The Congress has been routed in the recent state assembly elections in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Modi loyalists naturally claim that the sweep is due to Modi. Modi skeptics say that the vote is against Manmohan Singh's Congress Government. 33% of the electorate is under 35 and fed up of corruption and apathy of the Congress. Where they have no option they vote for BJP. Where they have an option, they vote for AAP or a regional party.
Except in Chhattisgarh and Mizoram, the Congress has been routed at the recently conducted polls for state assemblies. BJP and its supporters in the media are attributing its performance to the projection of Narendra Modi as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate and campaigning by Narendra Modi. Like the Fox channel in the US is unabashedly against Obama and pro big business and the Republican Party, some media house in India (which can be identified by their pre-poll and exit poll predictions) and businesses big and small, traders and even foreign investors are rooting for Modi.
Many others, politicians and laymen, are skeptical about the popularity of Modi and see the rout of the Congress in the recent polls as the disenchantment of the electorate, particularly the educated young urban voters, with the performance of UPA II under Manmohan Singh. Before we adjudicate, let us try to understand the reality.
Chhattisgarh (Seats 90): In Chhattisgarh, BJP tally reduced from 50 seats in 2008 to 49 and the Congress gained one to reach 39. The Modi loyalists claim that the BJP government won in spite of anti incumbency and the sympathy factor after the Bastar Naxalite ambush which wiped out most of the Congress leadership of the state because of the Modi factor.
Congress loyalists claim that they have done better than in last elections against all odds and though they have 10 less seats, they polled just 1% less of the over all votes. If the local leaders had not been wiped out, they would have actually won. Modi skeptics actually believe that with better candidate selection and leadership, the Congress could have caused an upset. Delhi (Seats 90): In Delhi BJP went up from 23 to 32, a gain of 9 in 70 seats. Vijay Goel, the BJP president of Delhi had claimed that BJP will come to power with two third majority. Modi did many rallies. BJP, in spite of Modi's best efforts and leadership change in the form of Dr. Harsh Vardhan, failed to gain the majority and form government. The performance pales in front of Kejriwal's Aam Admi Party (AAP) making a debut with 28 seats.
The AAP has come second in 20 seats and may well form the government in Delhi if re-elections are held. Modi loyalists are projecting the election results in Delhi as a victory for AAP and a defeat for the Congress. They attribute the increase in the number of BJP seat to Modi rather than BJP's CM candidate Dr. Harsh Vardhan.
Modi skeptics will argue that the election results are a vote against the Congress and not a vote for Modi or BJP. They say that where ever the electorate has a viable alternative to the Congress, either in the form of AAP or a regional party, they have voted for the same rather than the Congress. In Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the electorate had no viable alternative to Congress other than BJP, so they voted for the BJP.
Madhya Pradesh: In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP, contrary to indications of opinion and exit polls, increased its seat tally by 22 from 143 to 165 while the Congress lost 15 seats to drop from 73 to 58. Nodi loyalists claim that this increase is due to Modi. Shivraj Singh Chouhan's loyalists will argue that the increase is due to good governance provided by him. Modi skeptics will argue that the increase is due to three reasons.
Firstly, the return of Uma Bharti to the BJP with her breakaway faction substantially boosted the BJP. Secondly, the Congress party in the state failed to act as an effective opposition and highlight the corruption and nepotism of the Shivraj Singh Government. Thirdly, the anti-Congress wave in the center was just too strong for the state Congress leadership to counter.
Rajasthan: The result in Rajasthan is nothing short of a rout for the Congress. The BJP increased its tally from 78 to 162. In other words it more than doubled the seats it had won in the last election. The Congress on the other hand sank from 96 to 21, their lowest tally ever. Modi loyalists attribute the resounding victory to Modi's campaigning. Vasundhara Raje's supporters claim that the victory was due to Vasundhara's charisma and popularity and the good governance she had provided when she was in power. This is largely true.
Vasundhara lost the last elections in 2008 mainly because RSS worked to defeat her after a tiff with her over selection of candidates. This time the RSS leadership ensured that the local elements of RSS did not work against Vasundhara. Modi skeptics believe that there are three reasons for the Congress rout.
