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2015, a gloomy year for Congress despite Rahul Gandhi's bravado

Ever since Rahul returned from a two-month long off, murmurs grew loud in the party to elevate him as the party President. But it proved to be a mirage.

Priyanka Rathi | priyanka_rathi

Updated:December 22, 2015, 1:04 PM IST
2015, a gloomy year for Congress despite Rahul Gandhi's bravado
Ever since Rahul returned from a two-month long off, murmurs grew loud in the party to elevate him as the party President. But it proved to be a mirage.

2015 started on a gloomy note for the Congress and ended in the same fashion. There was hardly a good news for the grand old party of India during the year which was marked by a new low when Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul were forced to apply for bail in an alleged case of corruption.

Still smarting from the massive mauling in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and assembly elections in four states that followed, the Congress was completely routed in the Delhi Assembly elections scoring a big zero in the 70-member House in February 2015.

Facing severe criticism following the humiliating loss, Rahul went on a two-month long mysterious sabbatical and missed the crucial Budget Session.

Rahul’s return was one of the most awaited events of the year with leaders across the party line taking a dig at him. A rejuvenated Rahul also tried to take on the Narendra Modi government in Parliament. In his third stint as an MP, Rahul was for the first time seen raising issues and leading the party in Parliament on Land Acquisition Bill and called the Modi government a ‘suit boot ki sarkar’.

In March, the party suffered another jolt when the court summoned former prime minister Manmohan Singh as accused in the coal block allocation scam. Leading the party, Sonia Gandhi along with leaders marched to show solidarity with Singh. On October 16, in a major relief for Singh, the Patiala House Court refused to summon him as accused in the coal scam.

In a bid to recharge the party, Rahul travelled across the country, addressing mega farmers' rally and meeting people of different class. He toured Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and did not miss any opportunity to speak on different issues even though most of them failed to leave much impact on the audience.

While the Congress let the Budget session pass smoothly, it upped the ante in the Monsoon and Winter Sessions. The Congress cornered the government in Parliament in the four-week Monsoon Session by targeting External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje in the alleged controversy involving former Indian Premier League chief Lalit Modi, and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in the multi-crore Vyapam scam.

The 44-MP party was successful in stalling Parliament but could not encash much on the two controversies. The adamant Congress in the 543-member Lok Sabha did not let the government have its way. Congress's demand for resignations of Sushma, Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chouhan resulted in pandemonium in Parliament and ultimately Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan suspended 25 Congress MPs for five days leading to more protests.

Ever since Rahul returned from a two-month long off, murmurs grew loud in the party to elevate him as the party President. But it proved to be a mirage.

The party tried to remain relevant by repeatedly stalling proceedings in Parliament on a host of issues, and got some good news from Bihar when riding on the charisma of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad won 27 seats in Bihar, its best showing in two decades.

The party was also able to make inroads in Modi's home state Gujarat, in the local bodies polls as it not only increased the number of seats but also its vote share. In the 31 district panchayats, the Congress's vote share has gone up to 47.85%, from 44% in 2010. The BJP's percentage of votes has dipped to 43.97% from 50.26% in the 2010 elections.

The Congress also wrested the Ratlam-Jhabua Lok Sabha seat from the BJP, taking its tally in the Lok Sabha to 45.

But as the year come to an end the alleged corruption in the National Herald case came back to hound the Congress leadership. Even as the Congress cried foul and called it a political vendetta, summons were issued to Sonia, Rahul and some other party leaders by Delhi's Patiala House Court.

The party stalled Parliament with sloganeering and not let crucial bills like the Goods and Service Tax and Real Estate Bills to be passed. The all-party meetings and "chai pe charcha" with Modi could not break the logjam with Congress making it clear that it would not be easy for the government to have its way in Parliament.

The year ended with the Patiala House Court granting bail to Sonia, Rahul and other leaders except Sam Pitorda. While the party tried to project itself as a victim of vendetta politics, the lack of direction and inability to put forward positive alternatives are some of the huge challenges it faces in the new year which will see many crucial state elections.

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