Food For Thought: “It is a paradox of secular India that one definition of secularism has become the right of minorities to retreat into conservatism’’- M.J. Akbar (Times of India- May 31, 2009)
THE GREAT INDIAN POLL TRICK
India’s love for the game of cricket is great because of its popularity. India’s crave for democracy is great because of its population. The 5-day tests in cricket and 5-year tests in politics define their respective qualities and are followed with the same enthusiasm or indifference. Interestingly- spectators becoming voters in cricket and voters becoming mere spectators- is a common practice. However, both were often credited with undue greatness.
Virendra Sehwag, the swashbuckling Indian cricketer is a great performer. His technique is questionable and batting vulnerable. He acts on the spur of the moment, trusts his hand-eye coordination and does not hesitate to use brute force for all his exploits. He may score a triple century with ease or struggle to score even a single. All the time he is not sure about the outcome but his good performance with reasonable consistency suggests his greatness. His batting style, not so common among Indian cricketers, is just the voting style common for many an Indian voter.
With this background let us come to the ground realities of the poll-2009 of India.
The Third & Fourth Fronts:
These are opportunistic alliances threatening to break even at the time of formation. Their respective positions after the polls do not speak of people’s judgment; they suggest the visionary of those who framed and named them.
Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister:
People seem to have decided to elect all those who performed though within their limitations. And Manmohan stands much above many performing political leaders of in the country. Moreover, he is a scholar with clean image. His submission to Sonia highlights his humility and not humiliation. He is respected all over the world and also in India. None of his rivals including Lal Krishna Advani could match his stature for the coveted post.
The Victory and History of Congress:
It is not victory for congress as is being believed. It is the failure of the rivals to provide a viable alternative. If congress does not realize this and opposition realizes- things may take an overturn soon. Many also do not realize that the congress of Nehru (with the symbol of 2 bullocks and a yoke) and the congress of Sonia (the symbol is hand) are not the same. After being expelled from the original congress for indiscipline, Indira Gandhi floated the new party and contested with a new symbol. It was called congress (I) for quite some time. I am not sure since when and why it is again being considered as Indian national Congress. Some may suggest similar things for Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam. He was opined to have ditched the Telugu Desam supremo, N.T. Ramarao. However, to the best of my knowledge, he was not expelled from the party. Naidu was an ex-Congressman and with people’s mandate on his side in 1999, the congress could have accepted his Telugu Desam as Congress.
The Myth of Rajiv and Rahul:
It is interesting to frequently hear about the great contributions of Rajiv Gandhi to his party and also the nation. He did win over 400 seats in 1984 and given a overwhelming mandate to guide the country. He did impress the public with his charm, simplicity and honesty. He introduced the anti-defection bill which is still serving as a thorn for opportunistic politicians. He computerized the whole country. And then he went to the next polls with the taint of Bofors. He lost the election too for the party. In 1991 he was killed, not for the sake of the nation, but for sending a peace-keeping force to Sri Lanka during his regime. People all over India mourned his death with all affection, but the sympathy was not enough to get a clear mandate for the congress in the 1991 elections. Rajiv’s contributions to the nation or his party may make him a good leader but not great leader.
Rahul’s credentials in the academics are not known but in the typical tradition of the party he was the heir-apparent for the Congress. He is polished, has charm and speaks sense. He did occasionally falter in his political pursuit, but was quick enough to retrace. He campaigned for the party with no gains for some time. People said the loss was in spite of Rahul. He did have some noticeable gains recently and people promptly attributed the gains to him. Indira to a great extent and Rajiv to a limited extent suffered due to sycophants. Rahul seemed to be different but he should be aware of this. He is not a power.monger but destined to take the reins for the good of the country if he maintains his present tempo. No doubt, he is the future hope for the country.
The Sonia Factor:
Very few political leaders at the highest level in the country exhibit the maturity, composure, shrewdness, grace and dignity exhibited by Sonia Gandhi. She chose to continue as house-wife when her mother-in-law or husband were Prime Ministers. She chose P.V. Narasimaharao to succeed her husband for the coveted post and was on a low-key till opportune time. She chose Manmohan Singh as Prime Mimister of the country when she could have occupied the seat herself. She announced a second term for Manmohan Singh overcoming the temptation of crowning her son. All her choices were superior to any of her predecessors and gave her the superior position now she is in.
Lessons for the Congress:
The Indian voter cannot be taken for granted as the recent results do not suggest people’s mandate towards any party or combination. The party should come out of the family shackles and accord due recognition to all performers. If they consider their party as Indian national Congress and not just Indira Congress, they should highlight the achievements of Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Lal Bahadur Sastri, etc. including the role of P.V. Narasimharao in giving a new direction to the country through globalization of the economy. They should not forget to highlight Manmohan Singh’s role in for the party’s present high profiile
Lessons for the BJP:
Immediately after the poll results, some felt that the BJP was vanquished ignoring the mandate of 160 out of 543.
Indira imposed emergency in 1975 and blamed the opposition for the act. When she lifted the emergency in 1977, people rejected her blame in an overwhelming response. The Janata Government, voted to power, did well in administration but concentrated more on blaming Indira for her deeds. People rejected the blame and in 1979 Indira came back to power with vengeance. In the recent polls, all those who played the blame game had lost comprehensively. The BJP was one.
The BJP won 160 seats but only in certain pockets. It is yet to emerge as a national party. The party should find out ways out of its confinement with shackles and come out with suitable plans appealing to the modern India and the youth in the national perspective. It has some very good leaders to combat the unsecular brand attributed to it. The BJP did very well under Atal Bihari Vajpayee. They need to groom such towering personalities to woo allies. There may be a number of parties in our political system, but in the national context, the Congress and the BJP were the only effective ones. Unknowingly we are ushering in a 2-party system, which augurs well for the nation.