Going into the
Assembly elections 2022, the Congress was already on the backfoot. Of the five
states that went to polls – Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur
– Congress was in power only in one state. Now, with just about two years to go
before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the grand old party, the imagined principal
alternative to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has lost another state. In Punjab,
the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has trounced the Congress.

While the Congress
has been losing major elections for years now, political analysts believe that
this is indeed a tipping point for the party that led India’s Independence movement
against the British and then post-independence India for over three decades. The Congress, once exclusively dominating the Indian political scene, now remains in power in only four states — Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. Of these, in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, the Congress is only a minor alliance partner.

As of 11:30 am on
Thursday, the Congress was not only nowhere close to scoring any of the states,
but has lost seats in four of the five states that went to polls, with the exception
of Uttarakhand.  

In Uttar Pradesh,
where Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the last card in the Gandhi family deck, led the campaign
with women on the forefront, the Congress has lost three seats. In the 2017
elections, the Congress fought in alliance with Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi
Party (SP). This time, however, no alliance could be worked out.

It was probable
that the Congress would think of a post-poll alliance if the grand old party
and the SP performed well. However, with the BJP clearly leading with majority,
no alliances will now work. The Congress’ campaign slogan, “Ladki Hun Lad Sakti
Hun” (I’m a woman, I can fight), may have energised sections of the Congress
party but as is evidenced from the results, the slogan had little to no real-world impact.  

Punjab, where the
Congress had a solid government in numbers in 2017 with Captain Amarinder Singh
leading from the front, is now virtually seeing the party wiped out. As per
current estimates, the party has lost 63 seats from the previous election.

Congress’ loss in
Punjab has several reasons, but the political instability that the state saw
amid raging farmers’ protests, showed how the party lost the plot. Having
brought in Navjot Singh Sidhu from the BJP, the Congress had to suffer a battle
of massive egos between Sidhu and Amarinder Singh. To the surprise of many, the
Congress leadership in Delhi came out in favour of Sidhu instead of Singh.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra later accused the veteran Congressman of working with the
BJP instead of working for the Congress.

Later, when
Charanjit Singh Channi was appointed the chief minister of Punjab, the first
Dalit CM of the border state, Sidhu had problems with that too. Leading up to
the polls, Sidhu kept pressuring the Congress to declare him the CM face in
Punjab, something the Congress does not usually do. However, under pressure, Congress
changed its usual method. While declining Sidhu’s appeal to be made the CM
face, Congress named Charanjit Singh Channi as its chief ministerial candidate.

In Goa, the
Congress is currently leading in 12 seats, down from 17 seats in 2017. In India’s
smallest state, Congress imagined it would position itself squarely against the
BJP, see a hung Assembly and rally anti-BJP parties to form a government
together. In such a bid, the Congress took its leaders to a resort to counter
horse-trading by the BJP and made an appointment with the Governor of Goa PS
Sreedharan Pillai, in the hopes of staking a claim to form the government. Such
hopes, it now seems increasingly safe to say, have been dashed.

Manipur, docked
away in India’s northeast, has the Congress is leading in 11 seats. In 2017, the
Congress had won 28 seats out of 60, becoming the single-largest party,
However, it was not able to form the government. The BJP is leading in 25 seats
in Manipur and the NPP in 13 seats. The Congress, once at the top spot, is now
down to the third place.

The only state
where Congress has done better that in the last polls is Uttarakhand.
Uttarakhand, located on the foothills of the Himalayas, is a state that changes
governments every five years. Thus, it was Congress’ turn to rule the state
anyway with Harish Rawat leading the charge. Rawat, however, was busy handling
Congress’ crises in Punjab. The Congress is currently leading in 22 seats out
of 70, having gained 11 seats from the 2017 polls.

The Congress’ decimation
might indicate complete domination of the BJP in the domain of national
politics. However, that doesn’t give the full picture. In Punjab, the Aam Aadmi
Party (AAP) has shown that when people realise the political establishment is
rotten, they do seek out an alternative where one is available. Thus, as
Congress loses Punjab, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) patriarch Sukhbir Singh Badal
is also trailing in Jalalabad.

Meanwhile, though
the Samajwadi Party is far from coming to power in Uttar Pradesh, a state whose
fate is largely sealed, the Akhilesh Yadav-led party has seen a rise in its
seats and vote share from the previous polls. From 47 seats in 2017, the Samajwadi
Party is currently leading in 121 seats, 69 seats more than in the last elections.