A frequently used idiom in India is comparing apples with oranges. In politics, individuals, parties, ideologies, policies and programmes are the top issues of public discourse. Attacks & counter attacks apart, there is always a distinctive brand the contestants enjoy. Public perception matters, media investment in making or marring the image of the chief protagonists weighs heavily in favour or disfavor of the individual contestants, clean public image enjoys the highest rating but above all it is the Leadership quality of them all which comes into focus.
It hardly needs to be stated that the contest 2019 will be Prime Minister Narendra Modi versus others.
Modi has established his high-grade Leadership in the last 40 months. This will only get strengthened by the time the battle starts sometime in February 2019. The Prime Minister has chosen to proceed with his “development” agenda ignoring malicious and vicious attacks from various quarters. It includes the Congress Party, Communist Party (Marxist), Communist Party, DMK, TMC, RJD and a host of others like the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Nationalist Congress whom he has reduced to irrelevance for the time being. Even a section of the disgruntled leaders of his own BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) have mounted rather mean attacks on him, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and the Party President Amit Shah.
Modi had answered in great detail all of their barbs in a brilliant address at the recently celebrated Golden Jubilee of the Institute of Company Secretaries of India.
The opposition refuses to see the logic and goes on arraigning Modi and his government for every development and public service rendered in the most transparent manner ever in the past till advent of Modi in 2014.The people are not happy at such a sully campaign by the opposition. While they demand a strong opposition in the interests of a healthy democracy, they are disappointed at the opposition’s failure to come up with a better agenda for providing a clean & transparent government or projected a mature and strong leader.
The Congress has doggedly stuck to Rahul Gandhi as its leader for 2019. This limits its chances for any gains in the next 15 months. He has repeatedly proved himself unsuited to shoulder the responsibility. Were he willing, he could have won adequate public trust in the last 15 years to establish his leadership and claim what his party seeks to in the next election. Sadly, he has missed several opportunities. There was speculation about Rahul Gandhi replacing Dr. Man Mohan Singh as Prime Minister of India during the UPA-I and UPA-II but neither the Congress Party led by his mother Sonia Gandhi nor Rahul Gandhi demonstrated confidence in his capabilities to take up such a responsibility. His sponsors attributed to him all the qualities that made a good leader and a prime minister and yet they failed to put him on the throne. It is the same coterie of sponsors who are once again portraying him as a viable opponent to the Prime Minister in 2019. How can the people of India repose trust in a person in whom his own party had not? Either Rahul Gandhi chickened out or failed to get the majority of the party leaders to support his claim. In any case, it makes no difference in the situation prevailing then or now: Rahul Gandhi is just not the Leader material. He is enjoying it all due to the dynasty, not because of his sweat and blood. He is one among many such parachutists in the Indian politics. When it assumes the shape of a norm in a family, it is called dynasty. Dynasty over democracy is never the public choice in India.
Rahul Gandhi as the congress face for 2019 makes the contest easier for the BJP. It is an undisputed fact that the congress Party is finished and can never come to power at the centre again on its own. It can fight the next election in alliance with other political parties, which have no common ideological moorings other than collective loot of the country as was the result of UPA-I & II. The dependence of the Congress Party on politicians of questionable integrity or convicts in corruption and/or criminal cases hardly enthuses the masses about the Congress providing good governance. Such a party can hardly seek a mandate to rule the country. It cannot cash the names of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru or Lal Bahadur Shashtri anymore. That provides the best opportunity for the alliance partners who are available for a decent cut in the loot of public property as happened under the UPA-I & II in coal mines or spectrum or defence purchases. They have no illusions of ever winning any election on their own to rule India. Attachment to the Congress alliance gives them instant certificate of secularism & socialism. Their endorsement of Rahul Gandhi needs to be properly understood.
The alliance partners feel comfortable with a weak Congressman like Rahul Gandhi rather than a strong person. Surely, they don’t want another Jawaharlal Nehru or Lal Bahadur Shashtri to lead the alliance. Their choice is Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi for obvious reasons as both are easily manoeuvrable. A strong Congressman with high moral & intellectual credentials is loved neither by Sonia Gandhi nor the Leftist parties/others. With Rahul Gandhi in the driver’s seat, it is easy for them to do backseat driving. Manmohan Singh proved the model immensely successful.
Governance by proxy is robbery on the people’s mandate in a democracy. The face will be Rahul Gandhi’s, the name that of the Congress but the real power will be wielded by others, popularly known as the parallel government with extra-constitutional centres of power. Such a fraud on the Constitution of India will be many times more harmful than the discredited UPA experiment of 2004 through 2014.
A barrage of paid news, fake news and outright disinformation campaign has been let loose by vested domestic as well as foreign powers as usual in preparation for the battle. Great reliance is being placed on Social media too. Hack writers are publishing articles to prop up Rahul Gandhi. His visit to two American universities for interaction with students, though reported without content or question/answers, is being highlighted as great achievement. It is being presented as Rahul Gandhi’s maturity to leadership role. The hack writers have never written a word about the American Election 2016 as it would have exposed their weaknesses before their American peers. These writers forget that the newspapers that publish them have been on the Congress payroll all these years. Their partisan approach in the past, especially 2013-14 had discredited them thoroughly. Today, the Indian readers take their views with a palm full of salt, ignore most of their columnists and finish the paper in less than a few minutes. Most of it is trash and unworthy of even a glance. Had it not been addiction to newspapers in the morning, many readers would have stopped buying a paper.
In fact, the Smartphone owning young generation doesn’t buy any newspaper. The newspaper industry is going through extremely troubled times. Digitization poses a real threat to its survival.
The new generation is highly educated, professionally qualified and analytical.
It is unwise on the part of any political class to presume that misusing the SM platform can deliver them victory in the elections. This global citizens’ class, which belongs to the knowledge society, is capable of making their own decisions. One thing that makes them distinct from their American peers is their capability to make their decisions independently without being coached by politicians, journalists, hack writers or social media workers.
They know what they would do in 2019. They are not going for another UPA kind corrupt regime at any cost.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has succeeded in establishing excellent rapport with the masses.
It is no small achievement to deliver to the 40 million poor families cooking gas connections free in a transparent manner. Compare it with release of paid gas connections during the UPA regime when Members of Parliament were authorized to recommend a certain number of connections. Prime Minister Modi has abolished this ugly practice of seeking favour from politicians, who hooked the poor people to serve their biddings like modern day slaves.
Whether gas connections or school admissions, Modi has established total transparency without a single exception.
Politicians, middlemen and commission agents, who were beneficiaries of such corrupt practices, are naturally angry with Narendra Modi and using all means to vilify him and malign his government.
It needs a man of high moral character, resolute leadership and capacity to take even unpleasant decisions if public interest so demands. Narendra Modi has done it; the Congress has the dirty picture of the UPA-I & II under Man Mohan Singh as prime minister.
It will be naïve for the Congress and other opposition parties to presume that the people of India don’t understand the difference between good governance on the one hand and poor governance on the other. They got in Narendra Modi what they had been demanding for decades- a clean, transparent and effective government as enshrined in the Indian Constitution. They trust him. Public trust is prime minister Narendra Modi’s biggest asset when he goes for Election 2019.