Assembly Poll Outcome and Shape of Things to Come

By Aijaz Zaka Syed 

The Congress has been criminal in its abuse of people’s trust but its alternative cannot be someone who has done everything to undermine Indian constitution 

Source Inquilab, Mumbai,  8 December 2013

A Narendra Modi mask held by supporters in Ahmedabad celebrating victory of the BJP in state elections. Reuters

I found power lying on the streets of St Petersburg, said Lenin, all I did was pick it up. This is true modesty considering the total revolution that the Bolsheviks brought about in 1917 and how it subsequently transformed the world in the last century.

In a way, Lenin was right.  Power was his to be captured. Given the corruption and decadence of the Czarist Russia and the appalling economic and political chaos it presided over, it was a matter of time before it collapsed under its own dead weight.

Narendra Modi is no Lenin and the men in khaki shorts and party that he represents are no socialist revolutionaries, fired by a compelling craving for change.  For that matter, there are no parallels between the Czarist Russia and India ruled by the Congress either.  What is common between the two though is the willful ignorance and crippling helplessness in the face of gathering storm.

If the Gujarat chief minister eventually manages to breach the Delhi fortress—and he appears determined to do so carrying around his own Red Fort at all his public meetings—it would not be because of his revolutionary vision but simply because the Congress handed power to him on a platter.

This is still an election for the Congress and UPA to lose.  And if Assembly poll outcome—three of them in battleground, Hindi-heartland states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi of course—are anything to go by, the Indian electorate cannot wait to give the governing alliance a piece of its mind.

Which would be hardly surprising. The Congress has been nothing short of criminal in its abuse of people’s trust.  What is more inexcusable is the fact that it passed up repeated opportunities to effect a course correction.

There were repeated wake-up calls, the first being the massive telecom scandal.  If the Congress-led coalition loses power, it would not be because of its policies and actions but because of its inaction and incredibly frustrating indecisiveness, in the face of challenge after challenge.

And no one epitomizes this as profoundly as Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh does. I know it is unfair to single out the good Dr Singh for the collective failure of the government and the party.  But this is inevitable and unavoidable. After all, he is the face of the government. His underwhelming personality and famous eloquence do not help either.

Would the governing coalition be this unpopular if it had been led by a more communicative and expressive leader with an ability to connect with people? I doubt it. In a country where it doesn’t take much to be a hero to be worshiped by masses, literally, you’ve got to have extraordinary personal qualities and talents to be this unpopular.

It is hard to believe that only a few years ago, until 2008-9, Dr Singh was seen as the face of modern, post-liberalization, aspirational India.

Today, he is seen by his own party and allies as a symbol of all that has gone wrong with the UPA II. Someone who was seen as the USP of the UPA has ended up becoming a millstone around its neck. How the mighty are fallen in the midst of the battle!

The prime minister increasingly looks like the star-crossed hero of a Greek tragedy. Only no tears will be shed when he is eventually fallen.  Whether Dr Singh or his party is to blame for this outcome is something that is for political historians to determine.

Perhaps the Congress could have cut its losses by changing horses midstream. But it is one of those ifs that will forever remain in the realm of speculation and interesting possibilities.

Right now what is apparent is the fact that power lies on the streets of Lutyens’ Delhi, to be scooped up by those with a killer instinct.

You do not have to be fortuneteller or pundit to know who stands to benefit from the political vacuum created by the Congress.

Of course, the BJP has no presence in the entire South of the country and even at the height of its popularity under Vajpayee it couldn’t come within the striking distance of a clear majority.

But if it substantially improves its current strength in parliament, which it appears all set to, it can always piggyback on willing allies and enablers like Chandrababu Naidu, Jayalalitha and even Mamata Banerjee.

But the BJP and its pretender to the throne are not leaving anything to chance and are not entirely banking on the favorable political circumstances and people’s disenchantment with the Congress. With the big business in its pocket and massive media machine at its disposal, they have unleashed a multipronged blitzkrieg of the kind India has never seen.

The BJP is also reaching out to constituencies considered closer to Congress. So much so now the architect of Gujarat 2002 and killer of Ishrat Jahan and numerous others like her sees no irony in batting for Muslims, as he did following Rahul Gandhi’s idiotic ISI-Muzaffarnagar speech, or invoking ‘Jamhuriat, Insaniat and Kashmiriat’ (democracy, humanity and Kashmiri culture) in Jammu.

Many a promising political career would have been cut shot if a scandal of proportions of the Gujarat snoopgate with the whole state machinery–and special anti-terrorism force, for crying out aloud– being deployed to spy on the woman of Saheb’s dreams, had hit them.  But then what is a mere snooping scandal for someone who has taken so much, including killings and rapes on an epic scale,  in his stride and still dreams of ruling from Delhi?

Call me a cynic or whatever but for the life of me I can’t imagine a mass murderer leading the nation of a billion people, the nation of Gandhi, Nehru and a galaxy of great leaders and their millions of followers who offered enormous sacrifices for liberating and building this country.

Notwithstanding its million mutinies and inherent weaknesses, India is a great country.  Its greatest strength and achievement is its vibrant and colorful democracy and institutions that remain a source of envy to the rest of the world.  What the country has achieved is nothing short of a miracle considering its size, religious, cultural and social diversity and the formidable challenges it faces on various fronts.

It would be unconscionable and downright tragic if all this is squandered away.  No reason is compelling enough to do so.  Doubtless, the Congress will and deserves to pay for its mistakes and misrule. But the BJP and Modi cannot be the alternative choice.  The consequences could be catastrophic and lasting for the nation of myriad identities.

I know many reasonable and sincere Indians—and that includes many of my friends—who are sick and tired of bad governance, corruption and dithering, indecisive leadership, would like to see someone in Delhi who is assertive and “can get things done.”

However, this desire for change cannot mean picking up someone who has done everything in the past 12 years to undermine the spirit of Indian constitution and fundamental principles of the republic.

From mass murder to rape to staged encounters to blatant abuse of power—Gujarat has seen it all.  And India would see this at a national scale if Modi gets to Delhi.

Let’s not forget Hitler was even more assertive, if that is the word to describe his manic, murderous tyranny, and got things done. Indeed, the kind of development Germany saw under him in the shortest period of time remains unparalleled.  And we all know where his single-minded zeal eventually got Germany.

The Congress has thoroughly discredited itself and has let down the people of India.  But the nation of Gandhi deserves better than someone who has brought so much shame and disgrace to the country.  There is no dearth of talent and real, responsible leadership in this vast land of ours.

English version of this article was published on Caravan Daily. com

Aijaz Zaka Syed is a widely published commentator and Editor of Caravan. For comments and ideas, write to [email protected]

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