As the results from the five states which had gone to the polls recently came out, the clear political message was that the Congress is not the priority of the voters who have chosen Mamata Banerjee, MK Stalin (Congress ally), P Vijayan and N Rangaswamy.
This is not the first battle the Congress has lost to regional forces; it is out of power in states like Odisha, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh. Amongst the Chief Ministers, BJD leader Naveen Patnaik of Odisha is presently the longest serving Chief Minister, where the Congress was once a force. Now the BJP is challenging the BJD in the state as the main opposition party.
The 74-year-old Naveen Patnaik is the current and 14th Chief Minister of Odisha and is the longest serving CM of the state. As of 2019, he is one of the longest serving CM of any Indian state, holding the post for almost two decades, and only the third chief minister after Pawan Chamling and Jyoti Basu to win five consecutive terms.
On Sunday after winning a bitterly-fought battle with the BJP to record her third successive victory in the West Bengal Assembly elections, Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee seems to have emerged as a formidable challenge to the ruling party at the Centre.
In the states the Congress has been ousted by the regional parties and there are only a few states where the Congress is directly pitted against the BJP. The Chief Ministers who have unseated the Congress include YS Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh, K Chandrashekhar Rao in Telangana and Naveen Patnaik in Odisha, and though not in power, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati in UP and Tejashwi Yadav and Nitish Kumar in Bihar.
The Congress in the North-East has lost it sheen and now the BJP or its allies are ruling the states. A young Congress spokesperson Ragini Nayak tweeted that "If Congress becomes happy in BJP's loss when will it introspect."
While the Congress is a partner in the government with the Shiv Sena and the NCP in Maharashtra, and with the JMM in Jharkhand, these are the states where the Congress was once a powerful force, but after it became weak it had to give up the driving seat in Maharashtra to stop the BJP.
After the emergence of Mamata, the Congress may have to rewind to the 1996 mode when it had to support HD Deve Gowda and IK Gujral as Prime Ministers. With many leaders from different regional parties, including NCP chief Sharad Pawar, sending her congratulatory massages, the message from the Assembly elections is clear that Mamata Banerjee is capable of taking up the challenge of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, successfully.
However, the Congress, which was expected to win at least two states but could not do so, failing to wrest Assam from the BJP and Kerala from the Left, still insists that it is the only option to the BJP.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said: "Congress is the sole national party which is alternative to the BJP as it is fighting BJP in all the states."
Though it may be fighting the BJP nationally but election trends show that it is the regional parties who are able to defeat the BJP. Many parties have thrived at the cost of the Congress, except in states like Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat where the Congress is in direct contest with the BJP. In Karnataka too the JD-S has been eating into the Congress base.
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