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Congress's loss exposes challenges in reclaiming northeast

March 02, 2023 23:09 IST

The Congress's loss in the three states in the North-East, a region it had dominated for decades, shows there is a lot left to do to reclaim its political turf despite the Bharat Jodo Yatra which it had touted as a successful experiment in mass public outreach.

IMAGE: Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge with party leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and others at the 85th plenary session of the Indian National Congress in Raipur, February 24, 2023. Photograph: PTI Photo

The dismal results in Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya came immediately after the Congress' three-day brainstorming plenary session in Raipur where the party evolved its future strategy and stressed on unity in ranks to ensure victories in states where elections are slated later this year and 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

The results will draw the party's strategists' attention to the people's rejection of an alliance between the Left and the Congress, which it first experimented in West Bengal polls and now in Tripura, where it failed to make a mark at the hustings.


The party could manage to win just five of the all 60 seats it contested in Meghalaya and failed to open its account in Nagaland where it fielded candidates in 23 out of 60 seats.

In Tripura, where the Congress was in alliance with the Left parties, it contested in 13 seats and bagged just three seats out of a total of 60.

The Bharatiya Janata Party and its alliance partners returned to power in Tripura and Nagaland. The National People's Party is the single-largest party in Meghalaya and the BJP is likely to support it in government formation.

Although the Congress has officially distanced the Rahul Gandhi-led Yatra from electoral politics, its leaders had privately hoped that the goodwill generated by the footmarch would impact election results.

It is yet to be seen whether the poll results on Thursday would cast a shadow on another proposed Yatra that the Congress is planning in the near future from East to West (Pasighat to Porbander).

Earlier, the five-month yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir did not touch poll-bound Gujarat where the party suffered a humiliating defeat, but it did win in Himachal Pradesh assembly polls.

Congress leaders termed the polls results in three state assemblies as "disappointing" but said the victories in bypolls in Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu were "encouraging".

They noted that the party would soon assess the poll results and would work on strengthening the organisation further.

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said it will take corrective measures to strengthen the organisation.

"Our performance will be strong five years later," he said, pointing to the fact that the party fielded youth candidates in the northeastern states this time with an eye on the future.

"We are building for the future in the North-East... I didn't think that we were going to come up with a miracle in these two states (Nagaland and Meghalaya), but certainly looking into the future, these were the candidates that we need to project now so that they have firm standing for the future elections," he noted.

As in many other states, the Congress had seen a steady decline in the North-East in 2014, caving into the BJP's aggressive strategy to dominate the region

Insiders say the Congress will have to do some serious thinking to ensure victories in upcoming elections in Karnataka, Telangana and later in the year in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram.

Their results will be crucial for the Congress to strike a bargain if a larger opposition coalition decides to take on the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The party has said in its Raipur declaration recently that the coming year will see important state elections.

"Party workers and leaders must work with discipline, solidarity and complete unity to ensure our victory. The results of these elections will set the tone for the all-important 2024 Lok Sabha election," the declaration adopted at the Raipur session said.

The Congress had also said that India awaits a reinvigorated Congress and "we owe it to the people to fulfill their expectations".

"Crores of workers of the Congress party must build on the momentum of the Bharat Jodo Yatra to defeat the divisive forces of the BJP and RSS.

"A mass awareness campaign will be launched against the crudest example of crony capitalism which the entire country and the world is seeing. We end the Raipur plenary with a renewed resolve and common purpose to build a stronger and united India," the party said in Raipur after three days of brainstorming.

With challenges galore ahead of the next round of elections, party leaders feel it would have to come up with a revamped strategy to take on the BJP-led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi which is on a winning spree since 2014. 

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