Thomas Crowley in Jacobin:
“Congress does not exist. It is finished.” “Congress will be decimated.” So say the political opponents of the Indian National Congress party. While hardly unbiased, they’re expressing a sentiment common in India today. Newspaper headlines tell the same story: “A Fast Fading Party”; “Tryst with Decline.”
But it’s too soon to write the obituary of the party that once dominated Indian politics. After all, Congress has been written off before, only to somehow resurrect itself.
In India’s national elections ten years ago, the polls and the media predicted a resounding defeat for the party, which had already been out of office for eight years. The once-mighty Congress was thought to be a spent force. But the party received a plurality of votes and was able to cobble together a coalition government. Five years later, in the next national election, Congress surprised many observers by winning even more handily.
Now, with the national election of 2014 in full swing (it takes place in nine phases in April and May), some within Congress are predicting another victory.
There are a few reasons, though, to think that lightning will not strike thrice for Congress. The last five years of Congress rule, under the banner of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), have been marred by scandals, economic woes, and governmental dysfunction. It is of little import that the other major national party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), supports the same flawed economic policies and has shown itself to be quite adept at corruption itself. The UPA has been heading the national government for the past decade, and any blame for the missteps of the previous ten years are laid squarely at its feet.