New Delhi: The future of the Congress, which ruled the Capital for three terms under Sheila Dikshit, is in the doldrums if the exit polls are to be believed, forcing the grand old party to rethink its strategy and possible partnerships.
On Sunday, a day after exit polls predicted the Congress is likely to be restricted to single digits again — with the average number of seats being one — the party’s Delhi incharge PC Chacko said though he was confident the pollsters were wrong, the possibility of tying up with the AAP “depends on results”.
“It depends on the results. Once results are out, then only we can discuss it. I think the surveys are not correct. Congress is likely to do better than what surveys predict,” he said.
This was followed by Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury heaping praises on Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for his development pitch. “We fought this election with all our strength. In this election, BJP put forth all the communal agendas, while Kejriwal-ji put forth developmental agendas. If Kejriwal wins, then it will be a victory of the developmental agendas,” he said.
The Congress and AAP share a blow hot, blow cold relationship, especially after the parties tried to cobble together an alliance several times in the past.
Since the restoration of Delhi assembly, which was dissolved in 1991 when it was turned into a union territory, Congress touched its highest point in 2003. This was the election in which Congress under the leadership of Sheila Dikshit was fighting to return to power. The party finished first, by a huge margin, bagging close to 48 per cent votes.
The party’s fortunes slid slightly in 2008 elections when it still managed to get a respectable 40.31 per cent. In 2013, possibly the only time Delhi polls were a tri-cornered contest, it got 24.6 per cent. And its rout was signaled in 2015 when it couldn’t even manage double digits, and for the first time in Delhi’s history, got zero seats.
From 2015 onwards, data has shown that Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has grown at the expense of Congress and other smaller parties. The exit polls on Saturday suggested that this process is continuing to a point where the Congress has possibly shrunk into irrelevance.
Even in places like Dwarka and Chandni Chowk, where the party decided to field AAP turncoats like Adarsh Shastri and Alka Lamba, exit polls suggest it is unlikely to reap any benefits. It had also fielded most number (55) of crorepati candidates. Some had suggested, based on Congress’ surprising tally in municipality elections and its 22 per cent vote share (which was far higher than AAP’s vote share) in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, that Congress was again on the rise. But polls predict that will not be the case.
Various media reports talked about dissatisfaction with the manner in which senior Congress leaders remained absent during the campaigning season. Apart from a handful of rallies in Old Delhi, Jangpura, Sangam Vihar, the Gandhi siblings – Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi – largely remained absent from the capital.