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There will be the usual analysis, explanations about this huge Congress Electoral defeat including the promises of introspection. But to characterize this debacle as a normal electoral ‘reverse’ is wrong. This is a significant rejection of the Congresses Economic vision and conduct of its Government. Here’s more:
1. Congress has been rejected by the very group of citizens (poor/Dalit) for whom it claimed to have worked in the rights-based campaign. It’s all round rout for Congress
The big campaign plan for the Congress has been their “rights-based legislation framework” over the last 10 years for Indian citizens, particularly to the poor and deprived. However, an evaluation of the poorest parts of India, including Dalit votes, shows that Congress’ policies - even where “rights-based legislation framework” for the poor is concerned - stand rejected. Orissa, one of the poorest states in the country, has voted for BJD. The Dalits of Uttar Pradesh and the poor, who have traditionally supported Mayawati and/or Congress, have discarded them altogether and voted enmasse for the BJP. Similarly in case of Bihar, where the poorest Indians live and have chosen to vote against not just the Congress, but also the JDU which seemed to be getting close to the Congress on an ideological plank after having separated from the BJP.
In effect, not just the rich, the middle class or the corporates, it is the poor and the Dalits who have also rejected Congress politics, Congress schemes and Congress promises. This kind of a mandate is virtually impossible with only one or two sections supporting the BJP. It’s across-the-board and almost pan-India, with the exception of West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. Even poverty-stuck regions of the east, other than West Bengal, have, for the first time, supported the BJP - outrightly rejecting the Congress policies and promises. Clearly, none of those schemes have worked after ten years of being in Government.
2. It’s not the Campaign that failed, but in fact, its governance, corruption and conduct
The other across-the-board defence of the Congress party has been their inability to communicate the “good work Congress had done”. Firstly, if the good work had made an impact on people’s lives over ten years, then the need to communicate that through advertising would not be needed. Eg.: the 3 wins of Mrs. Sheila Dikshit in Delhi or the three wins of Mr. Narendra Modi in Gujarat or the 4 wins of Mr. Patnaik in Orissa. Good work doesn’t necessarily need advertising support.
However, even where the communication strategy is concerned, the Congress did run massive national TV campaigns - both from the Ministries in the run up to the elections (some would consider misuse of Government funds and unfair) and Congress party’s own campaign – “Har Haath Shakti, Har Haath Tarakki”. All the campaigns did convey the message of development, rights-based framework and empowerment. However, all of it was rejected outrightly – to the extent that Congress has fallen to a historic low since its inception before Independence. The argument that they failed to communicate is wrong.
The fact is that the citizens can’t be fooled anymore, and the campaigns did not match the delivery and could not counter the anger against mis-governance and corruption. It is Congress’ disastrous work and a sense of entitlement coupled with the dynasty rule that failed, not the campaign.
3. Corruption does matter. Leaders have been punished.
Congress has pretended the whole time that corruption didn’t matter, or that somehow it was an over-hyped issue raised by the media and supported by the CAG. In effect, some of its tainted leaders have suffered huge losses – A. Raja (2G), Sriprakash Jaiswal (Coalgate), Pawan Bansal (Railgate). So essentially, people have voted against corrupt faces with the exception of Ashok Chavan, who is the leader of a pocket borough.
The extent of the rejection of the Congress is telling and carries a message for many other Political parties that practice the same old politics and economics of the Congress. India is changing and so Change with us or perish!
This article appeared in Firstpost.com on May 18, 2014.