December 25, 2012
Post-debacle, Congress finds reasons to rejoice
Author: A Surya Prakash
Although the ruling party at the Centre has been comprehensively beaten in the Assembly election in Gujarat, its leaders are busy spinning the yarn that the party actually performed wonderfully
The cycle of victory and defeat is part of democratic karma and the Indian voter remorselessly hammers this point home year after year, but some parties like the Congress simply refuse to learn this basic lesson. That is why leaders of this party were so petty and graceless and behaved in a manner that was devoid of democratic etiquette when the Gujarat Assembly election results came in last week.
Unlike Mr Premkumar Dhumal, the defeated Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh who greeted his opponent, not one leader of the Congress had the decency to congratulate Mr Narendra Modi, who rode back to power for the third time in Gujarat. Instead, several of them advanced the most convoluted arguments to run down the winner and to deny him victory. The biggest joke on results- day was of course the statement of Union Minister for Finance P Chidambaram. He proclaimed with glee that since the Congress had improved its tally (by two seats) and since the BJP had not crossed 117 — the number of seats it held in the outgoing Assembly — the Congress was
“a clear winner in Gujarat”. The results (BJP — 115, Congress — 61), according to him, showed how exaggerated the claims of the BJP were. Also, by some strange reasoning which he alone seems to possess and understand, Mr Chidambaram claimed that while the BJP had won the State, large sections of the population in Gujarat “felt left out”. The Congress argues that when the BJP is in power, the religious minorities get a raw deal. On December 20, the Finance Minister claimed that many more communities felt disenfranchised — “Saurashtra feels felt behind; the tribals feel left behind”. From where did he get this gyan? How on earth can any party bag 115 seats (constituting 62 per cent) in the 182-member Assembly after excluding Saurashtra, the tribals and the minorities in a State like Gujarat? The hollowness of this argument is borne out by the fact that, while Saurashtra accounts for 54 seats, as many as 26 seats are reserved for Scheduled Tribes in this State, and there are over 30 seats in which the Muslim vote counts for more than 20 per cent.
But, Mr Chidambaram was not alone. There were several others who were on this delusory trip and in denial. Union Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal declared most ungraciously that, though Mr Modi ran a 3D campaign, he had secured only a 2D victory. These remarks stem from the Congress’s skewed sense of victory and defeat in Gujarat. It believes that since the BJP did not cross 117, it was “defeated”, although one needs just 92 seats for a clear majority in the Gujarat Assembly. Also, by the same token, since the Congress had 59 in the previous House, any increment would constitute a “victory”. The persistence with which so many Union Ministers kept using this strange yardstick to assess the electoral outcome in that State is indicative of the growing trepidation in the Congress about having ‘NaMo’ (the acronym that Mr Modi’s fans have given him) as its main opponent in 2014. They are already conceding that he is a formidable rival. Contrary to Mr Chidam- baram’s claims, the BJP did well in every region of the State and secured support from every social segment. Despite the Keshubhai Patel factor, it was way ahead of the Congress in Saurashtra. Yet, Mr Chidambaram says Saurashtra feels left out!
The BJP also picked up a majority of the 40 seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, as also a majority in Central and South Gujarat and in both the rural and urban areas. Its overall vote share was around 48 per cent, a clear eight per cent ahead of the Congress. Poll analysts found that the BJP had won most of the seats even in the 24 Assembly constituencies that were the worst hit in the 2002 riots. In constituencies having a sizeable Muslim vote (over 20 per cent), the BJP bagged 70 per cent of the seats. The Congress was completely routed in urban constituencies and performed poorly even in constituencies dominated by the Scheduled Tribes and the Muslims. So, obviously, the people do not buy the theory that the Congress is “inclusive”, but the BJP is not.
Also, such is the Congress’s commitment to secularism and inclusive growth that it never spoke about the post-Godhra riots of 2002 in which a large number of Muslims were killed. Strangely, throughout the campaign the party never uttered the M word. Ms Sonia Gandhi had described Narendra Modi as “Maut ke Saudagar” (Merchant of Death) in 2007, thereby holding him wholly responsible for the riots that broke out in 2002. However, strangely, she chose not to put this label on him in 2012. What are we to make of this? Modi is no longer the Maut ke Saudagar? Has the Congress exonerated him? Although everyone knew that the Gujarat Assembly election was due at the end of 2012, the Congress failed to get its act together in time for the big contest with Mr Modi. It did not position a strong State leader to counter the Chief Minister, nor did it stitch up clever electoral alliances that could have meant an accretion to its vote share. For example, the Congress secured 38 per cent of the votes as against 49.12 per cent of the BJP in the 2007 Assembly poll. This time around, the party has got 40 per cent of the vote (an increase of two per cent), while the BJP’s vote share is down by one per cent to 48.
