The Indian Political Scenario
Yes, it has contributed little
By RAJEEV SRINIVASAN
The UPA-communist combine came out dead last in the recent elections in Uttar Pradesh, electorally the most significant state in India. This is only the latest in a series of electoral setbacks, the most recent being in Delhi, Maharashtra, Punjab, and Uttarakhand. In fact, the UPA has hardly won any state election in the last three years, despite using every trick in the book, including venal governors, as in Bihar, Goa, and Jharkhand.
There are several structural reasons for this failure. First is that despite relentless Congress propaganda, it was not as though the country signed up in 2004 for rule by the Gandhi dynasty and its retainers. What we saw was the usual tossing and turning of a relatively mature democracy, where there is often an alternation in power (the toss-the-rascals-out syndrome). Besides, low voter turnout enables small numbers of ideologues to skew the results.
Second, despite the unprecedented growth in GDP, the UPA has severely hurt the common man, its purported object of attention. The UPA has wasted billions on a hare-brained rural employment-guarantee scheme (read pork barrel for Congress cadres). The Bharat Nirman project enriches politicians, with no improvement in desperately needed infrastructure. With the rise in oil prices, and the dramatic increase in world wheat prices at the same time that India’s production fell, food price inflation has risen to levels over 10 percent. This is incendiary: remember the onion riots of a few years ago?
Third, the foreign policy and national security performance of the UPA has been abysmal. Despite much billing and cooing with General Musharraf, terrorism has not diminished, and there is justified fear among Indians that they might be subject to sudden and murderous attacks by terrorists living concealed in their midst. The UPA is considering exiting Siachen, and is quietly accepting Chinese incursions into Arunachal Pradesh. Also, the big deal trumpeted about as raising India’s status—the nuclear deal with the United States—is turning out be nothing more than a way for the United States to disarm India.
Fourth, the noxious pandering to Muslim, Christian, and communist agendas is creating a backlash. Unbelievably, the prime minister declared (and this violates the constitutional guarantee of equal treatment to all citizens) that "minorities, particularly the Muslim minority, are empowered to share equitably in the fruits of development. They must have the first claim on resources." The Christian religious conversion machine is running full force. Communist cadres have shot and killed thousands of rural people in Nandigram and Jharkhand, and the UPA turns a blind eye to all this.
You can fool all the people some of the time … But the time has now come for the UPA to fade away into the sunset, gracefully; or they can do it kicking and screaming. That is their choice.
Rajeev Srinivasan wrote this opinion from New York City.
....................................................................................................................................................................No, it can rise from the ashes
By S. GOPIKRISHNA
Since Uttar Pradesh has downsized the Congress Party in the recent election, is it reasonable to conclude that India will retire the Congress Party in the next election?
A question as speculative as the above deserves a rhetorical response: Does a fractured leg imply death?
Sure, the U.P. state election is important due to the size of the state and its being next door to Delhi. However, drawing conclusions from this election overlooks the anti-incumbency factor that has become a staple of Indian politics. The state elections have metamorphosed into a forum for expressing disappointment or anger at the party in power at the Centre. Gone are the days when a party won comfortably at the Centre and state levels—Indira Gandhi was the arguably the last prime minister to achieve this feat. Since the 1980s, every party and coalition in power from the Congress to the NDA has received a drubbing at the state polls. The U.P. results merely reinforce the adage about history repeating itself.
Parties seldom lose when the rural economy is good. The UPA has been lucky—the agricultural sector has done better than it did under the NDA government. That investment continuously flows into the country, notwithstanding the presence of the Left, is a testament to confidence in the UPA government—a contrast to the NDA where only the urban areas shone.
And then there is coalition leadership—a well meaning but effete Manmohan Singh as prime minister with a wily Sonia Gandhi playing kingmaker with her photogenic (if vacuous) children in tow, constitutes a winning raja-mantri combination straight out of the Jataka tales.
Meanwhile, the NDA’s leadership seems to be at war with themselves—the juniors lack experience, the seniors lack stamina. If a known devil is better than an unknown one, many would prefer the UPA.
There is also the issue of vote banks. The Congress and UPA have championed minority causes, a strategy resulting in a steady vote bank. The NDA, on the other hand, has shot itself in the foot. Its not-too-successful wooing of minorities has been compounded with neglect of its traditional high-caste Hindu vote bank. The NDA is perceived as anti-everybody and pro-nobody, a sure recipe for failure.
The story goes that Viscount Wavell, Viceroy of India, made preparations for Mahatma Gandhi’s funeral in 1944 when the latter became sick after a fast-unto-death. The sandalwood for the pyre was ready, as was the parade and letters galore conveying their condolences. Indeed everybody was ready except Gandhi, who survived and lived to see Wavell leave India in 1945.
We should probably learn from Wavell’s lesson and not write off Sonia and her progeny too soon.
Toronto-based S. Gopikrishna writes on topics pertaining to India and Indians.