State polls a lit­mus test for Rahul, not Modi

What­ever the out­come on 11 De­cem­ber, it is no pre­dic­tor of 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The Sunday Guardian - - & Comment Analysis -

Those hop­ing that the out­come of the polls in the five states will, at long last, be­stow the man­tle of a na­tional leader on the Congress pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi are set to be dis­ap­pointed on Tues­day, 11 De­cem­ber. For, all in­di­ca­tions are that the re­sults may well be a mixed bag, deny­ing a clear sweep to ei­ther party. Rahul Gandhi re­quires a glo­ri­ous win in the three Hindi heart­land states to con­vince the scep­tics, whose num­ber mul­ti­ples ev­ery time he opens his mouth to com­mit a gaffe, that he in­deed is leader ma­te­rial. Oth­er­wise, he is con­demned to con­tinue as Mama’s dar­ling, nom­i­nated to the head­ship of the fam­i­ly­owned party, with ev­ery­one in it ex­pected to bow and scrape be­fore him.

Days when the pres­i­dentship of the Congress was enough to make you a na- tional leader have long gone. Now, the deep­en­ing of the demo­cratic process over the last seven decades cou­pled with ris­ing aware­ness, thanks partly to the mush­room­ing of the me­dia, and ever-grow­ing aspi­ra­tions mean that the vot­ers can no longer be taken for granted. Grass­roots work­ers with­out any claim to so­cial or po­lit­i­cal pedi­gree can hope to rise in the po­lit­i­cal fir­ma­ment and push well-es­tab­lished dy­nasts to the mar­gins of the polity, mak­ing them vir­tu­ally ir­rel­e­vant.

As usual, the exit polls throw up a con­fus­ing pic­ture. But if you were to look at the cam­paign, it was clear that the Congress party missed a golden op­por­tu­nity. In Ra­jasthan, de­spite a strong anti-Va­sund­hara Raje feel­ing at the ground level, she was al­lowed to re­cover in the last cou­ple of weeks, partly be­cause the ModiShah duo shed their an­tipa­thy to­wards Her Haughty High­ness to ac­cord pri­or­ity to the party. In Mad­hya Pradesh and Ch­hat­tis­garh, the BJP had ac­cu­mu­lated a lot of pop­u­lar griev­ance in the last 15 years—who doesn’t? This ought to have served as a pow­er­ful plat­form for the Congress to build on to mount a cred­i­ble chal­lenge.

In­stead of of­fer­ing a clear al­ter­na­tive, all that Rahul’s Congress did in both Mad­hya Pradesh and Ch­hat­tis­garh is that it stole the BJP’s cow to claim the man­tle of a new BJP. Peo­ple nor­mally spurn copy- cat of­fer­ings. Be­sides, Rahul’s thrust all through the cam­paign re­mained on Naren­dra Modi, try­ing des­per­ately to float the punc­tured Rafale bal­loon, harp­ing on the al­leged fail­ings of the Cen­tral gov­ern­ment, while the vot­ers ex­pected the lo­cal is­sues con­cern­ing their ev­ery­day lives ad­dressed. Notably, the be­nign food prices de­nied the chal­lenger a key line of at­tack.

The fail­ure of Rahul to es­tab­lish an emo­tional chord with the voter stemmed not only from his own poor im­age, but his ob­ses­sive at­tacks on Modi seemed coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. In an age when par­ties com­mis­sion sur­veys to poll pop­u­lar opin­ion on is­sues and ri­vals, the Congress failed to re­alise that Modi’s con­nect with the peo­ple con­tin­ues to be strong. Even those who in­tended to vote against the BJP vol­un­teered that upar to vote Modi ko hi denge. In short, Rahul erred in sin­gling out Modi for vi­cious per­sonal at­tack while skip­ping lo­cal is­sues.