Thus the gap between the two parties has narrowed to eight per cent. Mr Keshubhai Patel may have lost badly, but he appears to have bagged over three per cent of the votes. These figures show that with some clever electoral engineering, the Congress could have given Mr Modi a credible fight. But the party was so dispirited that it chose to rest its guns on the shoulders of NGOs and social activists. Even its so-called national leaders — Ms Gandhi and Mr Rahul Gandhi — registered only a token presence in the State during the campaign. Here again, the party ensured that the Gandhis campaigned largely in the party’s bastions. Having done this, they proclaimed that the party had won every seat Mr Rahul Gandhi had canvassed in! Someone who heard a Union Minister saying this, asked, “Why didn’t they send him all over Gujarat then?”
December 20, 2012
Narendra Modi’s thumping victory in the Gujarat state assembly election doesn’t come as a surprise to dispassionate observers. Honestly, I had come to the conclusion a fortnight ago that Modi will do exceedingly well, an impression which I shared with experienced journalists in Delhi who apparently thought otherwise.
Already there are caveats being put on his huge victory — that no ‘open skies’ await him, that he’s been ’successfully contained’, etc. Oh, these Delhi-based upper class elites!
Setting aside prejudices, it is crystal clear that Modi is a grassroots politician with mass base. There is a different touch that such politicians can bring to bear on governance. Won’t it be a good thing for the Bharatiya Janata Party to be led by a mass leader? Come to think of it, Modi has no peers as a mass leader in any of our national parties.
Modi didn’t render apologies. He didn’t put up a single Muslim candidate. He sought acceptance for what he was. Period. Yet he got a mandate from all sections of people — Patels and non-Patels alike — and from all regions, including Saurashtra.
This being the state of play, is it tenable to do Modi bashing? In a democracy, the ultimate touchstone is people’s acceptance. Modi has triumphantly passed that test. It is no small matter to win 3 state elections in a row — and still maintain the level of majority support.
At the end of the day, which political party has not played some sectarian card for electoral purposes one time or another? Alliances of convenience are a sensible thing to do in Kerala politics. No big shakes if Congress is in alliance with the Muslim League in Kerala.
So, where is the problem? Again, haven’t there been occasions outside Gujarat when the state machinery remained inert and refused to act to curb mob violence?
Haven’t the so-called ’secular-minded’ parties exploited communal riots? Some say it is happening right now in Uttar Pradesh, which is, ironically, ruled by an impeccably ’secular-minded’ party.
Modi should be duly recognized as a national leader. Let the people decide whether he has the credibility to be India’s prime minister. Modi bashing increasingly looks sheer petulance.
Posted in Politics.
Tagged with Narendra Modi.
By M K Bhadrakumar – December 20, 2012
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suresh chaurushiya says
Bhadrakumar has impeccable secular credentials, and his views on Modi do not go against his long held secular beliefs. You sound like a parrot who has been taught to repeat popular cliche’s fed to you by the psedo secular media and vested anti Modi/BJP politicians. Have some original thinking for God’s sake. Even many Muslims in Gujarat voted for Modi – are you now going to say they are not “real Muslims”? Now le’s talk about why they vote for Modi.
Show me one politician in Indian politics who has not looted public funds except Modi. Show me one politician who comes close to being as capable an administrator as Modi. Gujarat has seen no communal riot since Godhra, and if you know anything about Gujarat politics pre Modi – politicians incited and abeted communal riots to gain minority votes. These are the reasons why Gujaratis voted for Modi. What makes you think you are smarter or more aware than majority of Gujaratis who overwhelmingly and democratically voted for Modi.
Now let’s talk about the most rediculous stale argument comparing Modi to Hitler. Are you out of your mind? Do you know who Hitler was and what he did prior to getting in power and once he got to power? Do you think using these stale arguments makes you sound informed? I saw anti Modi campaign during last election and they sounded more hateful towards Modi than Modi ever did. I have nevr heard Modi speak of Muslims the way Hitler did about Jews – Ther are no armed storm troopers and brown shirts roaming around night time terrorising minorites and opponents. Sure he is anti-Pakistan. Aren’t you? The nation of Pakistan has only one goal – to destroy India and it’s secularism. You call yourself secularist – shouldn’t you resist Pakistan the way it turned out? There is more to say, but I think you got my drift. You are probably capable of figuring out my possible background. There are a whole lot of secular minded very well educated Gujaratis well informed on world history, and we also are for Modi. So, stop insinuating Modi supporters are mainly Hindi media following bigots. Get off your high horse and stop being condenscending towrards Modi and his supporters. We are intellectuals also – at least compared to routine pedestrian pseudo secularist intellectuals like yourself. Mr. Bhadrakumar, you have changed my opinion of you as a knee jerk pseudo secularist. Bravo!
This is the first time I have felt a biased piece of writing from you. This is the way of thinking, which must have also prevailed in Germany just before Hitlor’s rise to power. You are absolutely wrong. In the guise of populism and democracy you cannot sanction the rise of a butcher on the throne.
Mind you this will be a death blow to communal harmony of India