THE Congress is a late starter. It firmed up its campaign for the
April-May parliamentary elections only two months ago. The party was
complacent till it was woken up by the dismal defeats in four of the
five states during assembly polls.
The surveys conducted by different media hands confirm the drubbing
which the Congress is all set to receive in 2014 general elections.
The predictions are that it may not even reach the three-digit
figures. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, appointed as the head
of the election strategy, was a disaster in a television interview. He
made little difference because he repeated the clichés that the
Congress has been harping on endlessly. He has unnecessarily revived
the controversy of 1984 massacre.
It looked from some of his recent speeches that as if he has changed
in tone and tenor, tearing a leaf out of the Aam Aadmi Party's book
and talking about the participatory democratic state. He has very
little time between now and the polls. Even otherwise, he could not
revive the sagging fortunes of the Congress, first in UP and Bihar
and, more recently, in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and,
finally, in Delhi.
It would not be fair to put the blame entirely on Rahul Gandhi. The
fault is the non-performance of the Congress-led government at the
centre. A decade is a long enough period to make a dent into the
country's chronic problems of poverty, unemployment and disparities.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a well-known economist, has turned out
to be an astute politician. His forte does not seem to be economics
but political manouevres.
History may be charitable and infer Manmohan Singh as only the
stalking horse. He should have quit in protest against the imposition
of certain decisions on him. Yet, not even once did he offer his
resignation. The real power was concentrated at 10, Janpath, where
Sonia Gandhi and her son lived. She could have become the prime
minister in Congress' second term in 2009 but Sonia Gandhi did not
want to revive the controversy of being Indian. Moreover, she wanted
Rahul Gandhi to occupy the chair. Her thinking was that it would be
taken as a dynastic succession. Rahul Gandhi has built up the young
cadre in the party. This was his plus point.
The biggest problem that the Congress faces is to explain the scams
which took place during its regime. Corruption is palpable in the
Commonwealth Games, 2G Spectrum regarding mobiles and the allotment of
coal blocks. The Prime Minister cannot shrug his shoulders and say
that he did not know about them because the PMO has approved all the
The Congress cadres belatedly are beginning to be active, yet their
predicament is how to rationalize the corrupt deeds and
non-governance. No doubt, Rahul, a young face, is at the helm of
party's affairs. But the declaration that he was the party's candidate
for the prime ministerial position may have helped to some extent.
However, it would have been undemocratic to name him before the
elected candidates chose their parliamentary party leader.
In contrast, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) straightaway nominated
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for the office of prime minister.
The RSS, the party's mentor, insisted on it. Whatever the compulsions,
the BJP has imposed Modi on the MPs who are yet to be elected. They
have no other choice. Probably, the BJP high command believes that
Modi's nomination itself will get it more seats. The calculation may
turn out to be correct. Yet there is no running away from the fact
that the procedure adopted to name the prime ministerial candidate
smacks of autocracy.
Indeed, Modi has drawn crowds even in the South where the BJP has very
little base. His appeal in the Hindi-speaking states has been
astounding. Still the argument that he has peaked too early has a ring
of truth. Modi has had thin crowd when he had visited a state for the
second time. His slogan of development does not hide his saffron plan
to polarize the society.
The analysis of last six speeches by Modi and Rahul shows that both
are playing with the emotions of people in the name of country's
unity. The two are targeting corruption without realizing that they
are making no impact on the voters who believe that both are hiding
corruption of their respective party. The difference between the two
is on secularism. Modi avoids discussions on the subject and says that
the development is inclusive. Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand,
underlines that secularism is the country's ethos.
Modi is invoking the name of Sardar Patel and Rahul both Jawaharlal
Nehru and Mrs Indira Gandhi, staying within the dynasty. If he was
serious on corruption he should have taken up some of the scams with
the Prime Minister. Combing back to Patel, he was a strong personality
but his image was that of being anti-Muslim. By installing a tall
statute of Sardar Patel in Ahmedabad, Modi is only playing the
communal card. Both Nehru and Patel were Mahatama Gandhi's lieutenants
and the picture of those days shows them on either side of the
Why the Mahatama named Nehru as his successor was the image the latter
projected of being a national and international figure. Nehru never
deviated from the path of secularism which the Mahatama infused in the
nation. Patel did say during the migration following partition that
the Muslims will be pushed out of India in proportion to the Hindus
ousted from Pakistan.
There is no doubt that the BJP will emerge as the single largest
party. Even then Modi's ambition to become the prime minister may
elude him. Imaging that his party on its own gets 200 seats, it still
will have to muster another 72 to give him an absolute majority. Then
a more acceptable face to placate the supporting parties may become
inevitable. The federal front which is being riveted by Bihar chief
minister Nitish Kumar may become relevant at that time. EOM