Millennium Post

Can Cong repeat U’Khand success?

For the party, the sudden bounty conferred on it by the voters was probably unexpected. There was no indication earlier by any Congressman in Uttarakhand or elsewhere that the party might fare well. Nor did the party’s opponents provide any hint that the BJP was losing ground.

No one knows the reason for the turnaround although several explanations have been given, including the suggestion that the service personnel in the state have been unhappy with the BJP over the one-rank-one-pension issue.

In reality, the mind of the voters is inscrutable. Considering how the Congress has been at the receiving end since last winter when it lost four states in northern and central India and again only a few months ago when it was trounced in the parliamentary polls, its recovery, small though it is, is inexplicable. This is all the more so because the Congress is expected to lose the forthcoming assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and elsewhere.

However, it will be wise of the party to regard its success with caution. The tendency to see as the turning of the tide should be avoided, for all that the outcome has shown is that there is no last word in politics. In a democracy, the fortunes of the winners and losers are flexible, ruling out either gloating or despair for no one can predict when the wheel will turn.

It will be advisable, therefore, for the Congress to mull over the implications of the verdict. For a party like it, which functions like a feudal household, the need for circumspection is paramount lest the courtiers and hangers-on interpret the result as evidence of the electorate’s remorse over making the wrong choice and a vindication of the first family’s popularity.

Such prudence is needed because it is possible that whatever introspection the party is undertaking about its defeat last May will now be put on hold with the sycophants claiming that the Uttarakhand by-elections have shown that all is well with the party and family.

Once again, those like Digvijay Singh, who claimed that the defeat in the Lok Sabha elections was only due to the Congress’s failure to communicate its achievements, will come to the fore.

As a consequence, those who detected other causes such as the neglect of the middle class and the corporate sector, as Manish Tiwari did, or the mistake of going slow on economic reforms, as noted by P. Chidambaram, will take a back seat. Moreover, even the muted criticism which the family, especially the dauphin, Rahul Gandhi, is facing is unlikely to be heard any longer.

Nothing can be worse for the Congress. The successive electoral setbacks from the end of 2013 to the middle of this year has given it an opportunity to assess why the party is going down. Given the Nehru-Gandhi family’s iron control over it, which was again demonstrated when the offers of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi to resign after the debacle was rejected by an orchestrated voice vote, there is unlikely to have been any uninhibited discussions on the issue of corruption and economics – the two major factors behind the defeats.

On both counts, the party has meekly followed the dictates of the president whose nods in favour of, say, the ordinance that was intended to save tainted politicians like Laloo Prasad Yadav (which was torn up by Rahul) or of populism in place of economic reforms are generally believed to have brought the party to its present pass.

Now, any likelihood of a cynical approach to the question of sleaze or of dumping pro-market policies at the behest of Sonia Gandhi’s kitchen cabinet, the left-leaning National Advisory Council (NAC), being seriously examined is remote. It may even be argued by the time-servers in the Congress that the only way to take on Narendra Modi’s right-wing government is by being aggressively leftist in economics and tilting predominantly towards the Dalits and minorities among the poor in social policies.

If the dilution of the demoralization which enveloped the Congress is a positive aspect of the Uttarakhand results, the negative side is a further cementing of the place of the dynasty at the top of the organizational structure and a reaffirmation of what a former member of the NAC, Harsh Mander, called its welfare economics.

Such a turn of events will strengthen the position of socialists in the Congress like Mani Shankar Aiyar, who once said, ‘I was always something of a Leftist, but I became a complete Marxist only after the economic reforms’.

Considering that the ‘instinctive reaction of many’, as Manmohan Singh said when he was prime minister, ‘both in the political class and the public at large, is to revert to a state-controlled system’ since the benefits of an open economy ‘are still not widely understood’, it is not impossible that the inner councils of the Congress will favour a return to the licence-permit-control raj although the party may not say so openly. IPA

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