Unchanged Election Culture

All that is real is rational. But irrationality is the hallmark of Congress culture. They spent most of their energy in the 16th parliamentary electioneering by making a ‘rational’ case out of Modi’s irrational behaviour without foreseeing in their wildest imagination that the very word Modi would soon become a catch-phrase. It now appears that there is no immediate threat to Congress Party’s dynastic irrationality. The all-important Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting convened immediately after the party’s worst-ever defeat in the just concluded 16th parliamentary election was a mere formality to endorse the status quo. In the Congress family it is not really the case to level a steady gaze on the recent disgraces it faces. It is business as usual. Not quite unexpectedly both Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi offered to resign from their posts owning moral responsibility for the historic humiliation at the hands of the saffron brigade and as usual the CWC refused to oblige, reiterating their full faith in the Gandhi dynasty. Loyalists, better to say psycophants had their pet answer : it was a collective failure. And the out-going prime minister Manmohan Singh, who had all along been a titular head of a thoroughly corrupt administration, took responsibility for the short-comings at the government level. That was all they could do over the poll debacle. Finally they deliberated extensively on ‘why they lost’, without really diagnosing the virus crippling their party, only to finish the agenda on post-poll review in a hurry. Even Mr Singh didn’t take pains to explain why he failed to take strong action against so many scamstars who virtually rocked the leaky boat of Congress even before the poll process started.

Indian National Congress (INC) has already lost its national relevance. In the past it was a party of the South for some time. Then it managed to make its presence felt in parliament because of benevolence shown by the voters of the West and the East. But North, the main deciding factor in India’s parliamentary politics, that has been supplying India’s prime ministers, since the days of Nehru, has been unkind to it for long for more than one reason. And without the support of North, it cannot bounce back anytime soon, notwithstanding their grandiose revival plan as chalked out at the CWC meet. Faced with a desperate situation of survival alliance with regionalist, casteist and obscurantist forces had been the only option left before it for the last two decades or so, to cling to power. The basic problem with the Congress is that it cannot think of doing its palace politics without power. They need government power to run a party and without power they look totally hopeless. They think ‘Treasury Bench’ is their natural right, not the ‘Opposition Bench’.

The hard fact is that the 129-year-old Congress is dying. After all they have nothing to do other than fighting elections while making—or unmaking—governments. They won’t have any opportunity to test their newly devised ‘strategy’ before the beginning of the electoral process for the 17th parliament. Today this party is devoid of any ideology worth the name. It is living on the past deeds but doesn’t know how to cope with misdeeds piling over the years.

One ‘positive’ outcome of the Modi-onslaught is the irrelevance of Yadav companies in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Also, the dalit party, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) looks deserted even by the dalit community itself. Both Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP) and Mayawati’s BSP have been thriving on reverse casteism, only to keep the status quo alive. This BSP did precious little in fighting for caste annihilation though they built innumerable statues of Ambedkar as a measure to fight case oppression. They need Ambedkar to win elections but as for caste-annihilation without which caste-hierarchy will never crumble, they simply evade the issue and Amdebkar as well. Perhaps it is not in their best interest. As for Mulayam Singh Yadav’s middle caste enterprise—SP—the minority vote-bank didn’t click. Vote-bank politics cannot deliver eternally. It has its own limit. After a certain period of time it may be counter-productive.

The most humiliated face of the 16th General Election is, of course, that of the left. They have not yet taken any decision to prepare a self-critical report—or for that matter to initiate discussion on it. In truth they have nothing to discuss other than some preconceived notions that don’t tally with the reality. They hold meetings among themselves without showing any inclination to understand the problem the people face day in and day out. Over the years they could not launch a single worth-while popular movement affecting the masses. Being a part of the ruling establishment, they have long stopped speaking on the burning issues in the country. Just on the eve of the Lok Sabha Poll, they floated a forum, Chit-Fund Sufferers’ Forum in Bengal, to highlight the plight of depositors and agents. It was again a directionless movement. It could not be anything because their sole purpose was to influence the voters. Vote is over, so is their enthusiasm over chit-fund scandals.

Young generation is being attracted less towards the left. It’s a general trend across the world, but India has some specifics. And in India again, Bengal and Kerala are no longer citadels of the red. The reason is simple : People don’t see their saviours in the left. They sell some age-old worn-out cliches that have no value in the real world of widening gap between the haves and have-nots. They have long abandoned the concept of revolution or revolutionary change of society even of their kind. And now their dream of ‘parliamentary road to socialism’, in a limited way, in some areas, seem a grand utopia.

Vol. 46, No. 47, Jun 1 - 7, 2014