Who lost and who gained?
The Congress party affairs who can cut the Gordian knot?
The much awaited Assembly elections in 5 States, Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry are now behind us.
Modi’s two years in office needs some balanced comments. Such comments are missing in the Indian media, both pint and the electronic media. The media, we should call it now more realistically, the Indian media industry is also at the cross roads. First, there is the olden day freedom is missing in the very elite circles. The media owners and the media professionals, though belonging to the same family, in the sense they belong to the same company, nowadays the very media industry scene had changed. The TV channels are a new industry and the spirit and the working conditions now changed.
There are so many TV news channels, to take one segment, that some names like the Sun family owns so many channels and others like the one name, owned often by a politicians, political party or some weak ones owned by new entrants and there are others like the Thanthi Tamil newspaper, almost a giant industry now, the quality of the products varies. Some serious ones struggle for viewership, other thrives by entertainments, mostly film serials and also the quality of their political coverage is dismal.
So too the quality of politics. TN made big news in this election because money flowed like water or liquor, as in the TASMAC shops nearby!
We don’t know other states but Kerala, Puducherry too is not alien to money and liquor politics. As for Assam, we don’t know much.
But politics, elections have all now become dictated by money power, black money and unaccounetd money was freely distributed.
We are not sure that the Modi government is too much worried about the deterioration in the election norms.
The time might come sooner rather than later to reform the electoral system.There are many such deviations from very strict democratic norms.
Enough about the almost amoral side of practical politics for now!
As for the economic side, there are so many opinion polls to find out the popularity of the Modi regime over the past two years.
There is definitely progress of some fundamental nature under Modi. He has got some reputable experts under his belt so to say.
Also some able ministers who have changed the direction of the economy.This we welcome and applaud.
At the same time as pointed by the Times of India (TOI) whose independence we are not sure has written another editorial where it says that there is a strong bias towards what it calls crony capitalism and also crony socialism. The banking sector is not free. More capitalisations are the talk for their reforms. Also, to consider and use the PSUs for their economic reforms. For instance to ask the AIR India to fly some routes.
As if the decisions are executive!
Free market economy hasn’t found its feet, yet, in the Modi scheme of economic growth. The editorial quotes respected industry names like Uday Kotak and Adi Godrej. They, two respected names, have characterised Modi approach as paternalistic approach to economic policy making.
Anyway, these are some of the points over which, given a free atmosphere for free minds, there would be much to says and help to shape a genuine independent thinking in policy making.
Why these Assembly elections caught the imagination of many key players? For the BJP was desperate to capture Assam where there was, first, the anti-incumbency factor after 15 long years of Tarun Gogi rule. In a way, this result was much expected even from the Congress party itself, though no from that party might not have said so.
As for West Bengal, it was very much debated for the simple reason the key players was the fiery fighter Mamata who created so much controversy at every stage of her campaign.
Also, Bengal has this unique strength, in spite of the state’s many weaknesses, the presence of many public figures, the intellectual class and also the new alliance of the old enemies the Congress and the CPI (M).For intellectuals and the middle class the glamour of left Romance is still a factor and so at every stage the controversies were aplenty and so it was very interesting to participate in the discussions or get engaged as observers from far and wide.
In TN, it was much more interesting the election scenario. Here is a State where politics is a sort of magic, film stars, some were real contestants in the election and also film stars as campaigners.
Two of the leaders, one the incumbent CM and the other the aspiring hero, star Vijayakant provided enough material for observation and debate and also the other leading contender, namely M.Karunanidhi, the DMK chief was a formidable force at age 92nd offering himself as a CM aspirant for the record sixth time! Poor man!
He hit the dust for the miserably failed to gauge the mood of the voters who were even otherwise over-pampered by the flow of black money and liquor.
It would be a bit irrelevant to narrate the entire stretch of the story, the illegal cash seized was much as Rs.100 crore and more and what is still intriguing is the fact that much more money, in the custody of known supporters of the two main rivals, seized from one godown and another from a nearby house, both in the same town of Karur. Everyone knows who the two culprits are and yet to this day no one bothered to catch the persons nor is there any indication the matter might be pursued.
