BY:- Ajay N Jha
The BJP has created a history under the leadership of Narendra Modi who proved all his rivals wrong at many places and in different ways. Not only he outwitted his political rivals but also surprised those doubting Thomases within his own party who were expecting the BJP to fold-up below 230 seats.
It was his relentless and vigorous 13 months old campaign that enabled the saffron brigade to gain confidence and credibility to replace the Grand Old Congress party as the fulcrum of politics and whisked away its plank of stability, development and good governance.
Modi almost single handedly managed to shrink the socio-political appeal of the Congress party through his nationwide whirlwind campaign and 3D hologram speech technique but also helped the BJP recover lost ground in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, re-worked its social engineering and found a foothold even in those States where it had almost no presence including Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu,West Bengal and Odisha.
Above all, the Modi blitzkrieg has pushed the Congress into a position from where it would be extremely difficult to bounce back. He has made the Congress party undertake an intense introspection and radical make-over if it has to start the painful process of clawing its way back to power and into the hearts and minds of the voters as it did in 2004. And that process is going to be too painful and agonizing for the Gandhis until there is a miracle.
The UPA-2 was an unmitigated disaster from the beginning, with the controversies swirling around it gathering a momentum of their own which neither Prime Minister Manmohan Singh nor Congress president Sonia Gandhi nor party vice-president Rahul Gandhi could stem over the next five years. Indeed, the party was shooting far too many self-goals for comfort, with the government and the Congress often not on the same page be it on foreign policy, economic management, people’s issues or dealing with allies and the opposition.
What broke UPA-2′s back was its inability to check prices, inflation and corruption in high places in the government. The Radia tapes raised questions about the wheeling dealing behind cabinet formation. The CAG and other reports brought out the scams and scandals relating to Adarsh housing scam, Commonwealth Games and allocation of 2G spectrum and coal blocks (which even reached the Prime Minister’s doorstep) took a heavy toll of Singh’s persona and the Congress’ image which Sonia had refurbished by giving a pro-poor tilt to the party in 2004 with the slogan of “Congress ka haath, aam aadmi ke saath.” Even before UPA-2 entered into the final lap of its tenure, the party had started floundering, having lost the support of the middle classes and the youths because of Singh’s fading appeal and Rahul’s inability to connect with the young population.
That Rahul’s victory of 22 seats in the national elections in UP in 2009 was pyrrhic was proved by his dismal performance in the 2012 assembly elections when he could get only 28 candidates elected. In 2012, it got just one seat more than the BJP in Uttarakhand and its victory in Himachal Pradesh was attributed not to the party but to Virbhandra Singh’s towering persona in the state. Later it also won Karnataka because of the division of votes between the BJP and its rebel leader BS Yeddyurappa.
Rahul had led the Congress’ campaign in these elections. But despite his inability to inspire party workers or voters on earlier occasions, Sonia shut her eyes to his failures and stage-managed his elevation as vice-president and political heir while the ordinary Congressman yearned for a more charismatic leadership. The story of organisational failure and Rahul’s poor voter connect was repeated in the 2013 state elections in Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan where the party was wiped out and faced the spectre of these states turning out to be another UP or Bihar. While incumbent BJP governments retained their states, the Congress was booted out in Rajasthan and in Delhi Arvind Kejriwal’s newbie Aam Aadmi Party not only dislodged Sheila Dikshit and her government but also made heavy inroads in the Congress’ vote bank among the minorities and the poor jhuggi jhopri dwellers.
The biggest question that is already being asked in many quarters is how would the Nehru Gandhi family and the Congress party survive this unprecedented political slap-down? More than that, what would happen to those muckrakers and musketeers in the Congress party who have continued to make a living in the name of their proximity to 10 Janpath.
Between 1947 and 2014, there were only two periods (1977-1980 and 1998-2004) when Dynasty was out of the power equation. (Even when the Congress was not in power in 1989-1991, and in 1996-98), Congress-wallas and Gandhi-family loyalists were very much in government or supporting it from outside.) The survival and expansion of this ecosystem was more the result of chance than true creativity.
After Indira, accidents and assassinations brought Rajiv Gandhi and his spouse to power at various points in Congress history. They came not from merit, but merely because the Congress vested interests saw them as the route to exercising illegitimate power indirectly. Where would the Ahmed Patels, Janardhan Dwivedis and Digvijaya Singhs derive their power from if they didn’t play the Dynasty song? In the past, the Gandhi family has often gotten back into the picture because the Congress power-broking system tends to neutralise itself and finally brings in the family as the tipping factor for a movement forward.
This is what rescued Sonia Gandhi herself from the sidelines Narasimha Rao had banished her to after 1991. After the 1996 defeat, when Sitaram Kesari briefly tried to commandeer the party, the party went back to the Gandhis. The power-brokers and the couriers are central to this survival syndrome. Just as temple priests jealously play middlemen between deity and devotees and control access, the Gandhi family praetorian guard and their media counter-parts have always drawn protective veils around the Nehru- Gandhi family in order to enhance their own powers.
Modi’s victory has dealt a deadly and decisive blow to those power brokers, a section of sycophantic media and general hangers-on who keep putting the Dynasty back into the reckoning.
Ironically, the Congress party leaders, instead of gracefully accepting the people’s verdict and doing serious soul searching, have been concentrating their energy on only one programme and that was to defend Rahul Gandhi and say that the party’s defeat was a case of collective failure. The photographs of Gandhi’s were also changed overnight at AICC headquarters.
But the defence of Congress spokespersons with regard to Rahul Gandhi is as ludicrous and foolhardy as to defend the indefensible.
The fact remains that Rahul Gandhi remained the face of Congress party campaign in 2014 Ls polls and the Congress president had herself given that mandate to him. Many senior Congress leaders said on record that Rahul Gandhi was number 2 in Congress party and therefore not the most important person is plainly silly. This kind of defence looks a plain case of sycophancy which many congress leaders are not yet prepared to accept.
A few Congress spokespersons were also seen saying that Rahul was not a part of Manmohan Singh government and therefore, the voter’s anger against the UPA-II had nothing to do with him. This also looks silly and idiotic.
There is no doubt that the blue eyed boys of Nehru- Gandhi families like P Chidambaram, Jairam Ramesh, Ahmed Patel, Janadan Dwivedi and Digvijay Singh are rattled and sulking. However, they would only lie low for a while before coming out with this discovery that “Priyanka Gandhi is the new saviour. With Rahul Gandhi having proven his utter incompetence as a leader, he will be eulogised as a saint and his sister the new Joan of Arc, the one invested with God-given political savvy. Already, comparisons are being drawn between her and Indira Gandhi, and her off-the-cuff remarks on the Amethi campaign trail are being extolled as evidence of great political spirit and insight.
The biggest problem that the Congress party would be facing is whether it would have the courage and conviction to separate the corn from the chaff and punish and penalize those mandarins who ruined its base and goodwill across the country.