NEW DELHI: A second straight landslide election defeat for opposition Congress leader Rahul Gandhi raised serious questions Friday about his leadership and cast a damaging shadow over one of the world’s most prominent political dynasties, reports AFP.
Gandhi, who even lost the family constituency seat to the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party of arch-rival Narendra Modi, will have to face the music at a meeting of party leaders in coming days.The election results made grim reading for Congress barons who have relied for generations on the talismanic Nehru-Gandhi name—which rivals the Kennedy clan in the United States and the Bhuttos in Pakistan—to provide electoral success.
The tarnished party was predicted to get about 50 seats, barely improving the historic low 44 it won in Modi’s last landslide in 2014. Congress failed to get a single seat in 13 of the country’s 29 states.
When asked about responsibility for the loss, Rahul Gandhi told a press conference late Thursday: “This is between my party and me. Between me and the Congress Working Committee.”
Party spokesmen have insisted the 48-year-old son, grandson and great-grandson of Indian prime ministers would not resign and that strategy was to blame for the defeat.
“We have to go back to the drawing board,” Congress spokesman Salman Soz told AFP.
But experts say the party and its ruling family is in denial.“The Congress leadership has clearly failed. It is a discredited and bankrupt leadership,” Kanchan Gupta, a politics expert at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation think-tank, told AFP.
Congress has been a virtual one-family party for the last century. India has been mesmerised by the twists and turns of its successes and frequent tragedies.
Pro-independence leader Motilal Nehru served as party president twice between 1919 and 1929.
His son Jawaharlal Nehru took over and became India’s first prime minister after independence, ruling until his death in 1964. His daughter Indira Gandhi and then her son Rajiv Gandhi—Rahul’s father—followed as premiers. Both were assassinated in office.
Rajiv’s widow Sonia Gandhi won two elections as party leader but did not become prime minister, fearing her Italian origins would fuel a backlash.
Party fortunes had dwindled since she started to hand the reins to Rahul ahead of the 2014 vote and as Modi turned the BJP into a formidable vote machine, seizing on corruption scandals that hit Congress.
Rahul failed this time to connect with voters in the way that Modi did, critics said. The Nehru-Gandhi name that was once Congress’s biggest asset is now a liability.