August 23, 2014

FLOP SHOW

ANALYZING INC's DEFEAT IN 2014 LOK SABHA POLLS

Courtesy: NDTV
Earlier this week, the much awaited Anthony Committee submitted its report detailing the causes that led to the Congress' disastrous defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. With many leaders in the party questioning Rahul Gandhi and his style of leadership, it was expected that the commission would suggest certain 'tough' decisions to revive the 128 year old party. However, while speaking to the media after submitting his report, the former Defence Minister exonerated Baba of all charges; in fact, the former MP went on to praise the two Gandhis for doing their best during the election campaign. The fears that most of us had was confirmed; instead of finding the multiple issues that plague the grand old party and addressing them, the Gandhis had flatly refused to accept their share of the blame. In a similar move, the mother and son duo had earlier, in the aftermath of the May 16 results, offered mere 'lip service' by offering to resign in the CWC meet, a move that was immediately 'rejected' by their chamchas. It is easy to understand why the former Kerala CM has given a clean chit to the first family. Anthony has always been a loyalist and though he might be in the last leg of his political career, he has no reason to infuriate his bosses. Although he may have his own set of reason for not 'unearthing' the truth, we do not have any such compulsions or obligations towards the dynasty. The following are the reasons that I believe led to the Congress recording its worst showing in the polls held earlier this year.

Leadership Crisis: The prime reason for the debacle of the Congress party in the recently concluded polls was the 'uninspiring and insipid' leadership of Rahul Gandhi. Appointed as the party's vice president at a function in the Talkatora stadium in New Delhi, the Gandhi scion began on a rather impressive note as he unveiled his plans for a grand vamp up of the century old INC. Unfortunately for Rahul and his outfit, this was the only bright spot in a rather lackluster report card so far. Much like his below par performances in the Bihar and Uttar Pradesh state elections, the 'strategy-consultant' managed or should we say 'mis-managed' the campaign that saw the INC register its worst performance in its electoral history. His pet projects including holding primaries to select nominees for parliamentary seats, a move hailed by some as 'far-sighted', proved to complete failures with all candidates selected via this process failing to make the cut. The so-called youth icon's interview to Times Now Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami which exposed his complete disconnect from the issues that matter most to the masses made him the laughing stalk of the nation. Even during the campaign, many senior leaders in the party had complained that the VP was being 'misguided' by a coterie of leaders who are out-of-touch with ground reality. All throughout the campaign, Baba failed to strike a chord with the audiences, an art that his mother has mastered. With Narendra Modi projecting himself as a strong alternative to the passiveness displayed by the UPA, Rahul stood no chance. Forget convincing the rest of the country to vote for the Congress, the Amethi MP's victory margin in his own constiuency was reduced to just over a lakh votes.

Lack of strong regional leaders: Another factor that contributed to the party's embarrassing tally was the fact that it did not have strong state leaders who could get the votes. While the BJP swept most of the states where it was in power, the INC failed to open its mark in as many as 14 states including some big ones like Gujarat, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. In all these states, the saffron outfit had leaders who were empowered to take decisions on their own. On the contrary, lack of powerful state chiefs has been the problem with the Congress ever since the Indira era. The outfit has never promoted strong CMs since the Gandhi family looks upon them as rivals to their power. After the resignation of Ashok Chavan as the CM of Maharashtra following the Adarsh expose, the high command sent its trusted aide Prithviraj Chavan from New Delhi instead of choosing someone like Narayan Rane who had spent much of his career in the state. On similar lines, in spite of leading the INC to a close victory in the 2012 state polls (Link), the party preferred former MP Vijay Bahuguna and then Harish Rawat over the likes of Harak Singh Rawat and Yashpal Arya. And while mentioning this point, how can one forget the treatment meted out to YSRCP chief Jaganmohan Reddy. After the untimely death of former Andhra strongman Y S Rajashekar Reddy, the Gandhis refused to give the CM's post to his son Jaganmohan, fearing that he might become 'bigger' than the party and its top leadership in the southern state. As Reddy junior left the party and launched a new outfit - the YSR Congress Party, he was hounded by the CBI and jailed for 18 months. Without any mass leader and following the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, the INC was routed as the TDP-BJP combine and the YSRCP shared the spoils.

