The Lack of the Last Two, with the BJP Even Going to Polls without a Manifesto, is Telling!
Congress set for Rout, but is Nation Headed for Hydra-Headed Trouble?
The very mention of the term, “Quattro”, can give Italian-born Congress leader Sonia Gandhi the heebie-jeebies! If it is seen as an allusion to Ottavio Quattrocchi, the Italian middleman in the Bofors scandal that brought down the Rajiv Gandhi government in the 1989 elections in India, it is intentional!
It was then the biggest scandal ever that India had seen – involving hefty kickbacks in the purchase of Howitzer guns for the Indian defence establishment.
But the subsequent scandals (2G spectrum, Commonwealth Games, Coalgate, etc) that the Congress combination of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi presided over have made the bribes that the Bofors saga generated look like petty cash.
Congress Set for Rout but BJP a Poor Alternative
No thanks to these scandals, the Congress is heading for a rout as India is set to go for nine-phased parliamentary polls beginning on Monday (April 7) and ending only on May 12, with the results to be announced on May 16.
There is little doubt that the Congress will be ejected from power, fittingly so given their misrule since Independence has left the country in a pitiable state.
India does need to move away from the corrupt and inefficient Congress regime even if it means the nation is left with a poor alternative, the BJP.
I detest personality-based politics as it merely establishes that India is still swayed by individual charm and not by policies and principles that can drive growth.
But it is clear that principles and policies have once again taken the backseat even as personality-centric politics (Narendra Modi-centred BJP) has surged to the fore in the lust for power in India.
Modi is BJP, India is Indira
Modi’s self-centricity was in sharp focus yesterday when he urged the electorate to vote for him assuming that every BJP candidate is Modi himself. “Today I am seeking a vote for myself. I want to tell all voters that your vote will reach me directly.”
This is reminiscent of the time when Congress leader DK Baruah said, “India is Indira, Indira is India.”
Modi has become so powerful that he has even made veteran leader LK Advani say that he is well suited to lead the country.
The Economist, in a recent report, has called the Congress a lesser evil than the BJP with Modi at the helm. It is not without justification and the BJP without Modi as PM will have been a better alternative. But I will still want the Congress out!
AAP Deserves Support
I hope Arvind Kejrival’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is able to register respectable results just so it can be a viable alternative to the Congress, the BJP and all other corrupt parties – if not now, at least by the next elections in five years.
It is a pity that the Indian media have been consistently showing the AAP in poor light, demonstrating how democracy has not led to principled, balanced coverage in India.
To me, the BJP cannot represent meaningful change. They have already been in power at the Centre and have been leading many State Governments as well. Corruption has been just as rampant in those BJP-led governments, so I am not convinced that we will get credible change with them.
Real change can possibly come through the AAP.
Congress Got Nothing Right, Ruined India
That said, there is not a single reason why the Congress must be allowed to stay in power. It hardly got anything right – be it the economy, education, public health, clean governance
- Their biggest failure was their inability to make the country stand tall in global eyes even as China emerged as the world’s second largest economy.
o China’s foreign reserves are heading towards US$4 trillion while India’s is just around US$300 billion.
o Tiny Singapore’s reserves are at around US$275 billion and may exceed that of India soon.
o Indian political leaders (whether from the Congress, the BJP or any of the other parties) have been adept at amassing individual wealth, not at pushing the country’s fortunes up.
- They made India a laughing stock when they completely goofed up with the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, two years after Beijing wowed the world with a spectacular Olympic Games.
o Indian inefficiency and unbridled corruption were showcased for the world to laugh at. No meaningful action was initiated against the likes of Suresh Kalmadi resulting in a ban (reversed recently) on India from the Olympics.
- Despite India being surrounded by hostile nations (Pakistan, China, Sri Lanka, etc), the Congress governments have done little to strengthen the country’s Defence forces with a complete lack of preparedness having led to the humiliation at the hands of China in the 1962 war.
- India does not seem to have any meaningful foreign policy and is bullied even by its small neighbours with a pathetic human rights record (Sri Lanka).
