Indira Gandhi’s elephant ride to Belchi in Bihar in 1977 to commiserate with the Dalit victims of upper caste oppression was supposed to have marked the turning point in the Congress’ declining graph. Though in real terms the Congress is much worse now with just 45 members in the Lok Sabha, the Nehru-Gandhi family’s political fortunes were at its lowest ebb in 1977 with the defeat of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in Rae Bareli and her son, Sanjay Gandhi, in Amethi.
The Congress might have had 153 seats in 1977, but the people had discarded its leader and her successor. So, expectedly, the party split. Stalwarts like Sharad Pawar, AK Antony and others abandoned the Congress. But after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls not a single opportunist from the Congress party has quit or crossed over to the BJP side. Why? One, they all have realised that the Gandhi family would retain the core of the party even after a split. Two, most of them cannot even win a panchayat poll on their own. Remember P Chidambaram’s humiliating third place in Sivaganga in 1999, behind the Congress and the BJP candidates!