Congress takes a drubbing

By K.N. Pandita

Results of assembly polls in four States have come in. On Sunday, Congress party took a drubbing when it was defeated in four state elections. This will prove big morale boost for the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in advance of national elections expected by May 2014. Whether the results of impending parliamentary elections would be almost the same as in the four assembly elections, is to be accepted with reservations. We have seen in the past that Indian voter has generally matured enough to make a distinction between leadership on regional level from that on national level. Nevertheless, the results of four assembly elections do indicate a trend among the electorate for change.  

In Delhi, the BJP won 32 of the Assembly’s 70 seats, compared with 28 for Aam Aadmi and eight for Congress. In Rajasthan, it won 162 of the assembly’s 199 seats. In Madhya Pradesh, it won 165 of 230 seats. And in Chhattisgarh it won 49 of the 90 constituencies.

While BJP has maintained control of the governments in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh states, as expected, it also tossed out the Congress party in western state of Rajasthan and the capital state of Delhi. Congress had held power in Delhi for three consecutive elections.

The biggest story in the closely watched Delhi race is the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party created less than a year ago and headed by reformer Arvind Kejriwal, which campaigned against corruption and insider politics. Few predicted such a strong showing for the upstart in a nation where political dynasties are often the rule. Incidentally Am Admi Party (AAP) did not float its candidates in other three states that went to the polls. 28 seats captured by AAP are mostly from earlier Congress constituencies and a few from the BJP constituencies. “These are historic results,” said Kejriwal, 45, a bureaucrat-turned-politician amid loud cheers from supporters at the party’s crowded office. “This is not a victory of Aam Aadmi Party. It is a victory of the people.”

Aam Aadmi’s second-place showing pushed Congress into a humiliating third place in the capital. “In Delhi, we accept the verdict and will examine the results,” said Congress leader Jayanthi Natarajan. “We will find out what has gone wrong.”This is the patent reaction that has come from Congress sources. But evidently, it is only a face saving otherwise who is there in or out of Congress who does not know the reasons for its debacle. Analysts say the new party’s strong showing is a reaction to years of national Congress rule marked by massive corruption, scandals, weak policies and economic downturn. Congress officials want to assert that the results only reflect local concerns. The Congress party has been in power for 15 years in Delhi, which is treated as a state for political purposes.

In a potentially bad omen for both major national parties, the Aam Aadmi party has pledged to run in national elections. Some, however, question how great the party’s appeal might be beyond the capital. The party strikes a chord with the public is what the party stalwarts will say but political analysts keeping close watch on party activities doubt if AAP can create a dent in the national circle, though of course, they could surely win some urban seats.

Undoubtedly Indian voter is steadily coming of age as he shows signs of maturing of political thinking. The current poll results of four assemblies and more particularly in Delhi show that people are for a change. Congress’ woe has been that some sensational cases of corruption and scams came to light during its rule and it did not prove strong enough to handle these in a way that would show its willingness to eradicate the menace from the polity. The way it handled Anna Hazare-led mass movement against corruption put a question mark on Congress’ credibility as major mainstream national party willing to take on the challenge of corruption.

The results also reflect the erroneous thinking of Congress that it is the only custodian of the rights and interests of Muslim minority in the country. The Congress has been under an absolutely wrong impression that pandering to Muslim minority vote will win the day for the party. The ground realities show that it is the economic development, eradication of illiteracy and ushering in a common agenda for the Indian nation that make clear impression on all sections of society. The biggest blunder of Congress ideologues is that of labeling BJP as a communal party while in practice doing all it can to induct communal vote in its polling strategy. From the results of polling in Western Rajasthan constituencies where Muslims are in a concentrated number Congress should learn that even Muslims minority voters in far flung and backward areas, too, have become conscious that they would not want to be swayed by communal politics and its lip service.

Congress is the recognized largest mainstream political party of the country with a glorious history and past. It is part of our history and as such it has a special place. Unfortunately, some Congress leaders have gradually lost their identity owing to corrupt practices in which they have been allegedly indulging in or have become accomplices in one or the other way, and then trying to wriggle out of it through suspicious ways. The party has also lost energy for democratic dispensation at all levels just because it has been overshadowed by dynastic aura from which its stalwarts are scared to come out. The coterie shunts out seniors among the leadership who could deliver the goods and raise their credibility among the people.

But we would like to sound a word of caution to the winning BJP and AAP also. They should not get swayed by the euphoria of success they have met with at the husting. People who voted for them and the voters are in large majority, mean to convey that they want delivery and not pontification. Ordinary people are getting crushed by rising prices, inflation and unemployment. They will inherit many serious problems from their predecessors and the litmus test for them is to bring comfort to the poor people of this country. More than the Congress that has taken a drubbing they have to be conscious of their responsibilities and duties to the people of this country. That alone will help them maintain the momentum of success in the parliamentary elections of 2014.

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