Whatever might have been the criteria for choosing a candidate in the recently held elections, one cannot disregard the impact that the diversionary speeches of the leaders made on the electorate. The congress led government had amply softened the battlefield by their stagnated governance, policy paralysis and erosion of the law enforcement processes. Any pep talk could have turned the tide, so if Narendra Modi swung it in his favour, one need not be unduly impressed. They all thought that they were leading the country in the right directions, but what actually happened was that the country chose to be led.
Most of the parties attempted to create a mirage of expectations, but the BJP – Bhartiya Janta Party succeeded. It exploited the anti-incumbency sentiment by focusing on the local issues with clinical precision. The party did not even spend energies in including in its campaign the global calamities like corruption, inflation, poverty non-performance etc. It touched the chord of the local pulse. If dirt and filth was the chord of discontent in the religious city of Varanasi, in Haryana it was the anger of the ex-servicemen. The strategy was repeated in all states, and with remarkable success.
In contrast, the congress campaign was spearheaded by the chant of the inconsequential Gujarat riots on the one side and by a lackluster unity of leaders on the other. They ran helter-skelter competing with the untiring Narendra Modi, who was pulverizing the seas of humanity by his poignant speeches. Moreover, as Modi neutralized the opposition by sucking and swallowing them in, his prime opponent at that time, Arvind Kejriwal suffered because of his foolish abandonment of the Delhi Empire. The others were conspicuous by their absence. There was a talk about a third front, but it evaporated as quickly as it was conceptualized.
While the overwhelming relevance that Modi traded in his campaign is a marvellous matter for study, Congress’s disharmony in this context, is also a lesson in posterity of how things should not be done. In hindsight, those who abandoned the sinking ship had more than one excuse to offer, but the autocratic behavior of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi was the most criticized one. A mother sacrificed her regime by fielding an unprepared son, and when stalwarts were deserting, she failed to hear the beating of the retreat.
I consider that many others were in the same precarious condition, as I was. Were we all not at our wits ends trying to make a head or tail of the candidates offered for elections? What was important, the candidate or his party? The credentials of the presented contestants were hidden, just as he himself was, behind the rostrum dominated by Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi. All we could go by was the hope that someone must have screened the candidate well enough. This was particularly the case with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Similarly, the party manifestos were no more significant than a flash at a ceremony. They were printed just in time. Was this to avoid the pirating? Did the parties care whether or not, the public read them? Did you read any? Worse still, I doubt if the candidates read the manifestos. Though, some of them did pose for the releasing ceremony. Could it have been a strategy to keep people guessing and possibly the best technique to create a euphoric wave? While one may credit Narendra Modi for administering a wave, one should also step back a little to understand how this wave was swirled so easily.
In the run up to the elections, public attention was focused on the burning issues like corruption, rising prices, crushing of the middle class, policy paralysis, non-governance, development and what have you. Grounds were prepared. But what it transcended later into was just intense crossfire between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi, with the former pulling out decades old skeletons from the cupboard, like the riots, the scoop gate scandal in Ahmedabad and the hidden facts about Modi’s married life. On the other hand, Modi kept his cool, and chose to respond only to the direct attacks on his persona. From both sides of this tactic the advantage accrued to Modi.
So much was the intensity of these barrages that the leaders did not have to fall back upon the traditional instruments that are generally used for polarizing the society into vote banks. There was no need to call upon the religious factions or caste blocks. All such tactics gave way to the Modi tsunami. Who, in the voters, had the time or inclination for examining the manifestos, paradigms or doctrines in depth? The thrust was not on the brand of the party, but on the trend as set up by Modi. For the time being, somehow or the other, Modi prevailed.
Voters even disregarded the acceptance by the Modi group, of the hardened criminals and tainted defectors. Why Modi accepted such individuals does not need a justification. He is not washed in milk. He had to accept all those who could swing the vote in his favor. That was the need of the hour. These elections were fought with the aim of getting rid of the 10-year long coalition of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), and all other considerations were eclipsed.
To say that a tsunami was running in favor of Modi, created by his own catchy and rhyming slogan Abki Bar, Modi Sarkar, (This time Modi government) is as unconvincing as is the claim that there was an anti-establishment vote. According to Modi himself, anti establishment vote can only appear if there is an establishment in the first place. The outgoing government was operating in a vacuum of policy paralysis.
Nevertheless, Modi’s success deserves unqualified credit, and it compels us to think of how it all happened in a blitzkrieg. He came, he conquered and he settled in the coveted 7 Race Course, in Delhi. And now we are waiting for the Good Days to Arrive.
Three significant studies must be made on these elections.
- How did the congress crawl to its demise?
- How did Modi organise his blitzkrieg?
- What is it that the elections really achieve for democracy?
The 13 Unlucky Reasons
Tughlak-like rule – If Rahul Gandhi threatened to bring in his young team, how could one blame the elders for staying away? Jointly, all of them managed admirably the destruction and annihilation of the century long dominance of the congress party. Whether they failed to notice the backstabbing by their allies or they welcomed good riddance of their frequent demands, is not a matter of worry now. How much role the dynasty played in carving its own downfall is also immaterial. The show is over. Now, they have the option of blaming Rahul Gandhi or the rest of them
Compromise on sovereignty and internal security – In the eyes of the public, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) completely ignored its prime responsibility towards Indian citizens by compromising on the sovereignty of the country as well as on its internal security. Starting from the 26/11 terror attack in Bombay, passing through a series of other attacks in different cities that killed a large number of innocent citizens, condoning the sentences passed by the Supreme Court on terrorists, the government exhibited a soft stand against individuals of a particular segment of the society. Beheading of the Indian soldiers by the Pakistan soldiers needed much stronger action than what was proposed by the home minister.
