So the Congress has been given a resounding slap on its face.It will be generally agreed that it deserved it , considering its record. The results were mostly expected, but as always there have been many surprises.
There is no need to give the reasons for the enormous defeat of the Congress in all the four elections. Everyone knows them only too well. Corruption for one thing. Poor leadership for another. The arrogance of some leaders was notable and there was over-confidence, at least in public. Was Rahul Gandhi the right person to lead the fight? Could he really have the chance against the dynamism of a Narendra Modi? But who else were there in the Congress with a popular face? Dr Manmohan Singh? Digvijay Singh? Poor Sonia Gandhi was too ill to take over the job. So it was assigned to Rahul who did what he was told to do, with no effect. He was no match for Modi. There is some loose talk about the sister Priyanka Vadra being drawn into fight the finals. She would only make matter worse. It is claimed that anti- incumbency was a factor. Yes, that did hurt Sheila Dikshit, but how come that in Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chauhan proved charismatic to win for a second time? His success his attributed to the development schemes and welfare projects that he successfully initiated.
The BJP’s sweeping victory is attributed to “double anti-incumbency” one being the change in the Jat vote which deserted Congress and secondly inflation. And then, of course, was the Modi factor. He had, in many ways won the hearts of the people.
The Congress now says that it has learnt its lessons. The lessons were all there before the elections took place. Rahul showed no signs that he had read them. Congress attack was more on the personality of Modi than on relevant issues. With the results now out, Congress must ask itself whether dynasticism is any longer valid and relevant. Indeed it is for Congressmen to look into the issue more seriously.
Who had heard of Arvind Kejriwal five years ago? This man has now made a sparkling debut in Delhi. His tremendous success was certainly not expected even by the most logical of thinkers. True he did not quite make it to the top. But he is there—almost. And if he has respect for the voter, he must work jointly with the BJP, instead of saying that he will remain in the Opposition. And the BJP itself must persuade Kejriwal to show a greater sense of cooperation, in the larger interest of Delhi. Together BJP and AAP can work wonders.
But as of now the most important thing so far as the Congress is concerned is not only the party’s future, but the future of dynasticism. If a ‘nobody’ like Kejriwal can enthuse the people to vote for him, can’t the Congress find a similar Kejriwal to take over the leadership? Why are Congressmen so afraid of Sonia Gandhi? Sonia did the right thing when, following the assassination of her husband, she was offered the party leadership. She was most reluctant to accept the offer; but then the party had no one else to look up to.
Much the same thing has happened now. Congress leadership has failed; but an effort should be made to discover likely Kejriwals within the party to replace Rahul. That they will never do. Meanwhile a warning should be issued to BJP. It should not take success in March 2014 for granted. It has to remember that in the general elections it has not only to fight against the Congress but against regional leaders as well. The situation is vastly different in, say, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal. In Karnataka it cannot afford to continue alienating BS Yeddyurappa who is still a force to reckon with. A reconciliation with him would be quite in order.
Many will ask whether much of the current successes should not be attribute to Narendra Modi’s charisma. He has been drawing mass audiences wherever he spoke, whether in Jaipur, Delhi or elsewhere. But will that charisma hold good in Kolkota, Chennai, Bengaluru or Travancore? Modi made much of his social background and it was a clear gimmick. Let alone the poor voter: even the middle class would surely have been affected by his steady rise. Modi is wise in many ways. He do not always deal with Hindutva or even be overtly critical of the minorities. The stress is always on development, development and development as was so evident in his address in Srinagar, which had a great appeal to the young who now have a substantial stake in the future.
The Congress did very poorly because of its personal attacks against Modi, which was not only in poor taste was factually untenable. Congress has been poorly served by its Public Relations Department. One thing is clear: the Congress is on its way out. It is even more unlikely that there will be a revolt within the Congress.