Barring a short span during 1977-80 post independence, Congress ruled country right till 1989. Its hegemony reached its zenith in 1984. 1984 was quite a remarkable year for Indian democracy. In General Election held in December 1984 post assassination of Indira Gandhi; Congress swept the polls with Rajiv Gandhi at its helm. Congress bagged 404 seats and reclaimed power with 4/5th majority. The second largest party stood at meagre 30; it was NT Rama Rao’s Telugu Desam Party.
BJP won just two seats. Janta Party, who won General Election just seven years back in 1977, could manage just 10 seats. Congress juggernaut was so brutal that stalwart like Atal Bihari Vajpayee lost the election. In Uttar Pradesh alone, Congress won 83 out of total 85 seats.
Congress went on and swept assembly elections across the country during first half of 1985. That was the all-time peak for the grand old party.
However after this peak, persistent decline started soon after. It was apparent that Indira Gandhi was the last heavyweight of Gandhi dynasty and Rajiv was no match to his mother in political acumen. Rajiv started losing control, thick and fast. His senior cabinet colleague V.P. Singh parted ways and built a political movement against Congress and Rajiv. 1987 Haryana assembly election gave the glimpse of days to come. Congress not only lost power, it actually was slaughtered as party could manage just 5 seats in an assembly of 90 seats. In 1989, Congress lost power at centre post 1989 General Election. In 1990 Congress lost power in two largest states in the country UP and Bihar and could never make a comeback till date and now a number four player in both states.
The decline which started in during mid-eighties was continual and it finally brought Congress to its lowest point three decades later in 2014 General Election.
403 seats three decades back came down to 44. In 1984, Congress lost at just two seats out of 85 in UP. In 2014, they won at just two.
Carnage continued post 2014 General Election as well. Congress lost power in
Maharashtra, Haryana, Assam, J&K ; and completely wiped out in Delhi. Now let’s come to 2017. Congress already has been badly decimated in BMC elections; they slipped to third position after Shiv Sena and BJP in Mumbai.
All eyes are now on 11th March 2017, when results of assembly elections of states like UP, Punjab and Uttrakhand would be declared. Arguably 11th March can be the most defining day in the history of 130 years old party.
In northern India, Congress is only ruling in Uttrakhand. In a desperate attempt to seize some ground in UP, Congress went in to an alliance with Samajwadi Party (SP), much against wishes of its state cadre. In Punjab, Congress is out of power for the past one decade and now entangled in a triangular fight with SD/BJP and AAP.
A bad show on 11th March would bring unprecedented existential crises in front of Congress. In case Congress lost Uttrakhand and fails to capture Punjab, it can very well be the last nail for the Congress as they would be totally wiped out in Hindi Heartland. How Congress perform in UP, remains inconsequential as Congress already is no player in UP.
But a further weakened performance in UP would only bring further embarrassment to Gandhi family. Congress won 27 seats in 2012, when they fought solo. In case they manage around 20 seats in UP (and there is every chance for that) even after a humiliating tie-up with Samajwadi Party, it would be catastrophic for the party leadership.
So with a poor show in these elections, the three decades old process of decline would breach the threshold limit and it will enter in a zone from where it would be impossible for this decline to change its course.
I believe that 11th March 2017 is going to be one of the most important days in the history of Congress. On the evening of 11th March, we would know whether Congress would live to fight another day or it would just perish. The three decade decline has already brought Congress to the edge and just one push on 11th March would result in to a free fall for party and to sudden death.
11th March 2017 can be doomsday for Congress.
(The author is NewMobile and thoughts are personal)