I was wrong. The ‘wave’ was for the other contender in Uttar Pradesh, where there was a leader waiting to assume office as the electorate decided to overthrow the incumbent party. The aspiration for ‘change’ translated as one for a regional alternative and not for the Congress that has, over the decades, corroded and corrupted itself into a non-existent entity on the ground. Rahul Gandhi, with a good buzz around him, was encumbered and hamstrung, with zero ground organization. He campaigned to resurrect the fortunes of his party but not as a potential chief minister who, if elected, would deliver what UP desperately needs. So the silent voter moved to ensure a win for a single party and helped deliver a comfortable majority that would give the party the opportunity to change course and rebuild Uttar Pradesh.
The Congress, in its usual arrogance, did not announce a candidate for the top job in UP, so there were no leaders to be compared. Akhilesh Yadav, in his controlled and non-aggressive manner, showed confidence and political maturity. He seemed to connect and communicate with the people of the state with a sense of ease. In contrast, the congenitally ailing Congress had been further ‘decimated’ by its own terrible political shenanigans, back-biting, personalized and crude ticket distribution, and lack of organization of the mind, body politic, even its soul. By continuing to indulge in this kind of failed politicking, senior leaders in charge of the states — who were formulating local strategies, talking out of turn about president’s rule, about Muslim minority quotas, about preference for one party alliance over others and much more — managed to swing the voter further away from the Congress, countering the positive intervention by Rahul Gandhi.
Sitting in their plush Lutyens’s Delhi homes, some in cabinet positions, these leaders have betrayed the next-generation politicians like Rahul Gandhi and others who are waiting to take charge and revamp the organization. The predictable Congress speeches laced with old-fashioned, divisive rhetoric, leaders playing with sops from the Centre, caste and minority cards, had no place in the minds of this fast-maturing electorate that was not ‘bought’ with anything except the promise of a better future made by a young, regional party leader, anchored in the state. Has a lesson been learnt or will the failed leaders of the Congress continue to create explanations for their disastrous performance? Digvijay Singh, Salman Khurshid, Mohan Prakash, J.P. Jaiswal, Beni Prasad Verma and others — fiddling about, operating from Delhi — were not persons who individually or collectively generated a feeling of comfort for the state.
In these changing times, the failed politicians must be put to pasture immediately. New blood must be infused to rekindle that much-needed passion and energy as well as to create a fresh narrative to combat the new brand of regional leaders from Punjab, UP, Bihar or Odisha. The blundering old men, living off the status quo, nepotism, perks and more, and then failing to deliver in every round, must go if the grand old party is to regain its strength and dignity. Where are the resignation papers of the general secretaries in charge of UP, Punjab, Goa or Uttarakhand? Timely and swift action is needed to counter the ponderous image of the fading party.
In this age of information, the revelations of corruption inaction, mismanagement and more of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance at the Centre has generated much anger against this party. People want to dissociate themselves from the corruption in high places and will not condone the overwhelming moral degradation any more. In this scenario, senior leaders and manipulative politics must be discarded. Rahul Gandhi can only show his paces by communicating directly with India.