The Congress can still be dubbed the only national alternative to the Bharatiya Janata Party, and it is yet not time to brood over its epitaph, believes three-time Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.
In a candid discussion about the major setback his party faced during the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections, he said the party needed to start introspecting. The Congress should begin with resolving issues within the party, he added.
Commenting on gauging the psyche of the voters incorrectly, he said: “We were convinced that grave economic concerns — such as unemployment, agrarian distress, or demonetization would play a pivotal role in deciding the outcome of the polls. However, this time, the voters did not choose their candidates on the basis of economic self-interest.”
That is something the Congress needs to study, the Thiruvananthapuram MP said, reported the Hindustan Times. He added, the Congress could have also fared better had it released the election manifesto earlier. He believes the party did not market the NYAY scheme well enough, which could have turned their fate around.
Dubbing the scheme “revolutionary”, he said: “The core messaging around NYAY only reached half the electorate, possibly the wrong half, comprised mainly of urban professionals, who would, in fact, be paying for the scheme. It should have reached out to the bottom 20 per cent of the society instead, centred mostly around rural India, who would have actually benefitted of the scheme.”
Commenting on whether the setback is temporary and if party president Rahul Gandhi can salvage the situation, Tharoor said: “It is too early to write an obituary for the party. It is kicking and alive in states such as Kerala and Punjab. Moreover, Congress represents an alternate vision of India – one that is inclusive and pluralist. We cannot leave the field uncontested for a distorted, bigoted and narrow-minded version of India.”
Upholding Rahul Gandhi’s contribution towards leading and building the party, he said: “Rahul has led Congress with energy and commitment from the front and has a lot more to offer. He has also bravely taken full responsibility for the defeat. However, we all have a responsibility to ensure the party’s revival.
The Congress probably lost because the BJP executed the main messaging better, he said. Tharoor added: “They decided early that their “product” was Mr Modi and they marketed him very well. They built up the most extraordinary personality cult in modern Indian political history, buttressed by larger-than-life imagery, hundreds of thousands of social media warriors, an intimidated “mainstream” media, ubiquitous cameramen and a piece of slick publicity machinery that was switched on 24/7.”