Most exit polls show the Congress getting a beating in the Assembly elections to five states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur. If the Congress fails to win in Punjab and Uttarkhand where it is in neck-and-neck fight with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), respectively, a major question mark will hang over Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi‘s political future.
The failure of Rahul Gandhi’s big experiment in Uttar Pradesh to play a second fiddle to Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party (SP) by becoming a junior partner in the poll alliance will bring out dissent within the party, especially among senior leaders who were opposed to the SP-Congress alliance.
Since Rahul himself led the campaign in Uttar Pradesh, he would not be able to shrug off the defeat and blame it on the state unit or the alliance partner. Dismal showing of the Congress will be attributed solely to Rahul Gandhi.
Even if the Congess is able to win Punjab and Uttarakhand, the victory will be attributed to Punjab state Congress head Capt. Amarinder Singh and Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat, respectively, and not to Rahul Gandhi, since both of them are strong leaders with big mass base.
The defeat in Uttar Pradesh can also mar Rahul gandhi’s chances to become the Congress president. Despite Sonia Gandhi’s health issues, many senior Congress leaders who feel sidelined by Rahul Gandhi might want her to continue as the party president.
So far, the party has been saving Rahul Gandhi from responsibility of several electoral defeats, from the 2012 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections to the recent local bodies elections in Maharashtra. But now the shrinking fortunes of the Congress partry will be blamed on Rahul Gandhi. The crisis of its very existence can force the party to reconsider Rahul Gandhi’s leadership which can only mean ascendancy of Priyanka Gandhi who is seen to be more natural in politics and good at interacting with party leaders at different levels.