After failures in the assembly elections of Hindi speaking states Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, Congress is ready for ‘Aar Ya Paar’ in the elections to be held in 2024 for the 18th Lok Sabha. While Narendra Modi is hoping to equal Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s record by securing the post of Prime Minister for the third consecutive time, many are viewing the year 2024 as one of the toughest period for the Congress in its 138-year journey. Also watching. It will also be four decades since Congress reached its electoral peak by winning a record 414 Lok Sabha seats in 1984. The Congress has only 48 members in the lower house of Parliament and thus the party has seen a steady decline in the last 10 years.
Congress is hoping to stop the continuous decline in its seat count in 2024, but for this it will have to face various challenges and the most important among them is the anti-BJP alliance ‘Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance’ (India ) to finalize seat-sharing agreements with constituent parties. No electoral impact of this alliance has been seen yet. The Congress, which lost power to the BJP in Hindi-speaking states like Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and failed to return to power in Madhya Pradesh, will look weak when it talks about seat sharing.
The defeat has completely upset the Congress’s assessment, as it was hoping to maintain the momentum gained by victories in Himachal Pradesh in 2022 and Karnataka assembly elections in 2023. The defeat is also likely to prove disappointing for party workers just ahead of the 2024 general elections, as Hindi-speaking states play a major role in determining the election outcome. In the year 2019, BJP had won 141 seats in the Hindi belt, which was 71 percent of the total seats in the region. An election analyst believes that the 2024 Lok Sabha elections are important for the Congress, as it has lost two general elections badly. The analyst said, ‘Now it is a ‘win-win’ situation for the party.
The Congress is now in power on its own in only three states – Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana – while Himachal Pradesh is the only North Indian state now ruled by the party. Himachal Pradesh has only four Lok Sabha seats. However, the party seems to be gaining strength in the southern states. Having been almost wiped out from the Hindi heartland, the Congress will need to come up with new plans to woo voters to its side. The BJP has raised ‘Modi’s guarantee’ and the Prime Minister’s ‘four castes – women, youth, poor and farmers’ respectively as a counter to Congress’s free schemes and caste enumeration issue.
Congress’s various appeals including caste census, free ravedis and anti-Adani campaign have not had any massive impact on the public and as a result the party has announced the second edition of Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ in the hope of reconnecting with the people. Has done. The hybrid (bus and foot) ‘Bharat Nyay Yatra’ from Manipur to Maharashtra will begin on January 14 and will pass through 14 states. It will be flagged off by Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge from Imphal and will cover a distance of 6,200 kilometers passing through Nagaland, Assam, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
This visit is being considered politically important in view of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections to be held in April-May. Elections can be announced during the last phase of the yatra. Showing its preparations for the elections, Congress had organized ‘Hain Yaaraaz Hum’ rally in Nagpur on the occasion of Foundation Day. The party has been discussing the preparations for the Lok Sabha elections with the state leaders for the last several days and is leaving no stone unturned. While Congress is excited about turning around its fortunes, it is also fully conscious of the challenges to come. The first hurdle in talks over successful seat-sharing within the ‘India’ alliance has come from within the party, as its Punjab and Delhi units have openly warned against any agreement with the Aam Aadmi Party. It remains to be seen whether Congress’s recipe for a leaderless India coalition will hold up to Modi’s political prudence.
Meanwhile, the Congress is expected to work on an alternative positive agenda for the 2024 elections and unite secular forces against the BJP. The guiding principle of the party as it enters the new year is contained in its ‘Raipur Resolution’, which reads, “The unity of secular and socialist forces will mark the future of the Congress Party.”