The year 2021 ended with a significant outcome of civic polls in Chandigarh where the Aam Admi Party
(AAP) emerged as the single largest party pushing the ruling BJP to the second and the Congress to the
third position. This was followed by a survey of Times Now projecting AAP as the single largest party
in the new assembly in Punjab, followed by the Congress while the Akalis and the BJP-Amarinder
combination will be far behind.

The Times Now projection in its survey may be a bit optimistic but the signs are clear that AAP is
making inroads among the electorate in Punjab on the eve of the 117 member assembly poll in
February/March this year and that has ominous signal for the Congress which is the ruling party in the
state and has won convincingly in the recent elections to the rural and urban bodies placing Akalis and
BJP far behind.AAP could not do well in these polls. For Congress, among the five states which are going to assembly elections in the next two months,
Punjab is the only state the party is ruling. All other four states- Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and
Manipur, are ruled by the BJP. So for the Congress led by de facto president Rahul Gandhi, the retaining
of Punjab is a must if the GOP wants to play any dominating role in the front of the opposition parties
that are taking shape to fight the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. If Congress by any means loses
Punjab or even fails to get majority, that will give a big jolt to its stature and bargaining power with the
other leading regional parties which are having better strike rate against the BJP compared to the
In fact, this issue of the Congress losing against the BJP where the competition is between these two
national parties, is the root cause that has led the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to take
on the Congress and challenging its supremacy as the natural leader. Sharad Pawar is also equally jittery
that the Congress is not doing enough to defeat BJP in the states where it is the main challenger. In the
assembly elections, the scenario is changed compared to the last assembly elections as the other regional
parties are in the fray and in Goa, Uttarakhand, and Manipur, Congress, though remains as the main
opposition party against BJP, has been losing its base. In Goa, the Congress legislators number has been reduced to two now and both Trinamool and the AAP
are posing as challengers to both the Congress and the BJP.. It is not clear whether Trinamool will have
an alliance with AAP, but there are reasons to believe that both these new comers have created some big
hype in the political landscape of the tiny state of Goa. Whether this will be translated to enough votes,
remains to be seen. But the problem for the Congress is that the Party has not taken enough
organisational steps to rejuvenate the party in the state and challenge the ruling BJP. P. Chidambaram is
in charge of Goa from the Congress high command but his efforts have met limited success in tapping
new support base in the state to make up its recent loss.
Similarly in Uttarakhand, AAP is making moves and putting all focus on about ten constituencies. This
will hit both the Congress and the BJP as AAP campaigners are saying that their target is the
disillusioned voters from both the two national parties. It is a tough task for Harish Rawat to ensure
Congress win though there is big resentment against the ruling BJP. Congress has to mobilise more
resources in the coming weeks to improve its position as the BJP is flush with funds. In Manipur also,
the Congress has taken no major initiatives and political observers say that the state party is already
having the feeling that it can not win. The present mood of the Congress workers in the five poll bound states has to drastically change if the
Congress has to get back one or two states out of the three smaller states. In Uttar Pradesh, still the
Congress is far behind the Samajwadi Party though Priyanka Gandhi has certainly galvanised the
women of the state by a number of programmes. SP has been far ahead in organisation and
campaigning. Even if the SP may not finally beat BJP, the contest will be tough. The Congress has not
that organisational muscle to take on SP and BJP and the performance may not show more than a few
That is the real problem with the Congress at the moment. If the Party fails to get back at least one state,
apart from Punjab in the coming assembly elections, Congress’s bargaining power against the regional
parties including Trinamool and AAP will be going down and the other opposition parties will be more
responsive to the strategy of the TMC supremo. But if the Congress does really well, the mood will
change and the Congress will emerge as the leading driver of the front of the opposition forces. It is true
that there can be no opposition front against the BJP without the Congress but for that the Congress will
have to increase substantially its striking power against the BJP in the coming assembly elections.
The Congress claims that the Party is in direct fight with the BJP in around 250 seats and it is the only
national party, apart from BJP to have roots in every village of the country. That is true, But the 2019
and 2014 election results show that the BJP achieved most success in the seats where it fought Congress
directly. In 2019 Lok Sabha polls, figures show that the Congress won only six seats out of the 250
direct fights and that was one of the major reasons for the massive victory of the saffrons. The regional
parties, especially did much much better and that included the TRS of Telangana, YSRCP of Andhra
Pradesh, and BJD in Odisha which are outside the anti-BJP opposition front, but now showing signs of
aligning with anti-BJP regional combination.
Congress has to take note of this stance of the three regional parties which may not like to align with the
Congress but may be part of the wider combination against the BJP for 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The
opposition parties, taking into account the outcome of the assembly polls must harness their efforts to
shape the unity of the opposition parties keeping scope for the participation of the TRS, YSRCP and
BJD. The front has to be much wider than UPA to take on Narendra Modi in the 2024 polls. There has
to be a solid unity of the regional parties and the Congress and both sides must recognise the ground
realities. A combined leadership guided by the veteran like Sharad Pawar can emerge after the assembly
elections to chart out detailed programme and roadmap for 2024 poll.

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