Can Ahmed Patel’s victory rejuvenate Congress?

Is Congress party going down the hill? Is Congress party directionless? Is Congress party leaderless? Is there a fight between the old guard and the new guard? Can Congress party mount a challenge to Bharatiya Janata Party? Is Congress just a party of dynasts? The above questions are all pertinent ones, but Indian National Congress got a shot in arm when veteran leader and political secretary of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Ahmed Patel managed to retain his Rajya Sabha seat against very tough odds and expectations. Patel had to fight tooth and nail against Congress rebel Balwantsinh Rajput and managed to secure 44 votes after all the drama and theatrics. The other two seats went to BJP’s national president Amit Shah and union minister Smriti Irani.

What happened to Ahmed Patel’s seat that it became a prestige issue and ego battle? It all started when Congress veteran Shankarsinh Vaghela rebelled against his own party for not declaring him chief ministerial candidate and in protest resigned from the party and with him six MLAs also quit Congress. The next development was that Congress taking its MLAs to a Bengaluru resort and hiding them and saying that ruling party in Gujarat is trying to indulge in horse trading. The election for Ahmed Patel’s seat became a prestige issue as Amit Shah wanted to take revenge for Patel’s alleged involvement in jailing of him, when Congress was in power at Centre. The result was not straightforward as both the parties raised technical issues with the election commission and after due deliberations, the verdict went in favour of Patel.

Is Congress living in denial and why are they celebrating for a single seat? Ever since the general elections of 2014, Congress has been losing one state election after the other and the mission of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah of Congress mukt Bharat (Congress free India) is becoming a reality, with BJP and its alliance partners ruling in 18 states. Ahmed Patel was the ultimate No 2, when Congress led UPA was in power for 10 years (2004-2014) and he was the chief strategist and mastermind of the ruling dispensation. As the election got over and there were some discrepancies with Patel’s voting Congress after a long time showed some spine and senior leaders such as P Chidambaram going to election commission and explaining their stance. Congress was desperate for the victory and fought against central government, who was also making the rounds to election commission.

The 2019 Lok Sabha elections are less than two years away and frankly, opposition, as well as Congress, are in shambles and with Nitish Kumar switching sides and declaring that Narendra Modi can’t be defeated, it is a battle which is going the BJP’s way. PM Modi and Amit Shah are working tirelessly to win every election and are leaving no stone unturned to achieve complete dominance across India. Congress, which is hoping to win Gujarat elections after being in opposition for 22 years, has got a boost with Patel’s victory in the upper house. India is crying for a strong opposition and Congress unknowingly came together to fight against BJP’s supremacy and showing that it has some fight left.

Narendra Modi and Shah are always two steps ahead of opposition and it will be a miracle to beat them in 2019, but at least Congress is showing some signs of redemption and for a healthy democracy we need a strong and vigilant opposition. Ahmed Patel’s win could be a rallying point for Congress to again take the opposition space and battle RSS and BJP ahead of general elections. We all know that one victory doesn’t make a summer and Congress has to keep pushing to become relevant again.

(The views expressed by the writer are personal)

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