Corruption: If there was one issue that dominated the election campaign it was corruption. Anna Hazare's indefinite strike at Jantar Mantar in August 2011, the formation of the Kejriwal led Aam Admi Party (AAP) and its victory in the Delhi state assembly gave hope to over a billion Indians that our nation could finally be cured of the cancer that had engulfed it for over six decades. Unfortunately for the Congress, the plethora of scams that rocked the UPA in the latter half of its second term put it on the back foot. The scam in the allocation of Coal blocks at a time when Manmohan Singh was in charge of this ministry tainted the 'clean' image of PM. The 2G allocation scam dubbed by many as the biggest scam in the history of India saw the arrest of former Telecom Minister A Raja as well as DMK chief Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi, further embarrassing the government. The Choppergate scam, the CWG scam, the allegations of graft in the Antrix deal and Railgate, hit the credibility of the UPA regime as well as the INC. At a time when all the parties were hitting at the Congress over its failure to tackle this menace, the party did not make the fight against corruption as one of the main focus points of its campaign. Obviously, after facing so many allegations of graft, there was no way anyone would take the party's resolve to get the country rid of this menace seriously. Probably, after the elevation of Modi as the BJP's PM candidate, the INC thought that 'Secularism' and its co-called 'Idea of India' would help it brush aside all charges of corruption and help it win a consecutive third term. This proved to be a miscalculation as the results suggest.

Wrong Allies: Another factor that led to the INC do badly in the polls was the fact that it did not have the right partners on its side. Mamata Bannerjee walked out of the UPA over the issue of price rise. Had the Congress leadership been able to placate her, the two parties would have easily bagged nearly 35-40 seats in Bengal. Months before the elections, its southern ally - the DMK walked out of the UPA over the government's soft stand towards Sri Lanka. While the BJP was joining hands with many outfits all across the country, the INC was left with just four major partners - the NCP, the National Conference in Kashmir, the RLD in Western UP and the RJD in Bihar. Much like the INC, even its allies were facing the heat ahead of the General elections. Moreover, in spite of the bifurcation of Andhra, KCR refused to merge his outfit into the INC. In three key southern states - Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra, the Congress was entering the battlefield without any strong partner on its side. There were reports that the party leadership was in talks with 'like-minded' parties like the Jaganmohan Reddy's YSRCP, Badruddin Ajmal's AIUDF, Nitish Kumar's JD-U and Mayawati's BSP to forge pre-poll alliances. However, unfortunately for the Congress, none of these materialized. While the INC got 44 seats, its allies fared even worse - the NC and the RLD failed to open their accounts, Pawar's NCP was reduced to six seats whereas Lalu's comeback was all hype and no substance. Actually, the other allies of the BJP in the NDA put together got more seats than the INC in 2014.

Communication: The troika of the Gandhis and Manmohan Singh that had taken the UPA to a victory in 2009 failed to communicate with the people in the last five years. Former PM Singh was never known to be an effective orator. However, he had managed to send a strong signal to the electorate by taking the onus of passing the Indo-US Nuclear deal on himself. In the second term though, he repeatedly came under attacks of the the media for failing to take on corruption head on. He hardly addressed any press conference and failed to convey his views to the masses. Equally to blame is vice president Rahul Gandhi. The younger scion of the party's first family who is known to be a reluctant politician has to take his share of blame too. When the entire country was discussing issues like price rise, corruption and women's empowerment, Baba never felt the need to speak to the media. Of course, he did tear the cabinet resolution giving relief to convicted parliamentarians at a pres conference early this year but this was a clear case of too little too late. This apart from the fact that his actions had undermined the stature of the PM. To add to the INC's woes, its biggest vote catcher - party president Sonia Gandhi's ill health prevented her from campaigning actively. On the contrary, the BJP's electoral strategy was more focused. Narendra Modi used his twitter handle to connect with the people and address his views on issues, both big and small. Obviously, while the BJP created history by going past the 272 mark, the INC could not even finish with one sixth of that tally.


IMAGES 

(1) Courtesy: NDTV
Original: Sonia and Rahul Gandhi may offer resignations after Congress rout: Sources (Link)