Firstly, Gehlot is not a charismatic leader but a manipulator. His administration was a total failure. He never shared a cordial relation with other Congress leaders of the state except his own coterie. He came up with many populist welfare schemes in his last year. But the people of Rajasthan kept asking why did he not introduce these schemes when he took over five years ago? Was he trying to bribe them to vote for him?
The second reason was poor selection of candidates. In spite of Rahul Gandhi's best efforts, a fair, merit based and transparent selection process which kept out those who had lost twice, those with criminal or corrupt image and the aged was not adopted. The emphasis was vote bank politics based on caste calculation, keeping power brokers and Gehlot loyalists happy. Vote bank policy flopped because Kirorilal Meena's Party took away most of the Meena and Gurjar votes and BSP bit into the SC and Muslim vote.
The third and perhaps the most powerful reason is that 33% of the electorate is under 35 and most of them abhor the scam and corruption tainted Manmohan Singh led government.
Manmohan Singh Effect: The Manmohan Singh government is ranked by the young voters as the most corrupt in the history of Indian politics. 2G scam, Coalgate, Adarsh Housing Scam, allegations against the NGO run by Salman Kurshid's wife, bribery in appointments to the Railway board, payment of money to BJP and opposition MLAs to abstain or vote in favour of the Congress to win a no confidence motion at the end of UPA- I, BSNL officials running an exchange for Dayanidhi Maran, allotment of land to Robert Wadhra; the list of scams is almost endless.
These are neither investigated by independent agencies and transparently, nor are the culprits brought to justice. Saying law will take its course is all right in legal terms. It took 23 years to convict Sukh Ram and 25 years to convict Lalu Prasad Yadav and his case is far from over. The inquiry report of Adarsh Scam has not been made public and no one has been charged. The delay in justice is not acceptable to the young voters.
Elections are decided by perception of voters and not by judges of courts. The Manmohan Singh Government is totally insensitive to public angst on issues like price rise, Muslim appeasement, safety of women, belligerence of Pakistan on the LOC, intrusions by Chinese Army in Ladakh and harassment of Tamil fishermen by Sri Lanka; crass behavior of ministers like Beni Prasad Yadav, S P Jaiswal, Sushil Kumar Sindhe and use of police to try to break up Anna Hazare's Lok Pal Agitation and student's agitation following the Nirbhaya gang rape case.
Manmohan Singh Government has done all it could to protect corrupt politicians. It even brought an ordinance to save Lalu Prasad and other from losing their seats in the Parliament after elections. It has ignored advice of the Supreme Court to bar convicted politicians sentenced to more than two years in jail from standing in election. Manmohan Singh has been a miserable failure on the economic front.
The India Rupee was 40 to a dollar when Vajpayee was PM. It reached 68 to a dollar under Manmohan Singh. His trade liberalization and trade agreements with China, ASEAN and others have raised our trade deficit to almost 200 billion dollars and current account deficit to record levels. Millions of tons of grain are allowed to rot.
State owned oil companies are in dire financial straights. Air India hovers on the brink of collapse. Prices and adulteration of food stuff and medicines has reached unprecedented levels. Budget deficit is out of control. Modernization of armed forces has been shelved for ever. Dr. Manmohan Singh is silent as Sphinx. He does not speak to the people or media and give his side of the issues.
Criticism seems to affect him less than raindrops on a ducks back. BJP leaders have called him the weakest Prime Minister India has produced for years. Now even his party leaders and allies like Mani Shankar Aiyer and Sharad power has come out in the open with similar sentiments.
Conclusion: I, as a citizen journalist, can get away with making an error of judgment regarding the reasons for the rout of the Congress party in the recent elections. But the political parties, particularly the Congress, need to be honest and objective in their analysis or they will pay the price. The Aam Aadmi Party has demonstrated that young, honest ordinary Indians can defeat political heavyweights in elections. If Sheila Dixit can be defeated by Kejriwal, so can Kapils Sibal. That is what young India wants.
If political parties fail to get the message and continue in the same vein and select crass ageing political heavyweights with dubious reputation as candidates against the AAP candidates, they can well expect some shocks. The Lok Sabha Election of 2014 promises to be an enthralling contest between ageing politicians of dubious credentials and educated, young, ordinary but honest and ethical pretenders. May we get a Parliament and government that will take India to a glorious future.
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