If you recall, in the 1984-85 elections, that were held soon after Indira Gandhi's assassination, Rajiv Gandhi, who was riding on the sympathy wave, had got a huge mandate. Congress had 426 members, while BJP had just 2 in the eighth Lok Sabha.
Who were these 2 BJP MPs who had won in the 1984 election? Dr AK Patel had won from Mehsana in Gujarat. The second BJP MP who had won during the Rajiv Gandhi wave was Chandupatla Janga Reddy, who had won from Hanamkonda in Andhra Pradesh.
Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee had lost in the election. In the parliament, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) was the main opposition to Congress. NTR's party had 30 members followed by CPI (M) that had 23, AIADMK (12), Independents (9), Akali Dal (7), AGP (7), CPI (6), Congress S (5), Lok Dal (4), Unattached (4).
The BJP was much behind, along with Kerala Cngress, DMK, Muslim League and the nominated, who were two each. But within a few years, Rajiv Gandhi's popularity saw a decline. The BJP began mobilising people in the name of Hindutva.
In the name of Hindutva
As Ayodhya movement gathered steam, Rajiv Gandhi took such steps that proved costly to the party. Either it was 'shilanyas' or the Shah Bano issue, both hurt the Congress in the long run. 'Mr Clean' VP Singh raised 'Bofors' issue successfully and BJP strength went up from 2 to 86.
The National Front-led by VP Singh came to power but ultimately the Ram Janmabhumi-Babri Masjid issue led to the fall of the government. Despite the communal frenzy, the BJP could not manage to form the government. Its reach was limited to North India then.
Steady rise in the nineties
Another reason was that Congress was still a sort of 'default party' to vote for, in most parts of the country. After that, the BJP improved its tally. But despite Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the helm, it could never cross 200. It hovered between 121 and 189.
Even in the beginning of 2013, the BJP appeared to be a divided house. But then Narendra Modi was chosen to lead the party and steadily the campaign picked up steam in later months. The result was astonishing as the party could a majority on its own.
This was only the second time when a non-Congress government managed to form government on its own. In 1977, after emergency, it was during the anti-Indira wave, that the Janata Party (JP) had managed to win over 300 seats. But even then, the Congress was a strong force with more than 150 seats in Lok Sabha.
Right-wing becomes the mainstream in India
Even before BJP's rise, there were right-wing parties but they were fringe players. Either it was Jan Sangh, the Ram Rajya Parishad or the Hindu Mahasabha, none of these political parties managed to capture the popular support.
Indian voter had other alternatives. It was only in the fourth and fifth Lok Sabha that Jana Sangh seemed to be emerging as a bigger group. Else, these parties remained on the margins of Indian polity. However, the Congress' failure led to the growth of BJP in the last three decades.
But 2014 proved to be watershed, as decisive victory to BJP is another thing and the decimation of Congress is another aspect.
The party's dismal performance shows how Congress has failed to put forth its ideology and hasn't been able to connect with youths who seem to have less appeal in Congress' vision and are drifting towards the right-wing.
If it was just an exceptional election, then it's ok. But Congress can't afford to be complacent. No big state in India remains with the Congress, either in North or in the South.Is the BJP becoming the default party for a majority of Indians, especially, the youngsters! Congressmen have to draw lessons from this defeat. Will they?
1. Muslims' disenchantment with Congress: "I am not a Congress supporter but glad at its loss"
2. Congress' failure to highlight UPA government's 'achievements'