tally slipped much below its tally of 114 seats in the 1999 polls. The party could only win 44 seats - its worst tally in the Lok Sabha polls where it had never fallen to two digits. The Congress had won 206 seats in 2009.
As per the latest updates, the party scalped one seat each in Arunachal and Andhra Pradesh; while it picked three seats each in the states of Assam and Punjab. It managed to scalp two seats each in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh.
The states where the Congress fared well comparatively were Karnataka, Kerala and West Bengal where the grand-old-party bagged nine, eight and four seats, respectively.
Now that it has got less than ten percent of the total number of Lok Sabha seats, its president may not be recognised as the Leader of Opposition, a cabinet rank. Ironically, the Congress did not win a single seat in seven states and even failed to reach double-digit mark in any state.
A chastened Congress accepted defeat. Outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated Modi who is still the Gujarat Chief Minister. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh summed up the mood in the country's oldest party by saying, "Our performance is worse than the worst case scenario."
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who won easily from Rae Bareli unlike her son Rahul Gandhi, later took responsibility for her party's stunning defeat. "The people's verdict is against us," Sonia said. While taking the responsibility for the defeat, both congratulated the BJP but didn't name Modi.
Finding it hard to digest the humiliating defeat, a rattled Congress admitted a 'disconnect' with the people and said the party needs to introspect and rework its strategy. Its senior leaders conceded that they were not expecting such a fall from grace. "We were not expecting Congress to do very well but we had also not bargained for such a massive defeat," a Congress general secretary said.
Acknowledging that the Lok Sabha results, like the Delhi Assembly poll results, have sent shock waves in the party, its leaders said that the communal violence in Muzaffarnagar last year led to communal polarisation in Uttar Pradesh with a split in the Dalit and backward votes helping the BJP.
Among other reasons, the party said that it suffered massively due to a split in the minority votes that affected the results in many constituencies of the country. Whatever arguments the ruling party gives, it can't also be denied that the issue of price rise and corruption also went against it and the situation was exploited to the hilt by Narendra Modi by tapping the anti-incumbency sentiment.
Congress' performance in politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh showed that the 'charisma' of the first family of the party was fast fading, which is why the clamour for bringing Sonia Gandhi's daughter Priyanka has grown. Congress, which had as many as 22 seats in the last Lok Sabha in UP, only managed to retain Rae Bareli and Amethi - the pocket borough of the Gandhi-Nehru family for decades.
The fact that over a dozen of its Union Cabinet Ministers were defeated also reflects the public anger against the government and the disconnect it has with the people.
Among the big names who bit the dust on Friday were Sushilkumar Shinde, Kapil Sibal, Sachin Pilot, V Narayanasamy, Pawan Bansal, Girija Vyas, Raj Babbar, RPN Singh, Salman Khurshid, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mukul Wasnik, Milind Deora, Naveen Jindal, Vilas Muttemwar, among others.
Andhra Pradesh was the 'Waterloo' for many Congress minister who were completely decimated in the state.
Kishore Chandra Deo (Araku), MM Pallam Raju (Kakinada), Killi Kruparani (Srikakulam), Panabala Lakshmi (Bapatla) and Kotla Suryaprakash Reddy (Kurnool) lost their seats to their Telugu Desam and YSR Congress rivals.
All the Congress bigwigs, including its AP committee chief N Raghuveera Reddy, were mauled in the elections.
BJP's maverick PM candidate Narendra Modi played a big role and outclassed Congress in every department of the electoral game through his campaign blitzkrieg.
Questions will now be raised over the efficacy of Rahul Gandhi's "young brigade" for its perceived failure to reach out to the people. The party has drawn a blank in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Delhi and few other states.
If top Congress leaders were "found lacking" in political communication, the collective leadership of the party was also unable to effectively counter BJP's aggressive campaign of projecting UPA as a corrupt regime.
A refrain of Congress workers has been that the three top leaders - Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, party chief Sonia Gandhi and party vice chief Rahul Gandhi - had hardly communicated to the people the achievements of the UPA II. As the party goes onto the introspection mode, it will have to deliberate as to what went wrong when the campaign was led by none other than Rahul Gandhi.
First Published: Saturday, May 17, 2014, 00:35