A WORKER CARRIES AWAY A SIGNBOARD while dismantling a media tent at the headquarters of the Indian National Congress in New Delhi on 16 May, after the results of the sixteenth Lok Sabha election were announced. The Bharatiya Janata Party, the incumbent Congress’s main rival, won a resounding victory, securing 282 parliamentary seats on its own and a total of 336 seats for its coalition, the National Democratic Alliance. Narendra Modi, the leader of the BJP and the new prime minister, now heads India’s first single-party majority government since 1984.
While the BJP celebrates, the Congress must turn towards introspection. Though national economic growth averaged 7.7 percent during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s decade-long tenure—higher than the 6.2 percent average over the previous decade—the UPA’s popularity was undermined by corruption scandals and slowed growth in recent years, creating a palpable sense of public discontent. The recent polls marked the Congress’s worst electoral showing since Independence: the UPA won just fifty-nine seats, of which the party won forty-four. While recognising the success of the BJP’s electoral and political strategy, many in the public and the media are asking where the Congress, India’s grand old party, should go from here.