NEW DELHI : The Congress suffered its worst defeat of the last three Delhi municipal polls on Wednesday, bringing to light the enormity of challenges it faces to revive itself in the national capital. But it is not just about Delhi; the party also faces challenges of revival in several states, including politically crucial Uttar Pradesh. The Congress got 30 seats in the Delhi municipal polls, far less than 77 seats it won in 2012 and 67 seats in 2007.
It finished third behind the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Of the three municipal corporations for which elections were held, the Congress bagged 15 seats in the north municipal corporation, 12 in south municipal corporation and only three in east Delhi corporation.
Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken took responsibility for the party's showing and resigned.
Party leaders expressed their disappointment with the results but drew satisfaction from the increase in party's vote share compared to the last assembly polls when the party could not secure a single seat.
Party leaders also talked about forging a new narrative.
"Congrats to @BJP4India for winning MCD. Thank Cong workers for increase in vote share from 9.6% to 20%. Will work hard for a new narrative," Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said in a tweet.
The party's efforts for municipal polls suffered setbacks as some of its known faces including former Delhi minister Arvinder Singh Lovely and former Deputy Speaker Amrish Singh Gautam joined the BJP during the campaign period.
Former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who headed Congress governments in Delhi for 15 years from 1998 to 2013, said she had not been invited to campaign for party candidates for the municipal polls.
The Congress has lost its traditional support base in Delhi largely to the AAP. The party's vote share has declined since the AAP contested its first assembly elections in 2013.
While the Congress polled 40.31 per cent votes and got 43 of 70 seats in 2008 assembly polls, it got eight seats and 24.55 per cent votes in 2013.
The AAP, on the other hand, got 28 seats and 29.49 per cent votes in 2013 elections. In the 2015 assembly polls, the decline was far sharper, with Congress failing to win a single seat and getting only 9.65 per cent votes. The AAP got 54.34 per cent votes and bagged 67 seats in the last assembly polls.
Interestingly, BJP's vote share did not show a marked variation in the three polls even as there was sharp variation in the seats it won. The party's vote share remained between 32 and 36.5 per cent in the three elections.
Apart from Delhi, the Congress faces problems in its revival in states such as Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 parliamentarians to the Lok Sabha.
In Bihar, which sends 40 MPs to the Lok Sabha, the Congress is a junior ally in the ruling alliance. The party continues to be weak in states such as Odisha, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.
Punjab is the only major state won by the Congress since its debacle in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The assembly elections later this year in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh will be crucial for the party to set the electoral tempo for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The BJP is the main rival of the party in both states.
The party would also pose challenge to the BJP in next year's assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.
In Karanatka, the Congress will seek to return to power. The AAP has given indications about contesting assembly polls in Gujarat and Rajasthan.
The Congress also has to take a call on elevation of party Vice President Rahul Gandhi as the party chief.
- Prashant Sood