“The Congress should win Madhya Pradesh even if it puts up a lamp-post, unless the lamp-post chooses to piss on itself”—this was the remarkably earthy formulation of the election situation in the state by an old-time journalist. It is worth noting it down now, a day after polling, so that it remains a record of caution against those who will variously claim credit for Rahul Gandhi or Kamal Nath, if the party does make it through.
Throughout the Congress campaign in Madhya Pradesh, the party failed to address a fundamental question—a question that it has been unable to answer at the national level too. The success of the Bharatiya Janata Party was a result of the Congress’ failures, its compromises and its hypocrisy. Has the party learnt anything from successive defeats? What would it aim to do differently if it were to come to power?
The only answer the party has offered in Madhya Pradesh is that it will take on the BJP by becoming more like the saffron party. This has been, more or less, the only strategy the party has come up with ever since I was a reporter based in the state in the early 2000s, covering the 2003 elections in which Uma Bharti defeated the Digvijaya Singh-led Congress.