India’s ruling Congress party suffers a near fatal blow. Here’s one reason why.


(whycongresslost.in)

As the results of India's election came in on Friday, many people focused on the truly extraordinary success of Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

But there's also another story: The complete, utter, and total humiliation of Congress Party. The party did not even meet the 54 seat margin needed to lead the opposition, meaning that the 16th Lok Sabha may be the first since 1977 without a leader of the opposition.

Congress Party has long been a mainstay of Indian politics. It was the party that won India its independence, led by men like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister. Since 1947, the center-left party has remained the dominant party, and for the last 10 years it had led India under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

So what explains this historic defeat? The "WhyCongressLost.In" thinks it knows why: Rahul Gandhi.

The Web site is one of those delightful single serving Web sites that has popped up over the past few years. All it does is serve you up random quotes from Gandhi, including such gems as:

People call us an elephant.. We are not an elephant.. we are a beehive.. it's funny but think about it. Which is more powerful? an elephant or a beehive?

And:

You should stop asking your politicians how they’re gonna do it.

And also:

Dalit community 'needs the escape velocity of Jupiter' to achieve success.

To be fair to Gandhi, not all the quotes are that bad, and Congress clearly has a whole range of other problems that are outside of his remit. But it is one revealing glimpse of how Gandhi is viewed.

The latest in a dynasty of political leaders (he is the son, grandson, and great-grandson of Indian prime ministers), in many ways the young, good looking Gandhi seemed destined to lead. In reality, however, many Indians viewed the 43-year-old as awkward and out of touch. He rarely spoke out in parliament, and his interviews with the press could often be dull or even disastrous, like this now notorious TV interview with Arnab Goswami from earlier this year:

(That's an hour long interview, I know, but you only need to watch the first five minutes to see how outgunned Gandhi is.)

Whatever Modi's faults, he was always able to portray himself as a man of the people, whether it was taking "selfies" with supporters or speaking confidently to a crowd of thousands. It worked: Even more the election began, just 16 percent of Indians surveyed by Pew Research Center had an unfavorable view of him, while 43 percent viewed Gandhi unfavorably.

Adam Taylor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. Originally from London, he studied at the University of Manchester and Columbia University.
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