Transcript of "The Congress debacle in Elections 2012 "
Elections 2012: Congress Arrogance & Decimation Barun Kumar Basu The Scottish philosopher and essayist, David Hume (1711-76) remarked that “Whenmen are most sure and arrogant they are commonly most mistaken, giving views to passionwithout that proper deliberation which alone can secure them from the grossest absurdities.”Indeed Elections 2012 was all about religion vs. development, old vs. young, men vs. women,good Samaritans vs. jailbirds, the educated vs. the unlettered, deeds vs. promises, merit vs.mediocrity, accessibility vs. inaccessibility (of leaders), absentee landlordism vs. grass roots,a distant past vs. a future of self-respect and politics of subsistence to politics of social andeconomic relevance. On all these counts, the Congress failed because the arrogant Nehru-Gandhi oligarchs, caught in a time-warp, failed to recognize that it was no longer a vote fortraditional democracy. Indeed, as GK Chesterton famously remarked, “tradition……is thedemocracy of the dead.” By all accounts stated above, the Congress believed in „tradition‟ astheir patron saint. How alienated the rulers of the nation were from the ruled! ManoharParikkar, Sukhbir Badal and Akhilesh Yadav provided the critical break with „tradition‟. Thatis why the nation toasts them today. Why was the Congress decimated? First, for the Congress, India never moved ahead after Nehru. Indeed it did not, atleast till 1991. Born with silver spoons in their mouths, Congress leaders who matteredplaced themselves and their families before the party and the nation. Electoral tickets, loans,subsidies, loan waivers, sale of strategic national assets and resources, even appointments tothe highest posts in the land, were decided in closed-door sessions by Congress politiciansand their undeserving allies, each calculated to hugely benefit their own kith and kin orindulge in expansive back-scratching. Over the last six decades and counting, the Congress,in particular, built a huge empire with its foundations in subsidies, subsidized loans, loanmelas, loan waivers, et al. Apart from bankrupting the central treasury and making way for aGreece-like situation in the years to come, these steps have benefited powerful owners ofcooperative banks, fertilizer dealers, hoarders of PDS food grains, big farmers and selectcorporate groups. The middle class had its own share of minor income tax sops and post-liberalization wealth showered on a fortunate few. For the indigent there were however, noteven night shelters in the biting North Indian cold but for Samaritan intervention of higherCourts, tribals consumed poisonous roots while small and marginal farmers committedsuicide at not being able to repay debts. The Food Security Bill only prolongs subsistenceliving. Subsidies, reservations, quotas – all were politics of division of the 1950s-1970s at thecost of development of the 1990s and 2Ks. For the Congress the 2K millennium evidentlynever arrived. Instead what remained intact was Oliver Cromwell‟s analysis of members ofthe Long Parliament in 1653, “Ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God;which of you have not barterd your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you thathas the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?” Second, Nehru-Gandhi India‟s shame lay in starvation deaths while food grains rottedin the open or in leaky overflowing FCI storages. Notwithstanding generous infusions ofcentral grants-in-aids and low-interest loans to states, basic infrastructure including, but notlimited to potable water, primary health care centers, primary schools, etc. have eithercrumbled or, are simply, non-existent, particularly in rural areas. And most such states reeledunder Congress rule for over three decades. Major cities are on the brink of urban disasterwhile people shell out usurious electricity and water bills and kill each other for parking 1
