Ahmed Patel
Ahmed Patel (extreme right)IANS

The ongoing Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat is turning out to be a unique one for the general pattern of hiding voting preferences by the MLAs is not being followed. The dissident Congress leaders, including the heavyweight Shankersinh Vaghela, were seen openly revealing their thoughts on their high-voltage election which has become a prestige battle for both the Congress and BJP as two of their top commanders – Ahmed Patel and Amit Shah – are in the fray.

The open telecast by the channels about who is voting for whom is not the usual practice and it says a lot about the Congress's current state of affairs. If Patel fails to get the backing of 45 legislators and eventually loses the battle as Vaghela has predicted, it will be a massive blow for the party's powerhouse – the Gandhis and things will turn all the more difficult for them in the big battle of 2019. The erosion has threatened to hit the core.

sonia gandhi, rahul gandhi, congress, india, bjp, economy, gdp growth
Sonia and Rahul GandhiReuters

The Congress now is in danger of losing its last face: Sonia Gandhi

The Congress party has failed to find a route for its future since its vice-president Rahul Gandhi has done miserably as a leader. It was still falling back on the ageing president – Sonia Gandhi – to save its day at the times of need. It was the ailing Sonia who became active again recently to unify the Opposition, as it was seen during picking the candidate for the presidential election last month.

But if Patel loses, it will be a blow to the authority of Sonia and that would sound the death knell for the grand old party which had played the leading role during the freedom movement and ruled the country uninterruptedly for three decades. Sonia, in fact, will no more be seen as somebody who can challenge PM Narendra Modi's authority if her aide perishes.

If Patel loses, the Congress's chain of commanders will stand discredited

The defeat of Patel will also mean that the Congress's line of advisors has now started to perish. We have seen Madhusudan Mistry getting walloped by Narendra Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabhe election; Digvijay Singh failing to do the party any good in states where he was in charge, even failing to get it to power despite having the most number of seats and now Patel facing a serious threat to his career as a parliamentarian.

Rajya Sabha election scenario in Gujarat

Also if Patel loses, the impression that the Gandhis are unbeatable in their own dens – Rae Bareli and Amethi – will also change. The Congress's representation in parliament from the state of UP has been reduced to the two Gandhis and even that could look unsustainable for the Congress in the next Lok Sabha polls. In 2014, Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani did not lose against Rahul Gandhi before giving it a tough fight. In 2019, that challenge is likely to amplify further.

Congress MLAs are running for shelter now; they have been failed by their top brass

The Congress's ranks are undergoing a change and the flurry of resignations from the party and the cross-voting in key secret polling makes it evident. The party's rank and file have now realised fully well that the uninspiring leadership of Rahul and the disintegrating authority of Sonia have both failed and exposed them.

Critics are lambasting the legislators from Gujarat for flying to Bengaluru when their own constituencies were fighting floods but the reality is normal democratic functioning based on accountability becomes an illusion when the representatives run out of shelter for themselves. The Congress party had been losing its foundation for long. Now, it is also seeing its roof crumbling down.

The grand old party is in ruins and what is worse is that it is on a panic mode. The rudderless state is pushing it further towards the brink and the BJP, which is growing more powerful, is not allowing it any space. If Patel loses, the debacle will be the penultimate nail in the Congress's coffin. Whether 2019 will be year of writing down the Congress's obituary is something we will wait and see.