- Even within South Asia, India hardly commands any clout with Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh all enjoying a cosy relationship with China
- The leadership did not have the spine to protect India’s territorial integrity, allowing China to make deep inroads into Ladakh and stay put there for months.
- Within India, antinationals were treated with kid gloves, least perturbed by people from Kashmir participating in anti-India protests in Pakistan — sharing the dais in Pakistan with those behind the Mumbai explosions
- Crimes against women are continuing unabated, with Delhi already being considered the rape capital of the world.
- Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh presided over the most corrupt government in the history of independent India.
BJP, Narendra Modi likely Beneficiaries
The BJP and Narendra Modi will in all likelihood take centre-stage, sweeping the elections as is widely projected. It will be a mockery of democracy if there is no political change despite shameful governance.
Nonetheless, while the BJP may claim power, I don’t expect any dramatic change in the fortunes of India! I would think that the country would continue to be looted, just that it would fill the coffers of those from the BJP.
The BJP and its allies are not short of criminals and the corrupt. After all, the Congress and the BJP had colluded to defeat the Jan Lokpal Bill, forcing the resignation of Arvind Kejriwal, then chief minister of Delhi. The anti-corruption bill was meant to ensure clean politics and governance. The AAP government had charged Reliance chief Mukesh Ambani and other politicians with corruption in the pricing of gas and registered an FIR against them.
In a sting operation carried out by Tehelka about 13 years ago, then BJP president Bangaru Laxman, who passed away recently, was caught redhanded accepting bribe from fake arms dealers for making recommendations to the Defence Ministry regarding contracts for supply of wares to the Army. He was convicted and sent to jail, making Tehelka and its founder Tarun Tejpal enemies of the BJP.
Many tainted partymen, including former Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa, Sriramulu (the protégé of Reddy brothers) and Amit Shah (Modi’s aide who faces a murder charge in Gujarat) are among the many given seats to contest the Lok Sabha elections even as some of BJP’s founding leaders are being sidelined.
Around 30% of the candidates have criminal charges against them and can give the Sonias, the Rajas and Kalmadis a run for their money.
Moreover, it is not just the 2002 riots that are haunting Modi. There have been a string of encounter deaths in Gujarat post 2002 that put him on a spot. Then there is the Snoopgate controversy which is all about how the Gujarat government used official machinery to stalk a woman (plus a few others, including an IAS officer), allegedly at the behest of a “sahib”.
The surveillance is believed to have gone beyond Gujarat and extending to Karnataka with support from Yedyurappa which is perhaps why the latter has found favour with Modi.
This is the tragedy of India – there is no electoral incentive for clean governance with one corrupt party or the other coming to power with ill-gotten money.
To me, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will be an ideal alternative, but they do not have money power to market themselves. Unfortunately, just as in the corporate world, in politics too marketing has become a powerful, if expensive and essential, tool.
This is something that Modi has used very effectively and bulldozed his way into becoming the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate by very aggressively marketing the Gujarat model of governance (that a Samajwadi Party leader dubbed a “vacuous model” at a recent debate on Times Now). He had even roped in Amitabh Bachchan to project the Gujarat “growth” story.
This is despite Gujarat lagging behind a few States in terms of development. Goa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu are India’s most developed States, according to a 2013 report of the Raghuram Rajan committee that looked into the backwardness of States.
In the list of Indian States by the Human Development Index, released in 2011, Gujarat ranks only 11th.
So, how did Gujarat end up becoming a model State?
The AAP appears to be relying largely on social media for their campaigns but that will hardly touch the rural, illiterate masses without the means to access the Internet. Also, with the media completely against the AAP even though Kejriwal, himself an IITian and a Magssasay Award winner, and his party have been winning over intellectuals from the corporate world and those actively engaged in social causes.
So, at this stage, it looks like Modi will be the change that India will end up with, come May 16. That will be because he has succeeded in making even educated and broadminded Hindus tread the path of religious hatred. That is not a happy augury even if it has been triggered by Islamic radicalism.
The question, though, is whether the change will take India away from the “Quattro” effect or result in hydra-headed problems for the country?
Another Election-Related Post
- Modi Vs Kamaraj — https://joslinv.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/modi-vs-kamaraj/#more-2286
G Joslin Vethakumar