Rs. 1,76,000 crores and counting! The scam is the biggest in the country ever – or rather, the sum total of all the other scams (that have been exposed) put together, multiplied by two and more! If not a joint parliamentary committee probe now, then when? A great democracy is one with a thriving opposition. After the last elections, I had raised a question. Is this the end of the road for the BJP for long? It looked so. BJP was stuck on its Hindutva mantra, while the Congress promised youth, which looked progressive and could connect with the masses better! After all, the Hindus themselves are so co-existential that they don’t like any communal stress in their lives. But then, complacency is the mother of all failures. And failure is the mother of all successes! Congress did two big blunders. Firstly, in a haste to promote Rahul Gandhi as its future leader – and in its fear that charismatic speakers like Jyotiradiya or Sachin Pilot or Milind Deora may overshadow the son – the Congress started destroying its biggest trump card, the youth factor, which had made it look so bright. The Congress saw to it that none of them had the courage to hog any limelight or be in any platform of importance; so much so that the public has virtually forgotten Congress’ youth brigade. And the truth is whatever the slavish media in India writes (it praises every rare semi-meaningful word that Rahul says as if it’s straight from Julius Ceaser). Rahul Gandhi, unfortunately, is still not good enough to single-handedly lead the Congress yet. Like they have done with Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Congress could have made best use of Rahul as the silent guy, while the other better speakers managed the party.
The second mistake is perhaps bigger and more dangerous. Protecting a dynasty may ruin a party but abetting corruption ruins the nation. The Congress ruined its Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s personal image of crystal clear integrity by entering into a series of mega scams. A majority of population in India, being illiterate, doesn’t understand policies much; but they understand ‘chori’. I believe a conspiracy by V. P. Singh created a wave in India which made him the Prime Minister from a nobody, thanks only to an allegation of corruption that he could make the public believe in. Rajiv was a man of definite personal integrity and was highly progressive and had started an anti-corruption drive in India against Indian businessmen. V.P. Singh was a friend of the industry, being a past commerce minister, and catching the moment, he made the Bofors allegation. Rajiv – a man of great progressive thoughts, great charisma and a Gandhi who had earlier swept the elections on a massive sympathy wave – lost the elections. I would say for no reason but a wave around corruption that the masses were falsely made to believe. Rajiv Gandhi, I believe, was personally not corrupt (for party funds, even the most honest politician depends on sources; and Rajiv might have depended on a single alternative instead of a number of Indian businessmen). But can I say the same about the current Congress? Well, only a joker can. Everyone else knows what’s happening in the Congress. Yes, there is a Manmohan Singh who is clean. But he sits atop a pile of corrupt people. CWG, Adarsh, 2G, it goes on... personal wealth creation at its best; and wealth being stacked offshore. The Supreme Court rightly asked, was the Prime Minister sleeping? Being personally clean as a leader is only half the job done. You have to make a system that cleans up the whole system.
And in this failure of Congress to provide clean governance, comes the hope for BJP and NDA for 2014. Forget Hindutva; concentrate on the massive dacoity of India. In every sphere. The masses understand it and they are totally convinced today that the UPA has started rotting inside out. There seems to be a sudden wave in the Congress on why should Mukesh Ambani remain the only one with 3 lac crore rupees. Gone are the days of the ‘hundred crore’ ministers. If figures are to be believed, today the key ministers are raking in thousands of crores. The country is being looted and sold off to the highest bidder... Oops, I got it wrong here – the lowest bidder, to be precise, who gives the highest kickback. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to accept and tolerate this. And this is where the need of opposition in a democracy comes in. The BJP needs to keep up its demand for a JPC probe. Take to the streets but the JPC is a must. And the probe must be totally transparent with complete media access during hearings. That’s the way it happened in Watergate, the Iran Contra, the Clinton case. That’s how it happens in real democracies. With the Assange case, it’s clear that America is unfairly using ownership of web domains – controlled by America – to close down various websites in order to hound and shut off WikiLeaks. India could lead the way in showing what a democracy is about for a change.
The JPC is also the only way everyone can be brought to the questioning table. Every other agency can be manipulated and managed in this country by the party in power. As I wrote in my previous editorial on the Radia tapes, the Indian media is right now too busy doing what it does best: go behind glamourised cases and magnify them to grab eyeballs and totally mislead and misinform the public. The part which was leaked till then proved nothing. There are lobbyists everywhere. The real issue here is that the government is caught in a web of corruption – perhaps facilitated by a lobbyist. Here we are talking about the issue of Rs.1,76,000 crores; and there we are speaking of a few stories that were being attempted to be planted here and there... What a mind blowing diversion from the real issue. It’s hilarious the way the media is happily going on and on bashing individual journalists (glamourous, easy preys and perfect vent for pent up jealousies), who cannot hit back, instead of hitting out at the real people who are behind this scam. What the opposition and media need to do right now is demand for the JPC probe, for that’s what the Indian masses need and want. Of course, a few weeks back, I myself wrote that our Parliamentarians have no right to waste the taxpayers’ money due to non-functioning of the Parliament. But as the magnitude of the scam gets unearthed, it’s clear that there’s more of tax payers’ money at stake in the scam than in the non-functioning of the Parliament. The masses, the tax payers, they have a right to a clean regime and the opposition must help them get their rights. That’s what makes a functional pro-people democracy. And why not? After all, this perhaps is the sure-shot route for the NDA to be back in power in 2014 – as I said, nothing works with the aam junta better than the corruption plank.