space. State universities willy-nilly collapsed; the few that survive with credit cannot hope todo so for much longer. Prices have rocketed along with fuel prices reducing even the calorieintake of the average Indian. Women hardly mattered as well-heeled ladies looked for jobopportunities in the name of women‟s reservation. This was when women, half of India‟spopulation, were sagaciously tapped by Dr. SZ Quraishi‟s Election Commission to come outand vote, as they did, in huge numbers, with attendant catastrophic results for the Congress.Again Cromwell‟s Long Parliament speech ibid rings true, “you have dishonored by yourcontempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, andenemies to all good government….” Third, the Congress campaign was necessarily geared to promising goodies that theyhad not delivered since 1952. Not just this, their campaign was negatively geared. If otherparties had something to show off, the Congress reasoned the best way was to pull the otherdown to its abysmal level of non-performance. Their politics was geared to stand in the wayof progress even in UP simply because they were out of power there. Railway factories donot alone generate votes. Not only that, sub-quotas were arrogantly and unilaterally declaredby none other than the Union Law Minister, an apparent progressive, from within legalquotas established by successive governments and the Supreme Court. Evidently, suchnegative gearing was to assure that the Samajwadi Party‟s vote bank was diluted. On the onehand was a Congress that opposed the Communal Award in 1932 and now Narendra Modi‟salleged communal philandering in Gujarat. On the other, the Congress gracelessly promoteddivisive politics of division of colonial times when development, of its own admission, wasthe call of the 1990s and beyond. The pinnacle of arrogant intolerance was when Rahul toreup the SP‟s manifesto to a beaming media‟s cameras. Notwithstanding whatever Mr.Narendra Modi‟s detractors have to say about his „communal politics‟, Mr. Modi haseffectively shown what miracles development of an impoverished nation can do to its people.Development engenders self-respect and hence is to be welcomed, not shunned, or fall preyto partisan politics. Inclusive development, as Mr. Modi has shown, is the surest-shot vote-catcher. Blinded by its hatred arising from fear of Mr. Modi‟s managerial ability and itspositive fall-out on minorities, the Congress stuck to its traditional arrogantly zamindariplank. The end result was rightful decimation by infuriated voters. Fourth, the Congress was also seen to have gifted away rights for exploitation ofnatural resources ranging from land and natural gas, telecom spectrum to metal ores, often fora song. Projects were awarded on the whims and fancies of Ministers, drying budgetallocations for Opposition-ruled states, spiraling sugar prices topped with high-priceemergent purchases of sugar in international markets benefiting UPA allies while farmersstarved to death or committed suicide, these were but drops in the tidal wave of resentmentagainst the Congress. Arrogant Congress absentee landlords – ‘barsaati mendaks’(monsoonal frogs) were seen to have driven an honest PM driven to dishonesty by incessantbackseat driving by the Nehru-Gandhis, and that too on megabuck, and often murky, deals, issomething that even the most illiterate of voters discerned – Cromwell‟s “mercenarywretches…………like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.” So much so thatsome senior Ministers even appeared in the media overruling the PM and said Rahul could bePM, whenever he wanted. If PM Manmohan Singh did not matter, CM was an irrelevance!Arrogance of power stretched to an extent where a senior Congress Minister was shown onmedia stating that either the Congress would form a new government or it would bePresident‟s Rule for UP. Priyanka pinching her mother‟s cheek and promising her all theassembly segments in Rae Bareli and Amethi Lok Sabha constituencies was nothing short ofpolitical hara-kiri. It gave the voter an impression of being a historic sucker who jolly wellwould have to vote to perpetuate the divine right to rule of the Nehru-Gandhis. 2
Understandably, Rahul and Priyanka only myopically succeeded in stoking public outrage, afilial cheek-pinching losing nine of ten seats from the Gandhi-Nehrus‟ Lok Sabha assemblysegments! Fifth, Rahul Gandhi‟s advisers, almost entirely drawn from the young generation ofhand-me down family retainers, attuned more to Page 3 and social clubs, were as faralienated from the voter as Paradise is from Purgatory, and equally arrogant to boot. Neithercan Excel sheets read voter‟s minds, nor is the voter a mere statistic. That the voter washuman,was completely overlooked by Rahul‟s advisers. Here too the ostrich-like Congressarrogance essayed a major role. Akhilesh‟s bus and cycle yatras were in stark contrast toRahul‟s choppers and robotic and dour-faced SPG security men that highlighted hisalienation from his voters. Media reports of air conditioners ferried to Rahul‟s Dalit visits andpowered by Scorpio-mounted generators were beamed to all villages. His advisers also didhim in Bhatta-Parsaul (NOIDA) by shamelessly transforming burnt plastic