20 May, 2014

The Indian National Congress: Is it relevant for India?

The past is a 20 : 20 Vision, but in it lies the key to a future that is not visible - Anonymous

On 16th May 2014, what was only till then merely writing on the wall became a humiliating reality. The INC slumped to its most crushing defeat ever in its century old history and being in the electioneering fray since 1952. Out of the total 542 seats of the Indian Parliament, the INC got 44, its ally the NCP has 4. The Opposition the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and its allies have secured 48% vote share and a total seat tally of 336 seats, while the BJP on its own secured a simple majority by winning 282 seats from the required 272 numeric.

The numbers tell their own story but the manner in which they lost is an epic on its own. The opposition organized its election juggernaut under the leadership of Narendra Modi ( now the Prime Minister in waiting ) was a study in election management. A stiffer reply was required to the military style, American Presidential campaign approach of the BJP which was extremely clear on
• Making Development & good Governance as the primary issues.
• Corruption as an issue, the scandal tainted Congress already was a ready-made target and the BJP never let the voter forget till the voting day.
• A State wise focus and customization of the sales pitch by the BJP. In UP under the mentor-ship of Amit Shah they played the caste card selectively keeping Modi away from it, Modi could then attack the Mamta Government in Kolkata on the Bangladeshi illegal immigrant issue, Kashmir and article 370 and its relevance for today, Andhra Pradesh it tied with TDP and took the moral high ground in the split state, and the BJP ruled states of Goa, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh & MP delivered totally. The screws were tightened in Maharashtra driving the NCP & INC alliance up the wall on two main issues of corruption and farmer suicides. It was spectacular in its execution. Every single point in the campaign hit the bull’s eye.
• The strategic use of the new media namely taking the campaign on Television and Social Media given that 80 million of voter base was going to be added. The “first time voter”, the youth constituted about 10%of the  and total voterbase and additionally about 3-5% of the young and professionals, all of them who loudly communicate here. They could see only Modi and his campaign plugs creating a loud sound byte that resonated and multiplied. Modi the messiah, the salvation the deliverer. It was very clever. 

Where did the Congress Fail?
• Arrogance and Hubris of the leadership. Instead of taking the lead and putting forth the good work done and there has been work, the Congress failed to communicate.
• Instead of looking at media and its own proper marketing, they took their own Brand value and the Voters acceptance for granted.
• One could confidently make a claim that the INC was clueless about what was happening on the ground and entrusted their leadership into the hands of a callow perpetual debutante, Rahul Gandhi, who had already cost them UP in the state assembly poll in 2012. This was by far their biggest mistake. Nothing can be worse to a Party than having a loser for a leader, he doesn't charge up the rank and file; he has no perspective or clarity of thought and hence does not know what’s relevant or the need of the hour. Projecting him against a seasoned guy only added to the luster on Modi.
• Corruption Scandals and their taint could not be effectively defended or washed off. Manmohan Singh’s haplessness especially in his second tenure came out even more starkly.  Narsimha Rao, Singh’s one time boss also was not a communicative man as far as the media goes, but he was a leader and on that front there were no doubts. It was a thought leadership coupled with a politically savvy brain, there was none on exhibit here.
There would be innumerable reasons attributed for why one lost and the other won. Suffice it to say the nation gave them a chance over two terms now and were clearly not happy with them. The Congress paid for it and how.

The moot question is Modi’s clarion call on “Congress Mukt Bharat”.
Is that a possibility? Is there anything that the Congress is doing to prevent it? Does India need the Congress at all?

Introspection Congress Style : 

The INC went into a huddle as every party goes into when they lose. Then they come out with spectacularly profound words for the media when questioned, sample some here...
a) We clearly need to introspect on why this happened. (Vapid)
b) We have done good work but failed to communicate it to the people (Pure brazenness)
c) We only missed out on seats but do also look at our vote share (Even more brazenness)
d) The responsibility is collective and the Rahul –Sonia Gandhi leadership can alone really not be blamed.(Denial)
e) They still are our leaders.(Delusion, Fait Accompli ??)

Did all of these things happen yesterday? Yes they did? Did Congress really appear contrite, hurt or humiliated enough to come out fighting? From yesterday’s meeting it certainly did not give that impression? Is the same lack luster leadership going to continue and the only spice that the Congress may add in the name of change would be to add Priyanka Gandhi-Wadra’s name to rally around? She looks like her grandmother but does she have the charisma, political acumen, ruthless single mindedness and gravitas to effect the turnaround that Indira managed in 1980 ? With her few appearances in Amethi looks seriously doubtful plus she comes with her own baggage called Robert Wadra. Her own chances of winning an election with him around are bleak let alone springboard the turnaround.
A functioning democracy, especially when it has neighbors of friendly (sic) disposition like the ones we are saddled with ( Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka ) & with whom or on whose soil we have engaged in actual wars albeit carried out military action in the distant and near past, needs a very strong leadership to counter them and a strong opposition to maintain the balance. 

