Lalu hands in Congress defeats

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Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi committed tactical mistakes in drifting the poll narratives astray from the highly successful Karnataka electoral template of the party.

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi with former Bihar CM Lalu Prasad Yadav (Image credit X RJD)

Rahul Gandhi Lalu Prasad

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, December 3: The Assembly poll verdict has left the Congress with an embarrassing outcome. While Telangana offers consolation for the Congress, the party faced massive defeats in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh to take the wind out of the party’s sails ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress appears to have committed twin grave mistakes at the poll hustings. Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi committed tactical mistakes in drifting the poll narratives astray from the highly successful Karnataka electoral template of the party. Only six months ago, the Congress had wrested power in Karnataka with a well-crafted poll plank on strengthening the hands of vulnerable sections of the society. The Karnataka poll template of the Congress remained unscathed from the Narendra Modi poll blitzkrieg and the micro-management of Union Minister for Home Affairs Amit Shah.

But the Karnataka verdict seemingly made the Congress ambitious and overconfident to venture into an unchartered territory which had never been the comfort zone of the party.

Fresh from the Karnataka poll verdict, Rahul Gandhi allowed himself to be guided by former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav. He relished the delicacy of the Champaran Mutton, cooked by the Rashtriya Janata Dal patriarch. Rahul Gandhi was allowed to be flattered by an overdose of appreciations for the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’.

Under the spell of Lalu Prasad Yadav, Rahul Gandhi converted to the identity politics. He became a vocal supporter of the demands for the caste census which were being raised by the proponents of the identity-based politicians. The Congress being a national political party under the spell of Lalu Prasad Yadav began competing with identity-based politicians.

True to the zeal of the neo-converts, Rahul Gandhi got sanguine about the caste census. He told the Lok Sabha that there was only one secretary from the other backward castes. This was repeated by him on the campaign trails. Thus, Rahul Gandhi became the votary of proportionate representation of the castes in government jobs and educational institutions.

While the Congress experimented with Mandal 2.0, the party forgot that upper castes had been the major vote catchment base of the party traditionally. Even while the post-poll voting patterns of caste is awaited, indications from the ground suggest massive consolidation of the upper castes in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh. Telangana can be counted as an exception because the Congress was fortunate to have the likes of Revanth Reddy in the ranks who capitalized on the anti-incumbency wave in the state and also the organizational weakness of the BJP to emerge as an alternative.

The Congress once more committed the grave mistake of abusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Rahul Gandhi was ill-advised to launch a personal attack on Modi as he called him a ‘Panauti’ after India’s shock defeat at the hands of Australia in the World Cup. This remark of Rahul Gandhi was by all accounts uncultured and also reiteration that the Congress fails to admit that abusing Modi only helps the BJP in polls. There have been several instances when Modi exploited the abuses hurled by the Congress leaders against him to the advantage of the BJP in polls.    

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