The Indian National Congress (INC) was the force behind the crucial independence movement, the party that ruled for 60 years, the party that stamped authority over every crucial policy making decision about the country, the party that represented our motherland in every form, the party that had been in power in nearly every state overwhelmingly, that party, the grand colossus has now diminished its coverage and shed its voter base to a great extent after successive elections drubbing.

The INC, or the Congress Party as we call it, was a party of leaders of great stature like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and other “n” number of leaders of colossal magnitude. The general elections of 1952, 1957 and 1962 was dominated by the Congress Party and there was no-one who could challenge the Grand-Old Party. Jawaharlal Nehru kept steering the party forward until his death in 1964, where the whole nation was in a standstill and a major political crisis was surely about to occur with everyone having one question, “After Nehru what?, After Nehru who?” To a major relief, Lal Bahadur Shastri succeeded and a major political crisis was averted.

Then came the era of Indira Gandhi, the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru becoming the Prime Minister of India with a tough competition with Morarji Desai, also waiting to become the Prime Minister. After the succession of Indira Gandhi, many events followed like the split in the congress party and the presidential elections in 1969, the 1975 emergency,  her government falling in 1977 and then again becoming the Prime Minister from 1980 until her assassination in 1984. This led to a mammoth victory of the Congress Party in 1984 with Rajiv Gandhi becoming the Prime Minister.

Post the above-mentioned series of events, the Indian Politics has seen many twists and turns, and the 1990s, specially for the Congress Party was a complete turnover.  The Congress Party had witnessed the changes in the Indian landscape: socialist economy to liberalisation in the 1990s. The 1990s was a crucial decade, majorly because we saw the immense rise of the largest political party in the world, the current ruling party in India, the Bhartiya Janata Party(BJP), with its Hindutva agenda.

The general elections of 1996 and 1998 saw the congress party struggling with the BJP led NDA coalition forming the government and falling shortly in both the instances. Then came the general election of 1999. The Indian National Congress won 114 seats out of the total 545. The NDA, led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, formed the government. The BJP won 182 seats. Once again, the Congress failed, and the BJP was improving gradually, step by step.

The Congress Party, in the 1990s, again, had uneasy times with it further splitting into 2 further regional parties namely the Trinamool Congress (TMC), and the National Congress Party (NCP). The origins of Sonia Gandhi, the question of her being Italian and with further problems like the regional leaders not been given enough autonomy and discretionary decision & policy making powers, the splits happened and many who also remain within the umbrella of the Indian National Congress, were not content.

The politics of West Bengal and Maharashtra changed manyfolds after the split and the name of the INC in these states started fading away gradually with the TMC and NCP in their states respectively kept on increasing their voter base, showcasing a regional connect with the masses.

Then came the year 2004, wherein the general election were to happen. This year also marks a crucial phase for the Congress Party, for the son of the former Prime Minister – Rajiv Gandhi, grandson of the great Indira Gandhi and the great grandson of the leader of the highest stature this country has seen – Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Rahul Gandhi officially entered Indian politics.

The Congress Party, leading the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), fought the elections under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi. Manmohan Singh became the prime minister of the UPA government. The leadership was diluted from one person to Manmohan-Sonia-Rahul troika which worked well for five years (2004-09) and within the 2009 national elections was ready to retain power winning over 200 seats on its own.

The impressive performance of the congress was thanks to the combined leadership of Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), farm loan waiver scheme, pro poor policies of the UPA government, confidence of stability and victory of secular forces. The gains made in 2009 by the Congress were lost midway because the UPA II government was besieged by numerous scams, high inflation and unemployment rates, price rise and therefore the policy paralysis that hit the country within the last two years of its regime.

The overall election in 2014 marked the important decline of the Congress because it witnessed a “wave” election with a replacement dimension as there had been two currents running simultaneously within the country. The primary current was a robust anti incumbency wave against the Congress which pushed it tally of seats to 44 which is the lowest and its vote share fell below 20% . The second wave was in favour of the BJP PM designate Narendra Modi which propelled the saffron party back to power in Delhi with a cushty majority for the saffron party, signalling the start of the BJP dominance in national spectrum of gunboat diplomacy.

The same trend continued in the 2019 general elections too, with the BJP winning a whopping 303 seats! The several reason accredited to the massive win were the successful 5 years without any such corruption charge, the nationalistic and the Hindutva wave, etc. However, the main reason was that there was a proper “face” with the BJP with Narendra Modi as the PM designate, who could connect and appeal to the masses with his dominant voice. On the other hand, was the then Congress president, Rahul Gandhi, who on several occasions fumbled and spoke irrelevantly, making him less trustable and not a proper “leader” per se for the Indian masses.

Lastly, on an ending note, the Congress Party needs some introspection, in order to survive in the Indian political ecosystem. It needs to think beyond the Gandhi-Vadra family and needs to find a face who could take on Narendra Modi in the 2024 general elections. It also needs to give space to more young leaders of the party and the party would’ve surely learnt a lesson with Jyotiraditya Scindia exiting the party recently and joining the BJP. The country deserves a proper opposition, but sadly, the Grand Old Party is unable to offer one, given the current political circumstances

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