The defeat of the Congress in the Haryana and Maharashtra assembly elections does not come as a surprise.
Those who have followed the political developments since the 2014 Lok Sabha election had inferred that the party was a story of the past. It had been battered by the charges of corruption so much and for so long that it had no public image left. The other parties, particularly the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), are finding favour with the people. Take Haryana. It never returned more than 10 BJP candidates in the earlier elections. This time the party has constituted its government single handed. It shows the strides the party has made. Maharashtra has seen the Shiv Sena pulling down the Congress colossal. But the BJP has never been in the reckoning. The two together have an absolute majority today.
Whether this astonishing scenario is due to the spell which Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cast on the nation or is not a matter of discussion any more. There is no doubting of the BJP emerging as a national party and Modi as a national leader. True, nationalism is the trump card Modi plays. Parochialism is its main content. The secular forces are meekly surrendering.
Surprisingly, both Haryana and Maharashtra, progressive otherwise, have returned very few women. The parties are essentially to blame because they fielded only a few female candidates. But the archaic thinking of voters is very much evident. After nearly seven decades since independence, the women have not been able to get their due.
I do not think that the Congress can bounce back at least for another decade. And that too would require new vigour and new leadership. Since Congress president Sonia Gandhi does not see beyond the dynastic politics, there is very little hope for the party to recover. She does not appreciate the fact that even after years of projecting him, Rahul Gandhi does not sell nor has he any content.
The disorder in the Congress is palpable. The growing frustration within the party ranks only confirms this. Some of the old Congress loyalists have found courage to raise their voice and have blamed Rahul and his team for the debacle. But such voices are stifled in the party. Sonia and Rahul run the party. Now that both have failed, who do the people turn to? Both had reportedly once offered to resign. But the loyal Congress working committee had refused to accept their resignations. Both continue to constitute the party and its leadership. And both have seen to it that the non-dynasty elements do not come up.
Logically, Rahul’s political career should have been over after the two back-to-back reversals, one in the Lok Sabha elections and the second in some of the state assembly polls. Yet, in a dynastic politics, there is no room for such a debate. The Gandhi family has come to be considered central to the survival of the Congress. Rahul is important for the party, particularly when Sonia has an indifferent health. Despite the resentment against Rahul’s style of functioning, the sycophants in the party is still hopeful that he would one day act like a leader.
That, in a way, sums up the strategy of Congress and Sonia’s. It is amusing to see the party leaders sheltering Rahul from criticism. The A K Antony report that followed the Lok Sabha’s pathetic poll results points to the organisational weakness rather than putting the blame squarely on Rahul Gandhi for the defeat of the party. He had to be pulled out of election campaign in Haryana and Maharashtra because he was having a negative effect. One good thing that Sonia once admitted in a letter was that the revival of the party was a challenge. Her letter to the leaders offered encouraging words, infusing fresh confidence to overcome the hostile conditions.
For the demoralised leaders, the letter served as a soothing morale booster. The leaders admitted that unlike Rahul's attitude, Sonia's letter was full of humility with soothing words, providing them with some much-needed comfort in these difficult times. Yet, they wonder why Rahul was still relying on his advisers who failed him in the assembly elections held in the last two years.
The plain truth is that the Congressmen have nowhere to go except the dynasty which has run the party since independence. Jawaharlal Nehru was compared with a banyan tree which did not let anything beneath to grow. The Congress was dependent on him. Consequently, none in the party emerged to be its natural choice when he died. Indira Gandhi, his daughter, whom he had groomed, was not acceptable to the party in the beginning. Yet, slowly and surely, she made her way to the top.
The end of the Congress may not be good for the country because it has provided an ideological platform with pronounced secular credentials. What is still disconcerting is that the vacuum created by the vacation of the Congress is being filled by the elements which are inimical to the integrity of the country. Their efforts to polarise the country have already evoked a sense of discrimination in the country. The attack on the people from Manipur in Delhi is one recent example.
Unfortunately, the Modi phenomenon has the RSS blessing. This is interfering in the affairs of governance. The appearance of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on the Doordarshan was unfortunate and told the story of RSS ideology an integral part of the government.At present, Modi is trying to be on the side of development, not the RSS philosophy. But he will have to distance from the organisation for the sake of credibility. The Muslims are feeling insecure and they, as good Indians as the Hindus, have to be given confidence. How Modi does it is his business. But he must do that.