Which brings me to my cen­tral point. Were the BJP to fare badly in Ra­jasthan, MP and Ch­hat­tis­garh, un­likely go­ing by the exit polls, this will have lit­tle or no bear­ing on the na­tional polls a few months from now. These polls are no pre­dic­tors of the out­come in the next Lok Sabha elec­tions. But Rahul’s stock will di­min­ish fur­ther should the Congress not win Mad­hya Pradesh and Ch­hat­tis­garh con­vinc­ingly. We will keep our fin­gers crossed till Tues­day. Why would a power dis­tri­bu­tion com­pany be in­ter­ested in check­ing your voter ID card? Well, if you live in Delhi, any­thing can hap­pen. Hav­ing de­cided that the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion of In­dia is his en­emy, Arvind Ke­jri­wal has not only taken to un­der­min­ing its au­thor­ity, but has de­vised his own in­de­pen­dent ways to vet the voter lists. Chil­dren in Delhi gov­ern­ment-run schools are made to fur­nish the elec­toral cards of their fam­i­lies against the spe­cific di­rec­tion of the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion. The ECI alone is em­pow­ered to carry out such an ex­er­cise. Now, the lo­cal power dis­tri­bu­tion com­pany has been roped in for screen­ing the vot­ers’ list in mid­dle-class colonies.

Mean­while, ev­ery time one of his min­is­ters is charged with fi­nan­cial rack­e­teer­ing, Ke­jri­wal de­fends him, ar­gu­ing that the ac­tion was meant to pre­vent him from “serv­ing the peo­ple of Del- hi”. In­stead of ex­plain­ing how the er­rant min­is­ters came to pos­sess as­sets far in ex­cess of their de­clared in­come.

Which brings us to Robert Vadra. The son-in-law of So­nia Gandhi too re­sorts to Ke­jri­wa­lesque rea­son­ing, is­su­ing po­lit­i­cal state­ments against the In­come Tax and the En­force­ment Direc­torate when all that the lat­ter want him to do is to ex­plain his overnight riches. In­stead of shout­ing po­lit­i­cal vendetta or witch-hunt, sim­ply ex­plain how land bought for Rs 70 lakh per hectare was sold overnight for Rs 6 crore in Ra­jasthan to a com­pany whose in­come tax trou­bles were re­solved si­mul­ta­ne­ously? A clear case of quid pro quo, isn’t it? Any­one re­motely fa­mil­iar with Ra­jasthan pol­i­tics would re­call the name of Khumba Ram Arya. A free­dom fighter and prom­i­nent Jat politi­cian, he died in 1995. In his later years, he had got so fed up with the Congress party that he made com­mon cause with a host of an­tiCongress par­ties. Yet, the Jats in Ra­jasthan hold him in high re­gard. On the eve of the 2013 Assem­bly elec­tions, the out­go­ing Chief Min­is­ter Ashok Gehlot had named an ir­ri­gation lift scheme in the name of the late Jat leader.

Now cut to 2018. The other day, ad­dress­ing a pub­lic rally in Khumba Ram Arya’s home district, Sikar, with Gehlot and other se­nior party lead­ers on the stage, Congress pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi, is seen con­sult­ing a slip of pa­per be­fore say­ing, “…In 2013, Ashok Gehlotji ney ek Kumb­hakaran lift scheme chalu ki thi…” Im­me­di­ately, some in the crowd seek to cor­rect the Congress chief, Rahul looks back, and again re­peats “Khumb­hakaran”, be­fore be­ing cor­rected again. Now he says, “kya, achha, Kumbha Ram scheme.”

Even a par­rot would do bet­ter. Re­ally, a hope­less case, this wannabe Prime Min­is­ter, sir. The other day, a pho­to­graph in a lo­cal daily caught my at­ten­tion. The cap­tion read: Congress lead­ers Shashi Tha­roor, P. Chi­dambaram, Kapil Sibal, Man­ish Te­wari and Ab­hishek Manu Singhvi at a panel dis­cus­sion or­gan­ised by the All In­dia Pro­fes­sion­als’ Congress. Didn’t know such a Congress ex­isted, given that we al­ready have in the Congress party one of the big­gest con­gre­ga­tions of pro­fes­sion­als, al­beit of an­other kind.

The point I wanted to make was dif­fer­ent. Which par­ent would com­mend to his chil­dren to em­brace one of the above-listed gentle­men as his or her moral ex­em­plar, a role model, if you please? I can hardly think of any­one, un­less of course the mod­ern­day aspi­ra­tions are lim­ited to money-mak­ing di­vorced from any con­nect with mo­ral­ity of any sort.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.