and wood shavingto human mortal remains without a shred of remorse when proved by a governmentlaboratory. Akhilesh‟s nine-year old bubbly daughter, Aditi - a picture of a happy middle-class family - was in stark contrast to familial differences on public display in the shape ofRobert Vadra who even staked claim to Amethi/Rae Bareli after Rahul and Priyanka, as onewould to a family zamindari! That MBAs and former Rajas, zamindars and familybusinessmen were irrelevant in wooing the voter for the Congress cannot therefore be denied,for science, management and business cannot replace humanism and common sense. Chronicfoot-in-mouth disease of Beni Prasad Verma, Sriprakash Jaiswal and many others conveyedan impression that the Congress election machine looked and behaved more like a 1950sLandmaster car complete with its crankshaft-turning handle! Seventh, like the Nehru-Gandhis, their lieutenants too thought their constituencieswere mortgaged in eternity for their children, a pro rated extension of the divine right to ruleprinciple. To retain their turf, they doled out tickets to musclemen who would safeguard theirfamilial constituencies for their posterity. Sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, wives andmistresses, all found tickets and each claimed they had the „backing‟ of the Nehru-Gandhis –a claim subsequently roundly rejected by voters. Beni Prasad Verma even proclaimed in themedia that the Congress should ally with the Samajwadis, evidently to protect their own turfthat he was in danger of losing. Eventually, he lost all seven seats in his Lok Sabhaconstituency, including his son‟s. In stark contrast, Akhilesh‟s vetting of party candidates leftout criminals and many hereditary politicians. The few that survived were defeated at thehustings or survived by wafer-thin margins. Similarly, Punjab witnessed an arrogant ex-Maharaja of Patiala, proclaiming a huge Congress majority when the obverse was comingtrue. Why would voters vote for plebian-communal Akalis when a Maharaja was available?Never has the alienation of the rulers from their subjects been as complete, not even inEurope in the Middle Ages! Eighth, bred on a high-calorie media diet by the likes of Barkha Dutt and ArnabGoswami, the Congress arrogantly took for granted the extensive media coverage of anoccasional meal with a Dalit and arrogant tearing of other‟s electoral manifestos thatobviously detracted from the civility of Elections 2012. This only enraged and pushed votersto exceed their rightful limits of tolerance. The sight of multi-crore elephants and publicparks tell an identical tale. It was beyond Rahul and his advisers to comprehend that themedia was a double-edged sword. So much so, an honest PM‟s future was publicly debated,even that he could be arrogantly dumped in a lake at the drop of the imperious imperial pin,again in full media glare. That this was the dominant paradigm in the Congress became evenmore apparent when the Congress President said on national media immediately afterElections 2012 that PM Manmohan Singh would continue as PM! 3
Ninth, the recent Brihanmumbai and other local body elections in Maharashtra,showed that the Congress was the biggest single loser, unlike its UPA ally, the NCP thatmaintained its seats and even improved upon them, in cases. Except for Maharashtra andAndhra Pradesh, the Congress is nowhere in power in any other large state. The Congressdoes not command the numbers, without its self-seeking UPA allies in Parliament. Drasticsituations demand drastic solutions and leaders. In all respects the Congress remainedwanting. The Congress President went on national media on Election Day evening stating herparty had too many leaders. What she omitted to mention that each one owed his loyalty toher, and therefore she was entirely responsible for the rout and not just her hapless son,Rahul, who became the tragic scapegoat. Rita Bahuguna Joshi and Digvijaya Singh evenproferred their heads in sacrifice – a typically zamindari trait, for victory alone was the divingright of the Nehru-Gandhis and last rites were the preserve of the minions to suffer! Indeedthe Congress rout may pave the way for yet another late-1970s musical chairs at the centre,with hostile borders and a crumbling economy. When Elections 2012 were so critical for thelong-time survival of the Congress, why did they not appropriately invest human resourcesand common sense in it? The answer lies in the Nehru-Gandhi legacy of arrogance and in theforced perpetuation of that family‟s divine right to rule. Last, but not the least, is the fact of