Let’s get in a little bit of analytics here. There are two ways in which Congress can hope that UPA comes to power in 2014 with Rahul Gandhi as PM: first, it takes the ekla chalo route and either gets 272 seats or gets very close to it. The second is through allies. The ekla chalo route looked very promising in 2009 when the Congress won 22 Lok Sabha seats in UP. But that magic figure of 272 now looks unattainable. Look at some numbers first. The Congress has 7 out of 7 seats in Delhi, 9 out of 10 in Haryana, 5 out of 5 in Uttarakhand, 8 out of 12 in Punjab, 33 out of 42 in Andhra Pradesh, 30 plus out of 48 along with NCP in Maharashtra, 11 out of 26 in Gujarat, 6 out of 26 in Karnataka, 13 out of 20 in Kerala, 12 out of 29 in Madhya Pradesh and 20 out of 25 in Rajasthan. The only states in which Congress can improve its tally is Bihar (now 2 out of 40), Jharkhand (now 1 out of 14), Orissa (now 6 out of 21). In West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, it will play second fiddle to allies.
The fact is, a resurgent NDA could actually lead to Congress losing seats in many states. Then, it has a virtually zero base in Bihar, Bengal and Tamil Nadu. It will suffer from a huge backlash in Andhra. In Orissa, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, it has been out of power for so long that it has forgotten how to win. Most importantly, in key states like Bihar, Chattisgarh, MP, Gujarat, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Bengal, Jharkhand, it has absolutely no state level mass leader who can capture imagination and votes. YSR in Andhra, Amarinder Singh in Punjab, Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan and Sheila Dixit in Delhi did the trick in 2009. YSR is gone and the others can only do so much. In the event, it appears very unlikely that the Congress will get more than 200 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. So it has to depend on allies like Trinamool, DMK (or AIIDMK), JMM, NCP and assorted communal parties – all of whom have strained ties with the Congress.
In contrast, the NDA alliance looks formidable and could gain members by 2014. The Bihar election has been an eye-opener for parties who thought they will lose minority votes if they ally with the BJP – the stigma of the 2002 Gujarat riots. This had prompted allies like AGP, BJD, Trinamool and Telugu Desam to ditch the BJP. But Nitish Kumar has clearly demonstrated that Muslims can and will vote for the NDA. Why, even hundreds of Muslim candidates have won local elections in Gujarat on a BJP ticket! If the UPA 2 keeps getting mired in scandals and problems created by allies, a chastened BJP might just go back to rope in strong allies like Telugu Desam, BJD etc. If the BJP manages to do that, sheer arithmetic of vote percentages will also ensure that the NDA will head for a majority in 2014. A strong stance against corruption of the current government will only make the case stronger.
The key issue is: The Congress has two great nationwide vote catchers; and popular figures in Rahul and Sonia Gandhi at the centre. But barring isolated cases like Ashok Gehlot, they have hardly any charismatic state level leaders with a mass base. The reverse is true of the BJP – they have very popular mass leaders like Raman Singh, Prem Dhumal, Shivraj Chauhan, Narendra Modi etc at the state level but no Vajpayee-like charismatic leader at the centre. While for Congress, the job is far tougher (that is, of finding local leaders), for NDA, it’s just about coming to a consensus and rallying behind one leader like Narendra Modi or Nitish Kumar etc.
Then again, an NDA victory could be a blessing in disguise for Rahul Gandhi who is still very young by Indian standards – and as I have said in the past as well, he needs to learn a lot about communication techniques looking at videos of his father, grandmother and great grandfather. People will forgive an ageing Vajpayee or Manmohan Singh for their lack of powerful communication, but never a young man his age. A prolonged absence from power at the Centre has helped Sonia Gandhi rebuild the Congress step by step the hard way. If Rahul Gandhi gets the PM’s throne on a platter, there is a danger of him going further on the current way with cronies abusing his personal repute and ultimately damaging him. A stint as opposition leader will give him time to finish the party rebuilding process that he has started.
All in all, given the massive corruption and scams that the UPA is getting drowned into, perhaps we should get used to the idea of an NDA government in 2014. And going by the performance of the earlier NDA government, there is nothing wrong with that. The only thing it has to do is grab the opportunities – like enforce the JPC – and of course, the magnitude of the scam being so big, they should not have some of their leaders sharing the booty and being bought off for a price; then the loot will continue in peace. Else, it could be NDA in 2014!
- 20 December 2010 |
- Arindam on Indian Politics