The Congress reached its electoral nadir in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, winning 44 seats, far less than its previous lowest of 112 seats won in the 1999 polls. The 2019 polls were expected to be different, with a spirited Rahul Gandhi leading a relentless campaign against the Narendra Modi government.
At 12.30pm, the Congress was leading in 51 seats, a mere academic improvement on its 2014 performance. The results appear to be an nightmarish encore as the party seems set to draw a blank in Rajasthan, Delhi and Gujarat, as it did in 2014.
Following its win in the assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the Congress had hoped to make a dent into the BJP's base in the 65 seats the three states have in total. However, the Congress is leading in only two of the 11 seats in Chhattisgarh, one seat of the 29 in Madhya Pradesh and none in Rajasthan. In Madhya Pradesh, 'big names', such as former chief minister Digvijaya Singh (Bhopal) and Jyotiraditya Scindia (Guna), are trailing.
The Congress is leading just one seat in the 48 in Maharashtra, where the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena alliance is leading in 43. The collapse marks a tragedy for the Congress, which ruled Maharashtra in alliance with the NCP for three consecutive terms from 1999 to 2014. The state was also a major support base for the Congress in previous Lok Sabha polls.
In Karnataka also, the Congress was down from its 2014 level of nine seats. At 12.30pm, the Congress is leading in just three seats in Karnataka, despite having an alliance with the JD(S) after forming a coalition government in 2018. The adverse results are expected to put the survival of the Congress-JD(S) government at risk.
The bright spots for the Congress are Kerala, where it is leading in 15 seats of the 20 seats (with its allies ahead in four others); Tamil Nadu, where it is leading in eight seats as part of the DMK-led alliance and Punjab, where it is leading in eight of the 13 seats. In fact, the Congress will be disappointed by its performance in Punjab as the party had expected a sweep till it was distracted by a tiff between Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and minister Navjot Singh Sidhu.
An unexpected result was the performance in Telangana, where the party is leading in three seats as Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao's TRS appears to be performing below expectations, leading in just nine of the 17 seats. Rao had positioned himself for a key role if a 'non-NDA' government was formed at the Centre.
The perilous state of the Congress can be, arguably, summed up by its performance in Uttar Pradesh: the party is leading in just one seat in Uttar Pradesh, where Sonia Gandhi is ahead in Rae Bareli. Rahul is continuing to trail BJP Union minister Smriti Irani in Amethi by a margin of around 5,000 votes. Rahul had won against Irani in a hard-fought contest in 2014. The Congress was expected to put up a better effort in Uttar Pradesh after Priyanka Gandhi took the poll plunge.