One thing that emerged from this election in TN is that money power was so huge that no other Indian state can match the scale of money used, nor the electoral offences that were committed.
So many complaints with the state election officer had any impact.
The TN elections were conducted with impunity and no one became wiser!
Luckily or unluckily, it depends upon who the affected party is, the contestants had to remain contented with their fate as the outcome was very much decided by the amount that was distributed to the voters.
The many methods and nuances that were adopted in the money distribution can be a subject of many studies!
The psychology of the Tamil voters is also worth studying. They, everyone, from government servants, the educated middle classes, the teachers, may be even the rural voters form affluent families might have received cash for their votes cast. The Tamil people are known for their deep religious sentiments, religious rituals etc. Yet, they also displayed an unusual insensitivity when it comes to receive bribe for votes!
The TV cameras showed many times the actual cash payments and yet nothing could be done about it.
So, the election outcome was a foregone conclusion. The contest ended as between the moneyed parties, the successful ADMK and the defeated DMK, the two parties with unlimited cash piles!
The other parties, led by veteran politicians, all lost the race.
Even one leader of any consequence, including the star-hero, Vijayakanth lost badly. So too, all the other alliance leaders.
In the nearby State of Kerala, the scene was again dramatic this time.
The Communists, the so-called Left Democratic Front, LDF won decisively and the Congress-led United Front lost.
Only the Union Territory of Puducherry the Congress won. It is of course a poor consolation.Now, after the outcome of these crucial elections, the BJP looks like a clear winner and so it says its assessment.
Much more so, it also predicts the virtual total eclipse of the Congress party. So says Arun Jaitley, the Finance Minister.
It is in this contest we have to see the internal revolt that is brewing within the Congress party.
Mr.Digvijai Singh, the General Secretary of the party has come out with the radical suggestion that enough introspection has been done by the party and it time for “a major surgery” and “serious action’ within the Congress party. This statement was not expected from within the Congress party for obvious reasons.
Sonia Gandhi is a name that is very sensitive within the country for anyone to take. So too the heir apparent Mr.Rahul Gandhi. Once you visit the AICC headquarters you would surely come to know very soon that it is not a normal place. It always gives a deserted look, many rooms always remain locked up, and the office-bearers don’t have any regular schedule. Once you start making a conversation with any of the workers there, you realise how demotivated they are and how the whole show of Sonia Gandhi office and also Rahul Gandhi office are remote-controlled by some faceless people whose exact roles are unverifiable.
Even when you meet some top leaders, as we did not long ago, Mr.Motilal Vohra and A.K.Anthony you don’t have the feeling of having opened up your mind, nor are they willing to talk with you.
It looks as if they are all there for very long; these fixers operate under many constraints.
Thus, the Congress affairs have become one of listless life for those concerned.If you read anyone of the recent books by the insiders, books by M.L.Fotedar or Natwar Singh, not to speak of others like Sharad Pawar, you can easily understand what the serious ills from which the party organisation suffers.
Now, as for Digvijay Singh I have personal experience, he is extremely forth coming, he used to reply o my letters promptly and I should have enough reasons to say why he has burst out. Sheer frustration, sheer helplessness as to what to do next.The coterie around Sonia Gandhi is one more reason why she remains so isolated.
I have no direct experience with her, because I had found that for my many letters concerning the TNCC affairs she seemed to have taken the stand that I might not matter. Fine she may be right. But from the way she had aligned with Mr.Karunanidhi over the past many years I can only conclude that she is either incapable to understand how the state politics works nor she had been misguided by others in the TN affairs. But I can say with confidence that from many of her actions as the Congress President she had chosen many times the most unsuited persons.
For instance from the way she had chosen Dr.Manmohan Singh and the close manner he had obliged her in many instances, let us take the 2-G and Coal scam, she had led the party into irreparable ruin.
Now, all this seems to be behind us.
Many other things had over taken the party.Now, with Mr.Digvijay Singh’s daring, yes, I would say it is a quiet daring step by calling for a “surgery”, he had spilled the beans.
