Polity: Interesting times ahead
In the end, the voter proved
everyone wrong. The pollsters got it wrong. So did the media. Of
course, neither the principal winners nor the losers had the
foggiest of idea as to what the ballot box held in store for them.
The losers were left shell-shocked by the verdict. And the winners,
naturally, ecstatic they had won beyond their wildest expectations.
However we do feel sorry for the statesmanpolitician, Atal Behari
Vajpayee. Here was his last chance to go down in history on a
glorious, nay triumphant note. But the King Voter willed otherwise.
At the end of more than half a century in active politics,
Vajpayee’s career has virtually come to an end on a rather sombre
note. He deserved better from the country he has served so well all
through his long political career. But then it is in the very nature
of a diverse and not-sodiscerning electorate to sweep away the good
guys along with the bad when it is motivated by nothing loftier than
anger and apathy towards the incumbent regime.
In India, almost in
all general elections the vote is negative. The Governments are
invariably voted out with little or no concern as to who comes to
replace them. Not since 1980 has a single prime minister been
returned to power. Vajpayee was the lone exception in 1999, but then
he too has tasted the bitter fruits of anti-incumbency.
There is so much
poverty and so high expectations from the `mai baap sarkar’ that no
government is able to fulfil the heightened aspirations of the
unwashed masses. The public-funded hype over Shining India seemed to
have resulted in a strong backlash from the hungry and the poor for
whom nothing seemed to have changed despite tremendous strides made
by the country in various fields under the progressive and
forward-looking Vajpayee Government. That is why the Congress Party
would be well advised not to gloat over the inevitable corollary of
the NDA’s defeat to tom-tom the claim that Sonia Gandhi’s prime
ministerial credentials had been endorsed by the people. She may
well become the prime minister with the help of the opportunistic
leftists who have been a huge drag on the progressive and
forward-looking policies of the Central government, but the popular
mandate has still not been won by her or her party.
The point about
this election is not that it has virtually catapulted a wholly
inexperienced, untried and untested leader of the opposition in the
prime minister’s `gaddi’ but that a Ram Naik in Mumbai and a
Jagmohan in Delhi have been worsted by people who cannot hold a
candle to them in their record of public service. Change in politics
as in other walks of life, is inevitable. But change for the sake of
change might result in huge problems.
The voter has given
the thumbs up to youthful new leaders. Which given that more than
half the electorate is under the age of 30 is just as well. In sharp
contrast, Vajpayee and Co. looked old and tired who had seen better
days. They did not appeal to the MTV age group. The Shiv Sena
Supremo has a point when he said that politicians over 65 years
should call it a day. Indeed, and shouldn’t that precept be first
applicable to the Sena boss himself who though well past 70
continues to control his outfit in a vice-like grip.
In the BJP too the
change of guard is inevitable. Vajpayee and Advani might have
contested their last parliamentary election. They owe it to the
party they have nursed through thick and thin for long decades to
ensure a smooth succession. Someone relatively young with a clean
image and a sharp intellect alone can aspire confidence in a young
nation. In the coming days when the dust settles down on this
election, it is clear that the leadership issue will have to be
clinched by the BJP.
At the time of
writing, there were enough indications that a Congress-led
government would be in place in a day or two. It may be supported by
the leftists from outside since they love power without
accountability and responsibility. In all probability, the Mulayam
Singh Yadavs and Mayawatis will be watching sullenly the proceedings
from the sidelines, having forfeited their bargaining power due to
the miraculously good showing of the Congress-led alliance.
Only the brave and
foolhardy will guarantee longevity to a Sonia Gandhi-led government
supported from outside by the treacherous leftists, but the widow of
Rajiv Gandhi by occupying the highest executive office might have a
thing or two to prove to her former compatriots back in Italy and
her adopted nation where there are many vocal critics disputing her
right to prime ministership due to her foreign origins and a belated
acquisition of an Indian passport. But a more pertinent question
would be whether someone with little or no administrative experience
and virtually non-existent academic and intellectual wherewithal can
lead this country well given its chronic problems of economic and
are ahead in the Indian polity. The Congress is bound to falter in
government, particularly when it is crucially dependent for survival
on the Marxist junkies whose right place is in the dustbin of
history and not on the treasury benches of a nation seeking to
become a developed nation by 2020. If it plays its cards well, the
BJP might re-discover its elan as a formidable opposition both
inside and outside parliament.
l The Free Press Journal l