And, what some of us had expected to happen in the recent elections became a rude reality of rout for the Congress, a collective that neither speaks to India nor listens. Hammered by voters across four states, this party — led by the Congress president and the vice-president who are from the Lok Sabha, with the senior conductors of strategy and politics all primarily from the Upper House of Parliament, who are unable to win a seat to the Lok Sabha — has become the contemporary political symbol of ‘how-not-to-do-it’. To witness the slaughter of the Congress without the prime minister standing up to take the flak, leaving it solely to his party chiefs and chief ministers to respond, only emphasizes the huge mistake of making an unelected individual the prime minister of a large democracy. By deviating from the most important tenet of the system, that of election to the office ‘by the people, for the people’, the democratic process has been diluted.
In sharp contrast, a woman in conservative Rajasthan has made history with an unprecedented victory, securing, with seeming ease, 162 seats for her party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, in an assembly of 200. Vasundhara Raje began working at winning the day her party agreed to her candidature and she relentlessly toured every corner of her state, talking and listening to her constituents. Having built the firm foundation for her spectacular success, she has broken all records and delivered a historic win. Watching Rajasthan as I did, it was clear in July that Raje was going to cross the figure of 130 seats. She had read the mind of Rajasthan across all sections and factions. She was single-minded in her pursuit.
The Congress, as usual, was in supreme denial, complacent and condescending, ignorant of the resolve of the people. The incumbent chief minister had, after four years of lazy and corrosive governance, doled out free medicines and aid, benefits for the elderly, land distribution with the paperwork done, and had suddenly acted on all the pending-forever promotion files, as is the wont of those in power to try and remain in their gaddis. Surely, that is what the government is required to do for the people? It is not special or unusual. That very same Ashok Gehlot government has been reduced to 21 odd seats. One can only salute the people who voted out an inept set of rulers and made a clear statement — do not mess with us, insult our minds and take us for granted. This is a lesson that the Congress has either to learn and act upon or quit the political space.
The debacle in Delhi was different from the one in Rajasthan. Here, Sheila Dikshit had completed three terms as chief minister for 15 uninterrupted years. In many countries, candidates cannot stand for office for more than two terms and in that context, she has much to show. However, the mismanagement of the Central government, the profound anger against the bungling United Progressive Alliance government and, therefore, the Congress, have punctured the party in Delhi. Dikshit has done more than her due for Delhi. She will be missed as Delhi descends into anarchy and possibly another election at the time of the general elections.
The Aam Aadmi Party’s victory shows a deep anger against the venal politics that has enveloped India. This country is looking for a cleansing of politics and governance, a radical overhaul. Both the BJP and the Congress, if they have fire in their belly, can deliver a rapid clean-up and initiate a rewriting of the many manuals that have corrupted society and poisoned our lives. What prevents them from fast-tracking the reinvention? Harping on the ‘welfare’ done is no good when asking for votes, because ensuring that is the role of the government. It is a given. What, then, is the future plan of action for the two national parties?