The Congress is a supporting party of the JMM government in Jharkhand and the Uddhav Thackeray regime in Maharashtra. It is a political ally of the DMK in Tamil Nadu but is not part of the ministry headed by CM MK Stalin. In contrast, the party has its own governments only in Chhattisgarh (led by Bhupesh Baghel) and Rajasthan (under Ashok Gehlot).
The party’s minimal role in governance across the country has been compounded by its rout in the last five state polls, where it had harbored strong hopes of wresting Uttarakhand and Goa from the BJP and retaining Punjab. With a small group of 53 MPs in Lok Sabha and a dwindling number in Rajya Sabha, Congress’ bargaining power with the government and its role in law-making is at its lowest level in decades.
After Congress fortunes began to tumble in 2014, the party achieved something of a second life when it swept the December 2018 polls in Chhattisgarh, MP and Rajasthan. However, the situation has deteriorated since then, with the party also losing its government in Bhopal and the alliance regime with JD(S) in Bengaluru, following a massive defection of MPs to the BJP. He has since been on a losing streak. While he nearly overthrew the BJP in Haryana, he failed in his best chance to strike a winning shot – Kerala.
The worst fear among insiders now is that the AAP’s victory in Punjab, and its renewed ambition to weaken Congress to replace it as the national alternative in the long run, will come at the expense of Congress’ prospects against the BJP. in year-end polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. The party is imagining its chances in Gujarat where it scared off the BJP in the latest polls, and in Himachal where it recently swept the LS and the by-elections.
This would put immense pressure on CMs Gehlot and Baghel to sack governments at the end of 2023, a task with high odds given Congress’s poor record of bailing out incumbent governments.
The growing fear in Congress is that it may not have a state government by the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. If that happens, it will not only be politically embarrassing, but also demoralizing for the cadre who looked to the leadership to pull the party out of the quagmire it has fallen into.