What does such a remark mean? Honestly, he calls for Sonia to quit. Also, he also calls for a change in Rahul’s position as Vice-President.
That is the reason why he had commented on Rahul’s communication skills.Any thought among the Congressmen that other members of the family can replace the mother-son duo is also out of question. The situation is really very, very serious.
I had talked to A.K.Anthony when h was working at his Committee report to be submitted to the party. For my direct question:”Why don’t you tour the states and listen to our views, he said pointedly: There is a mandate”.
I shot back:”What mandate?” he replied:”We are given a list of people to intervene”. So, this is the sort of pre-planned interviews to prepare a pro-Sonia, pro-Rahul reports…”
Now, the situation is really grim.Singh also said that it is time that old guard, like him also, to give way!
He says:”Time has come for a new generation. We can have a Margadarshak Mandal in the Congress as in the BJP”.
Singh also knows well his own future is at stake. It is really honest of him to take the risk and come out with an honest reappraisal of his own role in the whole exercise.
What is really galling now is Singh’s comments on Rahul’s communication skills.”Modi has the gift of the gab. The “gift” is missing in Rahul. He even went on to bring in the names of Pandit Nehru and Indira Gandhi. They had vision. Rahul is “developing”.
Time and tide don’t wait for anybody!
This is the dilemma.Now ,for the first time not only Mr. Singh had touched a raw nerve he had also come out with some more critical remarks about the abilities of Mr.Gandhi ,his lack of communication skills and also his social skills.
I have my own personal experiences. Both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul are known for their social skills. They don’t receive visitors, not even Chief Ministers of her own party are given appointments. Even the current CM of her own party government in the country, Mr.Siddaramiah was not given an appointment recently when he paid a two day visit to Delhi! Why, even senior Congress leaders (I have many such instances brought to may notice) are treated shabbily by her attitudes. Why, even the breakaway groups like the Tamil Nadu Maanila Congress, a splinter group, went away and joined the Opposition alliance in TN for the simple reason, they were not given an audience by Sonia Gandhi. She never replies to letters from party men.
The Congress under her leadership for over nearly 20 years had fallen into a rut; she had become so bored or tired that the party had become a rusty machine that it had lost all its energy to survive for long in this fashion.
There is a real danger that unless some new developments take place, the party is bound to decline and wither away completely. Or, it might exist in name only like the Communist parties in many countries. Already it is becoming a joke; people call the party as a tailspin and many such unsavoury names.
It is a terrible tragedy that had befallen a grand old party with such an illustrious history.
So, what can be done now?
If I may venture nowadays something it would b something on these lines.
The Indian National Congress is a 130 year old party with a long experience with the Indian people. The party is name and ideals are embedded in the psychology of the Indian people. There are all over the country, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari the name of the Congress is recognised. It represents the mental character of the Indian people. Their patriotism, national unity and the very basic ethos of the people, toleranc, harmony and religious toleration and a sense of oneness.
We now need a new articulation of a political ideology that must stress the unique contributions of the Indian National Congress. Freedom, democracy, secularism and plurality and, in one word, unity in diversity.
This new ideology has to be articulated by many persons.
For instance, every week, on a particular day, there can be a lecture or a meet on the ideological articulations by intellectuals, both Indian as well as foreign visitors. Poets, writers, critics and intellectuals and media people.
That way some new outlook, some new articulation will emerge.
Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi can be still there, not holding formal office but as mentors. Call them by any name, they won’t take direct charge.
A new Working Committee largely composed of leaders from the states. Not like the current CWC, all handpicked people with no direct experience at the grassroots.
Dynastic rule, dynastic succession has become the normality, the “new normal”, as they say. This is unacceptable.
Even in the BJP they have found a way to accommodate the seniors. Even in the CPI (M) in Kerala, V.S.Achudanandan is elevated to high position as “Cuba’s Castro!
We have to become a bit selfless, a think of the country and the larger interests of the party.
Yes, this is surgery; let it be a painless surgery at least. Listen to reason and sense!