There is a coalescing of favourable opinion with regard to a Narendra Modi led coalition in 2014 that has the endorsement of many leaders of business and industry per recent reports, and also an increasing number of political parties in a position to choose sides. The DMK, badly done by in the UPA, has come out to clearly say as much after the ‘semi-final’, and there are others; in Andhra Pradesh, in Maharashtra, elsewhere, making their new leanings known. This augurs well for the country’s economic prospects because the arch-Leftism of recent policy has left us limping and listing with no hope of rescue.
Editor-in-chief of the Indian Express Shekhar Gupta in a recent editorial wrote words to the effect that the Congress’s electoral pitch is failing because it is almost entirely negative. It is what Right-leaning senior journalist Tavleen Singh calls the ‘lady bountiful’ approach, with both Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi positioning themselves as saviours.
The duo see themselves as metaphorical White Knights, but perform a badly administered and corruption-ridden rescue act for the poverty stricken, the sick, the destitute, the fearful, the marginalised, and anyone else that can make the rest of the population feel guilty for breathing. By way of contrast, three consecutive term winners in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh also run massive welfare programmes, but these actually work and benefit the populace!
Coming back to the problem, the implication, in starched white terms, is that ‘the dynasty’ truly feels the pain and affliction of the poor and downtrodden like no other. It is a public relations stance that runs 365 days a year, helicoptering and private jetting into every nook and cranny of the country, and is meant to transcend all day-to-day politicking, processes of governance, triumphs, set-backs et al. This is the over-arching ‘High Command’ motif.
It is exclusively directed to the third of the population near or below our quixotically defined poverty line, and any others that slip and sink into the mire by dint of evil circumstance. These people must know who their champions are in the sarkar, is the pitch. This is then a favourite constituency, that must always stay in absolute poverty and pain, to make Congress win in perpetuity.
This abiding concern for the most downtrodden, after all, is not only Gandhian, as in the Mohandas Karamchand version, but of course, commendable and beyond reproach. And possibly the reason why it occupies such a consistent place in the hearts of the mightiest in the land.
The rest of the citizenry, two-thirds or so, ranging from the lower middleclasses to the stratospherically rich, faced with a deafening silence on their hopes and fears from the top, should, by implication content themselves with all the routine national pragati designed to benefit them all.
But is anything constructive being done specifically for this other two-thirds? There are myriad Government initiatives surely, using our taxes, and Government borrowings and World Bank/IMF money; infrastructure is being upgraded all the time, job opportunities are growing, and so on. This is the business-as-usual aspect. Never mind the efficiency, or the pace, or the accountability, but no complaints are really heeded. Our rulers are busy uplifting the poorest of the poor, or so they like to believe.
But, this very old wine in equally old bottles, being purveyed from the days of Jawarharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, those go nowhere 10-point programmes and 5-point ones; and on through the season of Rajiv Gandhi seguing into the current dispensation, is no longer resonating with anyone.
There is next to nothing in this narrative that addresses the ideas of aspiration, nothing that promises we will catch up to the civilised world anytime soon. So anyone who is not in dire straits, says Shekhar Gupta, is not, in a sense, included. This cannot be intentional but there it is. This tear-jerking, black and white approach, might have held the interest of an impoverished nation without hope. But not that of a potentially prosperous one, and one that has seen glimpses of, and indeed experienced a slice of, what is possible after 1991.
And now, we have yet another new Mother Superior on the block, the strange and strident AAP. This outfit dodges all down to earth practicality and call to work, but lectures all and sundry endlessly on corruption. It collects loads of money from the public near and far, but positions itself as untainted. It is not interested in finding solutions that might steal its populist thunder, and holds that the entire rest of the political class is both corrupt and venal.
Both these entities, the apparently clueless Congress and its would-be usurper, some say the B-Team of the same quantity, are nothing if they are not propagandist. They are stuck on the insulting and somewhat crazy notion that they can crest to national power on the strength of this hot air alone. It is a strategy of myth-making to glory. It has nothing to do with intended performance, real poverty alleviation, and has no use for delivering on promises.
By way of contrast, the BJP appears more credible by the day. Senior journalist MJ Akbar recently said the moment of truth may have come while Modi was addressing the Hunkar Rally in Patna soon after several bombs at the venue went off. NaMo ignored the bombs and calmly pointed out the real enemy was poverty and not either the Hindu or the Muslim or the differences between them.
The minorities, writes Akbar, are sick of the decades of hypocrisy and tokenism. Modi’s inclusive message makes sense to Muslims, and large numbers are coming out to vote for the BJP. The Prime Ministerial candidate who was expected to polarise is actually uniting people.
This, and not the AAP brand of grandstanding, or the divisive Congress style, is the emerging new politics. It does not promote divisive vote-banks, but aspirations of all the people to live a better life, in peace, prosperity, and harmony.
It is not as if the activists have achieved nothing. But it is Anna Hazare who has not lost his way in the murkiness of ambition. He has signaled that the LokPal Bill, currently in Parliament, is now acceptable to him. The AAP’s Kejriwal, sees only its shortcomings and continues to heckle. Perhaps it is a mode of address that he has mastered like none other. But the effective new politics may not have much use for the newly emerged AAP, or the age-old Congress for that matter.