The prospect of witnessing a fiercely fought general election in 2014 between two largest political outfits with Modi and Rahul at their respective helms, had been considerably dampened with the drubbing of congress in the recently concluded assembly elections held across four states. The reluctance of congress in apportioning the blame of defeat to its would be knight had many pundits seething in exasperation and suggesting that revival of party fortune could come about only if Rahul takes a backseat and the likes of Scindia and Pilot are thrust ahead as campaign managers. Atleast, this way one would know where the accountability lies. Humbly accepting the verdict, Rahul again threw the hat in the ring by announcing an impending restructuring in the party, stressed on establishing a connect with masses the Kejriwal way and promised unimaginable slew of measures to put his party back in reckoning. No matter how incredulous this may sound, the palpable exuberance of the nation to ascertain who shall triumph when these two political honchos lock horns, has once again rekindled. This has been stoked by reports that Congress could probably anoint Rahul as Prime Ministerial candidate in the AICC meet scheduled on 17 January, 2014.
Dubbed as having a finger on the pulse of masses through his sojourns across the length and breadth of rural India, knowing their problems like the back of his hand and heir apparent to self proclaimed pro-poor party, Rahul has repeated failed to win over their allegiance especially after 2009 despite rolling out flagship programs like MGNREGS, Food security bill etc. The most predictable reason offered for poll debacles in U.P. and other states is attributed to lack of organizational structure and need to build up strong cadres. Well, If Rahul being the chairperson of Youth congress for several years could not fill up the structural vacuum and mobilize his cadres in such long span, the party overhaul he wishes to implement just four months prior to election 2014 certainly seems a tall task and not without further widening of fissures between young blood and old vanguards.
Unfortunately, congress has lost ground in few southern pockets that once were its strongholds for taking a call on contentious issues. Andhra pradesh, which for years had been a congress bastion would prove very difficult to redeem owing to bifurcation of the state and emergence of rival faction YSR congress which enjoys immense sway in the coastal region of Andhra and expected to leave congress way behind in electoral fray. On other hand, in Tamilnadu, DMK has decided not to get into a pre-poll alliance with Congress after facing rather tumultuous experience at their hands in 2G scam with Raja and Kanimozhi landing behind bars. Others who walked away from the coalition include TMC and MIM, further reducing the choice for congress in scouting partners for support and with anti-incumbency being a huge factor this time around, a comprehensive rout seems imminent.
While the expediency and volte-face in approach adopted by initiating dialogue with Anna or requesting different party’s for extending support in passing Lokpal bill is appreciable, the skeptics see it as too little too late. Rahul certainly is attempting an image makeover by voicing opinion notably on supreme court ruling on Gay rights, trashing ordinance for protecting convicted MPs and MLAs from disqualification etc. But, the critics never for a moment cease to forget his disposition of maintaining stoic silence on issues of national/international importance, reticence to media interactions and not giving an insight into his mind . Though he could still cover his tracks gradually in coming months, the most discomfiting and loaded baggage of corruption that UPA-2 is leaving behind wouldn’t be easy to shrug off from public memory. The long list of scams(2G, Commonwealth, Coal Gate, Aadarsh etc) resulting in huge loses to state’s exchequer, are so deeply entrenched that nation seems in all likelihood made up its mind to bequeth power to BJP.
This assumption would be too far fetched since their road to forming a government is not sans glitches either. Securing an absolute majority without a strong presence in southern states and hindi heartland of U.P. which sends largest number of MP’s to parliament is virtually impossible. Stiching post poll alliances for BJP shall be a litmus test as they stand alienated by Nitish’s JDU to whom rally around a polarizing figure and PM nominee like Modi is now untenable. Other regional forces harping on secular credentials wouldn’t associate with right wing plank having a seemingly divisive agenda. Barring AIADMK and TDP, there is no inkling of a slant towards BJP from other formations. Thus, cobbling up requisite numbers to stake claim will be an uphill task unless the Messiah of development and torch bearer of progress for middle classes, manages 180 plus seats on his own steam. Attempt to realign with Yadurrapa’s party who was made to quit on charges of corruption, an issue they have been Chastising Congress for, smacks of dual standards on principles that they themselves find hard to hold onto.
The growth and development story of Gujrat certainly is Modi’s crowning glory, but the hyperbole surrounding it has repeatedly been dismissed as Gujrat was always a flourishing state even under the congress regime. The soaring popularity on social media among the youth, yet another aspect that he gloats about was also busted by the Cobra Post sting exposing Tech companies managing Modi’s campaign in exchange for money by creating false identities. The halo around Modi factor hasn’t had any profound impact on BJP’s performance in Delhi as AAP managed to garner the vote share of congress and formed the government despite being second largest party. Major credit for their stupendous run in Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan was ascribed to good governance by incumbent Chief Ministers and anti-establishment vote respectively.
Though Modi has been relentless in addressing rallies to make the campaign more aggressive, many opine that he has reached the crescendo pretty early. Does one know Modi’s vision for India? Political, economic and social agenda of BJP should form the crux of his discourse and swing the public opinion in their favour, rather than scornful personal barbs. What is most disgraceful is the crass tone he employs in criticizing the opposition and some of its prominent leaders in his nasal twang. Certainly, his demeanour lacks the persona that dignified and graceful Leaders are made of.
The ensuing general elections 2014 would baffle the nation in choosing between Rahul – Inexperienced, idealistic enigma who has shunned responsibility all through and owes his candidature for the top job to family legacy and Modi – an authoritarian leader with third tenure under his belt as Chief minister of Gujrat, carrying a blemish of Godhra riots which he cannot wish away and regarded as panacea of all problems facing the country by some sections of society. Neither of them fit the bill for premiership. A fractured mandate with BJP emerging as the single largest party is a distinct possibility. As one congressman put it, Congress could well take their badly bruised image and despicable performance in assembly elections as an opportunity to introspect, revamp their party and rise like a phoenix whenever subsequent opportunity (beyond 2014) presents itself. Perhaps, it is their turn to play constructive opposition and scoff at every instance BJP falters, with a wry smile.