By Waled Aadnan:
A specter is haunting the Congress party. The specter of obsolescence. The scorching heat of summer may have descended on New Delhi, but cold winds are blowing across 24, Akbar Road as the Grand Old Party of India ruminates on its election reverses last month. In the key state of Uttar Pradesh, the magic wand of Rahul Gandhi had once again come up a cropper. For the second time in just over a year, a state in the Hindi heartland has rejected the charms of the Nehru-Gandhi scion in favour of a regional satrap.
More tests await the Congress party and Mr. Gandhi later this year in Gujarat, Delhi and the Presidential elections. But part one of this year’s electoral tug-of-war has gone decisively against the ruling party. The question then arises that who has it gone in favour of. The answer to that question is uncertain. The main Opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) only seems weakened by the poll results. Going by party president Mr. Nitin Gadkari’s remark that an election victory in Manipur (where the Congress has won decisively) counts for nothing in the dynamics of national politics, neither does one in Goa (with all due respect to the other small states as well).
If the spoils of war are counted, the big winners from March the Sixth are the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, the Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab and the Trinamool Congress by virtue of its gaining a toehold in Manipur and the greater bargaining power at the Centre it has gained at the expense of a weakened Congress. Coupled with the power enjoyed by regional parties like the Janata Dal (United) in Bihar, the Biju Janata Dal in Orissa and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in Tamil Nadu, it is hard not to notice the wave of regional parties storming to power in state after state. With two-fifths of the total Lok Sabha constituencies belonging to the above mentioned six states, the next general elections promise to change the dynamics of national politics in a major way.
There is no one theory that explains the sudden change in electoral fortunes of the national parties. Their overall gain in the 2009 LS polls had invited opinions that in 2014, the masses would entrust one party with a majority mandate. No one in their sane minds would suggest the same, barely three years down the line. Blame may be attributed to the degeneration of governance under UPA-II or the weakening charm of Mr. Clean Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh or even the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare. A combination of these factors, combined with several others, might come closer to the truth.
One particular perspective of looking at the decline of the national parties is that they have their feet in two boats simultaneously. One of neo-liberal policies in order to woo the crony capitalists who build twenty seven storey mansions in a country where the poverty line is Rs. 28.65 per capita per day, who earn massive super-normal profits through mining on land belonging to the poorest of Indians and acquired through the use of brute state force. The other boat relates to the invoking of communal identities on the basis of religion and caste in order to create vote banks and win elections. The unpopular dichotomy of two Indias which has survived since the days of the British Empire has been metamorphosed into an election strategy that is increasingly being seen through for what it is by an increasingly conscious electorate.
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