OVER the past few months, the public disenchantment with the Congress party led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has been growing steadily with the various misdeeds of the Manmohan Singh government coming to light. Perhaps, this is the sole instance of a popularly elected government at the Centre losing its public esteem and inviting public wrath in such a short period after assuming office.
A series of crises and blunders over the past 15 months in such diverse areas as Telecom scam, IPL scam, Bhopal Gas Tragedy, Commonwealth games, Adarsh building scam etc. etc. have made the UPA government look like a government of robbers engaged in an all-out loot of public money. Mind you, corruption scandals exposed so far may be only a tip of the iceberg and more would follow. Shockingly, there is not an iota of shame, nor any remorse in the Congress Party leadership for being caught with such shameless acts of corruption.
Rather than remedy the rot in its system, the Congress Party has now begun to employ diversionary tactics to deflect public attention. At the All India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting held recently, the Congress Party chose to mindlessly attack the Rasthtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) accusing it of being involved in acts of terrorism. This is a diabolic strategic design to denigrate the RSS whose nationalistic credentials require no reiteration. At one level, it is meant to drive a wedge in the opposition ranks by painting the RSS as a villain and at another, to appease minority vote banks.
The Congress Party has chosen to cover up its misdeeds and mis-governance by attacking institutions and individuals in the public arena who pose a threat to its future success. It is evident that the Congress Party has selected the RSS and Narendra Modi as its targets for their potential to undermine the Congress Party’s future. Hence the desperation not to let go of any opportunity to damage their credibility and reputation.
The Congress’ strategy is a recipe for electoral disaster as a series of attempts aimed at undermining Narendra Modi (questioning by the SIT, arrest of Amit Shah in Shorabuddin case) have shown. They have backfired giving the BJP a huge victory in local body polls in Gujarat. The success of a number of Muslim candidates in Gujarat local polls has sent the alarm bells ringing in the Congress camp.
To cover its dismal performance, the Congress Party has taken recourse to blaming the manipulation of EVMs by the Gujarat BJP. This is a case of pot calling the kettle black. For over a year, I have led a campaign to highlight the need for EVM reform and the Congress Party always ridiculed such concerns. Now, the Congress Party says it has been defeated by the same voting machines. Having failed to defeat Narendra Modi at polls repeatedly, the Congress Party is now using the EVM bogie to malign him. If the party is serious about EVM concerns, it must join other parties in demanding voting reform.
Narendra Modi gives the Congress Party jitters. At a time, when the nation is reeling under abominably bad governance, Narendra Modi comes as a breath of fresh air. Nationwide, he is perceived to be a no-nonsense Chief Minister who has epitomised credible, efficient and honest governance. He has repeatedly trounced the Congress at polls in Gujarat on this premise.
Today, people are voting for leaders who can deliver them good governance. Manmohan Singh who secured a second term on this promise looks weaker than ever before. In the UPA-1, he was dependent on left parties’ support for his government’s stability. His personal integrity, mild manners, stubborn stand on nuclear bill and a perception that he could not do much due to left parties’ intransigence had made him acceptable to the middle classes.
In the UPA-2, Manmohan Singh is free from all shackles and does not live an unsure existence as in his previous term. Yet, he looks like a titular head of government who not only lacks authority and command of his government but is both unaware of the goings on in his government and unwilling to intervene to stem the rot.
The respect that Manmohan Singh enjoyed a couple of years ago has turned into exasperation. Perhaps, that is the Congress Party’s way of demolishing its own leaders to make its dynastic members look better in comparison. Manmohan Singh in all likelihood will meet the same fate as PV Narasimha Rao, more erudite and successful than most other members of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty, yet long forgotten.
Owing to this non-governance, the national mood is heavily swinging in the country; away from the Congress and decisively towards the BJP. As someone who keeps tabs on public opinion, I can safely bet that the BJP graph is on the rise again. For the first time in many years, I have seen a number of people who voted Congress in elections openly regretting that they did so. This feeling is running strong even in the national capital where Shiela Dikshit’s image lays shattered after the unbridled corruption witnessed in Commonwealth games.
This mood swing is not just due to the Congress’ failings, but also owing to the good performance of the party in Parliament and good governance by party’s chief ministers led by Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Raman Singh, BS Yeddyurappa, PK Dhumal etc. Like Narendra Modi, they all are extremely popular in their respective states. The BJP has been continuously maintaining a winning streak in all these states.
There is another crucial difference that makes Congress look pale in comparison to the BJP. All the BJP chief ministers function with a high degree of autonomy and are leaders with phenomenal popular appeal in their states. In contrast, all the chief ministers of Congress Party ruled states and the entire council of ministers at the Centre are in office only due to the pleasure of the dynasty that rules the party. With scams hitting the nation with regular succession, this could soon result in revulsion towards the Congress Party and the BJP would do well to highlight this factor.
Praiseworthy handling of the Ayodhya crisis and affirmative support to a series of legislations in Parliament has made the BJP look like a very responsible opposition at the Centre in many years. That the party was able to galvanise wide support from opposition ranks on issues like price rise had sent shivers down the spines of the UPA managers in Parliament.
Notwithstanding stinking media coverage and public anger over its non-performance, the Congress Party is arrogantly assuming that its future is safe and secure as parliamentary elections are nearly four years away. It is counting on the premise that the public memory is short and all these corruption scandals will fade away with time.
Despite the failings of the UPA government, the BJP faces many challenges to return to power at the Centre. Frequent bouts of internecine fights surely damage the public credibility of the BJP. Unlike a decade ago when voters decisively voted out non-performing governments out of anger, today they are evaluating alternatives and weighing their options. Mere anger against an incumbent won’t help the challengers to win elections. The BJP must present a credible alternative leadership and programme to look attractive to the exasperated electorate. When the alternative is attractive, the voters will flock to the BJP in large numbers and so will be the regional parties needing a national alliance to keep them afloat. No regional ally will come to the BJP because the BJP wants them but only when they need the party for their electoral success. Credible leader and agenda for governance can give the Congress Party a run for its money in the next Lok Sabha polls. The Congress Party knows it fully well and hence its calculated attacks on the party and its parent organisation, the RSS.