This is not only applicable for security but for other issues as well. Majoritarian polity can have a tendency to fly off the handle unfettered & unchecked. This is where a constructive strong opposition plays a role. A rational voice of opposition ensures policies and bills that get presented, debated, to later become acts or law are thoroughly examined on all sides for probity, relevance and utility. Today with the Congress decimated the same roles need/can be performed by regional parties coming together. We do have three major state players in Mamta Bannerjee, Jayalalitha & Navin Patnaik who have kept the in-form Modi from totally breaching their bastions. The other option which could have been AAP has been rendered irrelevant with just 4 seats and that too from a single state. AAP needs to go down its own introspection route.

For the Democracy of India an engaging opposition is needed sure. but there is no compulsion on the part of the political ethos that this should have to only be the Congress. It can be the Congress or any other party with their mandate. 

Mahatma Gandhi in 1947 had suggested that now that the country had won its freedom, the Congress can be disbanded, its utility and relevance is finished. The leaders then disagreed. Should the Congress persist in the blithe introspection style it is exhibiting so far without undergoing real metamorphosis, It faces immediate disarray and certain extinction where "disbandment" as the Mahatma had suggested in 1947 would not even be required. It would implode all on its own. 


Anonymous said...

Lovely read Kau. Congress is faced with a who will bell the cat scenario. Someone needs to demonstrate courage and tell Gandhis to take a walk. They have capable guys. Anyway for now, we all hope for a great administration from Modi... Som

kau kau goes the crow said...

Yeah...Thanks Som :-)

Smita Mulmuley said...

Kau.....very well written....Do appreciate.


kau kau goes the crow said...

Thanks Smita :-)

madhu said...

Excellent analysis kau ...u ought to be on tv no ? Great writing ! Loved it

Dutts said...

Nice Kau...resonates

kau kau goes the crow said...

Thank You Madhu... TV pe aur mai, OK now that you have endorsed me, jana to banta hai wahan :-)

But then I go to the mirror to comb my hair & it tells me otherwise...it says u may very well think you are Brad Pit but u ain't :-)so simmer down Kau :-) and I lose my bubbles and revert to my placid calm serene self ...like the Buddha :-)

kau kau goes the crow said...

Hey Sanjay...Glad u liked it. The political jamboree has been all around us over the past few months....and the mind wanders, like it did now looking at the moronic prince...the sheer daftness of this guy is so amazing that I kept wondering, isko sach me lagta hai that Congress is immortal and he would be back just as easily the next time....and then it all came spilling out :-)

jb said...

Its interesting. Let Rahul lead his life, Let Priyanka take care of Vadra and Soniaji retire. Congress if ichange o live longer then itself needs to practice democracy and not auto or hypocracy. If Rahul and Sonia are not responsible then who is? Media and event managers? Congress by not accepring their resignation have proved that Things will not change. We indians are too habituated to maruti cars, nehru clan and ji hajoori....time to cuange

Raghu S Iyer said...

Kau! Perfectly depicted. I would like to highlight one aspect which went against the INC big time this election, which is the secular card. They stuck on to it not realising that the new generation including BJP have moved ahead of such an agenda. In days to come, we will realise how BJP will further shrug off this tag with relevance of good & proven governance and development.And that would prove to be the major catalyst in what you rightly anticipate an 'implosion'. After all we all dream and hope for the best as one India!!

Priya said...

KN the trouble with Congress is that it is still looking at India in the context of only India, its caste and religion ... the world order has changed.
The people are more rounded and their exposure to the world outside of India is huge. Even the labour class travels to countries in the Gulf, Singapore n a lot of Middle class are travelling either for work or kids living overseas.
We see that the Leader of the INC is not ready to take cahrge. Frankly he seems forced into the job. As for Priyanka, frankly forget the baggage, does she have a view on India as a whole?? havent heard yet and doubt it. My Sons 19 n 17 have one.
Rajiv had to takeover bcoz Indira was killed.. absurd enough... it did not stop.. Sonia took over bcoz Rajiv was killed...backdoor though.. are we a joke of a Nation ? She incubated till her son could walk in. Rahul who looks like my son who i push to do something he just isnt wanting to. Much as we may lament the fall of the INC they need to reinvent themselves and cant keep the "Secular hain toh baki se dariye" ponit of view.
Yeah the polarisation might show up once in a while, internally and thanks to neighbours, and govts will need to handle it, but i guess as a country we have started moving away from it. INC needs a new tag line n a willing leader.

SA said...

I really enjoyed reading your views!

Its was foolish to put a lamb to compete against a lion. Congress truly deserved this defeat.