Akhilesh, Manohar and Sukhbir being sons oftheir soil. In contrast, Rahul is the son of a Christian mother whose origins lie outside thisland, even though she is an Indian citizen by naturalization. Rahul‟s Hindi speeches oftenbordered on the violent and his empty innunedos were not a substitute for reasoned argumentand appeal. His Hindi diction bespoke a public school accent, not known for its purity oraccent or even regional slants that reduce the distance between the rulers and the ruled. Incontrast, Akhilesh spoke guttural Hindi, Manohar, chaste Konkani, and Sukhbir, rusticPunjabi. It was therefore natural that voters saw them as prospective leaders. Further, Rahuldid not have any political, social or economic achievement to his credit, other thansycophantic glue. In contrast, Manohar and Sukhbir served as MLAs, State Public AccountsCommittee Chaiperson, CM and Dy. CM that stood them in good stead. Born and bred intraditionally heavyweight political families, Sukhbir and Akhilesh were exposed to the roughand tumble of party life (under the watchful eyes of their able fathers) before taking the full-time plunge. Unfortunately, Rajiv Gandhi‟s untimely end deprived Rahul of similar groomingand instead, placed him in the company of sycophants and time-servers. It was evident,indeed unfortunate, that Rahul never stood a chance, even with his noble intentions andstrenuous last-minute efforts. The Congress rout was thus reminiscent of Oliver Cromwell‟s immortal speech to theLong Parliament at its dissolution on 20th April, 1653: “…have you not defild this sacredplace, and turnd the Lords temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles andwicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation…………So! Takeaway that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. In the name of God, go!” Only theIndian voter replaced Cromwell. Yet there was no change in the anger level from Cromwellto the Indian voter. The only difference was that a hostile Charles I was replaced by animpartial, competent, graceful, yet firm, and painstaking Chief Election Commissioner, Dr.SZ Quraishi, and his team of able and committed officers and staff of the ElectionCommission that paved the way for the nation‟s most peaceful and orderly election to date,instead of plunging into Civil War, as happened in England, 350 years ago. This was even asthe EC‟s authority was sought to be undermined by the very same Congress arrogancemanifested in public defiance by Jaiswal, Verma and Khursheed, followed by traditionalrecanting. 4
What does the Congress rout then translate to? For one, it places people‟s trust in anew generation that is seen to have the capacity and willingness for hard work, transparency,fair decision-making, largely secular, untainted by corruption and criminality and accessibleto the common man. Their promise of bringing development to this noble land enthuse theaverage voter, tired of listening to false promises and propaganda, for over six decades.Second, the promise of a single party with an impressive margin of victory is seen to be astepping stone to the central government, which people yet believe is a major source of theirmisery. Most voters would believe that a strong state representation would ensure that centralgovernment grants and loans become more easily and fairly accessible to the state. At thesame time, a responsive administration would devote their energies to fairly expending suchfunds in their state‟s balanced development. Voters have thus sealed a two-way socialcontract to safeguard their life, liberty and property, by giving the go-bye to many „stalwarts‟,some even in jail. Therefore new „stalwarts‟ beware! Forewarned is forearmed!! ForElections 2014 and 2017 are not too far away. For the nation, single ruling regional parties instates is good news, but what happens if all of them make a beeline for the centre in 2014?Should we revisit our Constitution and think of a directly elected Chief Executive that isindependent of legislative support for its existence at the Centre?The author is a former Ambassador of India to Cuba, Chile and Bolivia and a formerDirector of the Historical Research Division in the Ministry of External Affairs. Thisarticle was published in The Statesman on 22nd-23rd Mar, 2012 in two parts and isavailable online athttp://thestatesman.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=403981:special-article&catid=38:editorial&from_page=search andhttp://thestatesman.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=404077:special-article&catid=38:editorial&from_page=search 5