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Congress facing tough battle in new year after rout in polls

Sunday, 29 December 2013 - 12:30pm IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: PTI

With the rout in the year-end assembly elections, Congress has been left looking at the bottom of the barrel ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, with Narendra Modi breathing down its neck.

It was all bouquets for Rahul Gandhi at the beginning of the year when he was made the Congress Vice President at the Jaipur Chintan Shivir but there is nothing much to show for him as 2013 comes to a close.

The party now has to decide whether to project him as its prime ministerial candidate when the AICC meets in more than a fortnight.

The debacle in Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh has thrown up questions over Rahul's ability to rally the party for a hat-trick in the parliamentary elections with his mother and party chief Sonia Gandhi virtually taking a backseat in the day-to-day affairs of the organisation.

While Rahul has now hinted changes beyond imagination in the party and its working, suggestions that Sonia Gandhi will again take the lead in the organisation have started gradually gaining ground with a do-or-die battle looming ahead.

An AICC restructuring is on the cards sooner than later and an AICC meeting is scheduled here on January 17 which is expected to give a glimpse of the party strategy for facing the Lok Sabha polls just a few months away.

Congress is in power as head of the UPA coalition for ten years since May 2004.

With several leaders rooting for him as the "natural choice" to lead the party in the polls, the meet is being held amid speculation that Rahul could be declared the prime ministerial candidate by the party.

Sonia Gandhi has said that the party would decide its PM candidate at an opportune time.

The year gone by also saw the party storming back to power in Karnataka after seven years in what was seen as an anti-BJP vote due to the controversial rule of B S Yeddyurappa marked by allegations graft and nepotism.

Congress succeeded in getting the Food Security Bill as also the Land Acquisition Bill passed in Parliament amid projections of the two schemes as the game changers for the organisation in the Lok Sabha polls.

At the fag end of the year, the ruling party also succeeded in getting the Lokpal Bill passed with the help of the main opposition BJP in the backdrop of both the major parties suffering a setback with the emergence of Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi.

AAP, led by Arvind Kejriwal, has formed government in the national capital with Congress' support. The emergence of the nascent party has come as a morale booster for several regional parties.

What is worrying for the Congress as it prepares for the Lok Sabha polls is the extent of loss it suffered in the just concluded Assembly polls in states like Delhi and Rajasthan.

After 15 years in power in Delhi under the leadership of Shiela Dikshit, the party was suddenly reduced to an 'also ran' status with just eight seats in the 70–member Assembly, down from 43. This was despite the fact that it had claimed that Dikshit era had led to unprecedented development in the national capital.

The result showed not only intense infighting in the party, but also the failure of the leadership to gauge the mood of the people in the backdrop of an atmosphere of scams and scandals, anger against the price rise and the December 16 gangrape incident last year.

In neighbouring Rajasthan, the party not only lost power but was routed so badly that it came up with the worst ever performance winning just 21 seats in a House of 200. Even in the Assembly polls held after the Emergency in the mid-70s, the party had secured 40 odd seats.

So stunned was the party that Ashok Gehlot, who led the campaign as the Chief Minister, said he had no words as there was no-anti incumbency against his government and the party.

He claimed the reason could be mainly the "Goebellisian" tactics of Modi to spread communal agenda.

"Narendra Modi's thoughts are a threat to Indian democracy," Gehlot declared as the party was grappling on how to tackle the challenge posed by the Gujarat strongman.

The challenge before the party could be gauged from the fact that Modi is known as the "most polarising" politician in India and abroad in the wake of the Gujarat riots of 2002. Besides, he has emerged as the most aggressive campaigner in recent times when questions are being raised about the way Rahul Gandhi canvasses.

Despite bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh being a ticklish issue, Congress took decisive steps for the formation of a separate Telangana amid hopes that the new state could be a reality in the New Year.

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