Playing with the life of defence personnel – Citizens did not forget the silence of the defence minister on the badly acquired defence equipment under dubious arrangements and the plagued sub-marines for want of maintenance. The overwhelming election of Gen VK Singh, the ex-army chief who was unceremoniously treated by the government proves that the citizens cannot be fooled all the time. It was a revenge gloriously manifested.
Suppressing the freedom of speech to avoid enactment – The seed for the downfall of the ruling party was sown by the ridiculing of the Anna Hazare movement demanding the enactment of a bill that was lying dormant in the parliament for over 40 years. The Lokpal bill sought to streamline the process of punishing the corrupt at high places. When Anna Hazare was pre-emptively arrested little did the three negotiating ministers realize that the swelling crowds of the citizens objecting to the arrest standing on both sides of a long drive from the jail, would show their anger during the elections? The careless leaders did very little to remove the impregnable wall of separation between the ruled and the ruler. Rather, they hoodwinked Anna Hazare to call off his agitation on false promises, which were never to be fulfilled. Even now, the bill remains toothless.
Police atrocities – None digested at that time, and even lesser forgot the midnight attack by the police on the quietly sleeping followers of Baba Ramdev who were agitating against the corruption and black money. The defeat of an ex cabinet minister Kapil Sibal can perhaps be attributed to his scornful statement that “No one got hurt in the police outrage, when in reality one woman died due to the police batons”. The congress defeat in the state assembly elections in Delhi in December 2013 was also ignited by Kapil Sibal’s challenge to Arvind Kejriwal to seek elections. He was challenged to come to the parliament and then discuss the Lokpal bill. In general, this exhibited the tendency of the ruling party to suppress people rights on freedom of speech. Could anyone take it lying down?
Atrocities to cover up the failure of law enforcement – One of the nails in the coffin was the highly irresponsible behaviour of the then home minister Sunil Kumar Shinde, who instead of listening to the complaints of the peacefully demonstrating crowds from colleges and universities, encouraged the Delhi police commissioner to resort to water cannons and baton attacks. The blunder is even more pronounced when one thinks of the cause of this demonstration that was spread out to all parts of the country. It was the infamous Nirbhaya rape, where the police had failed to check a moving bus driven by 6 heinous criminals even when the matter was reported to a police patrol. Whom was the home minister trying to protect? This event, coupled by the general deterioration of women safety in the capital and the ill-enforced law must have caused the ruling party a substantial loss of trust.
Arrogance of the ministers – Indians crave for respecting and admiring their ministers, even at the cost of their arrogance and aloofness. However, the ruling party failed to realize the sensitive nature of the one crore first time voters among the others, who could never tolerate the body language and uttering of the frequently visible ministers. Salman Khursheed who threatened Arvind Kejriwal of dire consequence if he entered Khursheed’ s constituency, Digvijay Singh who never lost a chance to ridicule the others, Manish Tiwari who competed with Digvijay Singh for the top honours, PC Chidambaram who managed to manipulate the budget for gains and Manmohan Singh who presided over the erring cabinet.
Tainted Candidates – It was an utter disappointment for the voters to find the tainted ministers like Pawan Kumar Bansal, Sriprakash Jaiswal and Raja posted as contestants. Voters had no choice but to vote against them.
Defying the Supreme Court and hindering the rule of law – The ruling party shocked the entire nation by attempting to bring out an ordinance that sought to allow the guilty punished by the apex court, to contest elections. It was known for protecting many of its tainted ministers and scamsters like Hassan Ali and Harshad Mehta, who had duped the tax departments of billions of rupees. They forgot that the public was watching.
Spiralling prices and exploding inflation – The less we talk about the diesel prices, rationing of the cooking gas, petroleum prices and prices of essential commodities, the better. But when this is coupled with misappropriation of subsidies and corruption in the social welfare schemes, the government is treading on a nuclear bomb. The UPA crushed the middle classes and annoyed them by promoting reservations based on dubious criterion. They thought they will survive on the vote bank policies but they forgot that the citizens became wiser.
Social media and censorship – One of the key points in these elections was the use of social media, and the ruling party by the fear of unpreparedness and by the guilt of wrong doings threatened the modern youth of censoring the social media. Could this stay latent? The youth was insulted, its anger exploded, they retaliated and the results are in front of us.
Punishing the law enforcement officials – The public perception was that Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi, was given unrestricted access to security sensitive areas in the airports even in the times of terror threats. No efforts were made by the dynasty to refute this charge. The public anger was also proliferated by the official harassment of Dr Ashok Khemka the senior IAS officer who challenged the land deals of Robert Vadra at rock-bottom prices with associated change in land-use; in other words acquiring public property at peanuts and converting it to ludicrously expensive private property for sale.
Last Nail in the coffin – Bewildered by the growing popularity of Narendra Modi, the ruling party installed a commission of enquiry during the closing times of the elections, on an unimportant issue against him. Little did they realize that they were creating sympathy vote for the great man.
These are not the only components of the termite that ate the congress party and its allies. Hundreds of other such misdoings were worthy of sounding a death knell for them. That they did not fool around with the constitution as was done by their predecessors is not bliss but if that was required, chances are that it would have been done. Even emergency could have been imposed. But it was perhaps not required. They were being extinguished in totality by their own actions and arrogance. They achieved a lot in this direction, by the policy of paralysis, inaction and misrule of law.
The congress destruction plan ensured that people were rendered unhappy and angered, and the leaders stayed quiet. Do you think that Congress could have survived carrying so much of misadventure on its head? At least I do not think so.