The results of the Indian general elections are in and no one was surprised about the victory of the BJP. The only surprise was the atrocious defeat of the Congress Party which was restricted to less than 50 parliamentary seats, in the house of 543, for the first time in India’s modern history. The results proved every exit poll incorrect and surprised the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by BJP will form the new government under the leadership of Narendra Modi, who will be the first Indian Prime Minister born following independence. After ten years of rule, the Congress Party and its alliances are out of power and it is time for the Congress Party to evaluate future strategies on how resuscitate the party.
But before Congress charts it future game plan, it should look back and analyze the miscalculations of the past and avoid repeating them in the future. One mistake of the Congress Party was not to declare Rahul Gandhi as prime ministerial candidate as soon as the BJP declared Narendra Modi its candidate. Everyone knew who the prime ministerial candidate was for Congress. What was the purpose of not declaring Rahul as Congress’s PM candidate? Throughout the election campaign, Congress Party maintained that Indian parliamentary political system does not require any party to declare its MP candidate. This is true and once the elections are over, members of Parliament elect their leader as the next prime minister. Declaring a PM candidate, as the BJP did, is not prohibited by law and neither is changing a candidate once the party declares its PM candidate.
The strategy of not projecting Rahul Gandhi as the PM candidate proved nothing but the Congress Party’s lack of confidence in Rahul Gandhi’s ability to lead the party to victory. Rahul Gandhi lead his party in Uttar Pradesh’s state assembly elections in 2012 and the Congress lost against Samajwadi Party under Akhilesh Yadva’s leadership. This event shook the confidence of the Congress Party and Sonia Gandhi and their priority changed to “stop Narendra Modi” from becoming a PM candidate of BJP because two back to back defeats, one in UP election and the second in 2014 parliamentary elections, would surely derail Rahul Gandhi’s political resume.
From the beginning of his political career, the strategists of the Congress Party wanted to make Rahul Gandhi the Prime Minister of India first and then hand over the leadership of the party and award him credit for the success of the party. Congress Party’s approach was to paint Rahul Gandhi as a clean politician. In order to keep his political career spotless, his mother and the Congress Party kept him away from holding any political and government office for ten years and restricted him as a member of parliament. He was promoted as the vice president of Congress Party only in 2013.
Instead of protecting him for years, Congress Party should have tossed Rahul Gandhi into the political arena. Sonia Gandhi should have left him alone and let him build his own political career. She should have known that he has abilities to become a good leader and she must understand that victories and defeats are part of politics.