By Sanjeev Chopra:
It appears that Congress party may not get the Leader of Opposition status in the Lok Sabha for the second time in a row.
HE lost his bastion Amethi, failed as party President, handing the BJP an unprecedented victory, and left many with this question -- is it time to write Rahul Gandhi’s political epitaph? In a classic case of win some and lose plenty, Gandhi won from Wayanad in Kerala by 4.31 votes. Rahul Gandhi lost his traditional Amethi seat to Union Minister Smriti Irani, of the BJP, by a margin of 38,449 votes. Dismissed as Pappu by some and crown prince by others, Gandhi appeared to take the poll debacle on the chin, congratulating Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP for their win and also expressing the hope that the BJP’s Smriti Irani takes care of Amethi “with love”. “I accept 100 per cent responsibility,” Gandhi said at a press conference after it became evident the party was headed for a rout.
He sidestepped a question on whether he will resign, saying it was for the CWC to take a call on this. Gandhi singularly led the 2019 campaign, holding 150 rallies, 10 press conferences and many road shows during the poll campaign starting February. But it came to nought. As the grand old party prepared for five years in the pale shadows of its glorious past, it seemed the party may not get the Leader of Opposition status in the Lok Sabha for the second time in a row.
The party won 47 and was leading in 5, giving it a possible 52 seats, two less than the 54 it needs for the LOP post. The shock verdict will be fully attributable to the 48-year-old and his sister and AICC General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. The brother and sister were the star campaigners for the Congress in this election and together steered the party narrative and line.
This was the first Lok Sabha election where their mother, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, did not campaign and neither did former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Many in the party questioned the strategy of keeping Singh away from the campaign circuit. That the Congress managed a measly gain of around 10 per cent since it won 44 MPs, its lowest ever in the 2014 LS polls, makes matters worse for Gandhi who took over as party president in December 2017 and promised a revival.
Until late last year, when Gandhi successfully captained the party to victory in the three Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, it seemed he was in some position to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Gandhi has grown in confidence over the years, addressing press conferences, answering questions and tackling the BJP Government on a host of issues. He often challenged Modi to a debate. But the gains were soon squandered as the Congress dithered on strategy for national elections jumping from issue to issue and never quite understanding what would work.