Troubles have grown for India’s grand old party

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The Economist, May 30, 2019

What could be worse in politics than for a governing party to lose four-fifths of its seats in a single election? Try spending years clawing your way back to relevance, only to see your rival do even better in the next poll. And what could be worse than that? Ask India’s Congress party. Pummelled by the upstart Bharatiya Janata Party (bjp) in 2014, and trounced again in a marathon general election that wrapped up on May 23rd, the grand old party that dominated Indian politics for a generation after the country gained independence in 1947 is now in even deeper trouble than it was five years ago.

With Congress’s rank and file demanding accountability for the party’s defeat, its president, Rahul Gandhi—who lost his own traditional family constituency—has sworn to resign. But the Nehru-Gandhi family has dominated Congress for five generations, and many wonder who else can hold it together. Seeking patronage, smaller, allied parties are drifting towards the orbit of the prime minister, Narendra Modi, and his bjp, which is actively sniffing out potential defectors. Small wonder they are attracted. In constituencies where it faced Congress in a straight one-on-one race, the bjp won 92% of the contests.

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