Monday, April 8, 2013

From past elections and past mistakes political parties learn nothing

Confusion is a weapon in politics. When you are confused about what to do, do
something to make others even more
confused. Say things that are at once sensational and contradictory until your
opponents start scurrying around to
find the meaning of what you are saying. That is battle half won.

The Congress is an old hand at this game. But this time it deserves our sympathy.
It is tasked with the
responsibility to sell a product that many markets have already rejected. But
mother's love is a formidable force.
So the question is: Go to battle with Rahul Gandhi leading the akshauhini and face
inevitable reversals or look for
ways to reconcile mother's love with reality?

Basically Rahul Gandhi must be a nice guy. He even manages to say a right thing or
two occasionally. He performed in
an easygoing style before corporate chieftains who praised him lavishly. But
corporate chieftains praised Narendra
Modi even more lavishly. They praised Mamata Bannerjee also at one point. This is
purpose-oriented praise and must be
seen as such. What Rahul had to say were inanities: India is not an elephant, it
is a beehive... I was born with a
DNA... There were no fresh ideas, no action plan. And no recognition of the
unalterable fact that history's biggest
scams mauled India during his father's and then his mother's watch. Unless he
exorcises this past by addressing it
boldly, his hype about the future will only remain ghost-writers' dreams.

The reality of politics is harsher. We got a taste of it when Digvijay Singh made
what looked at first like a
critical statement against the Sonia Gandhi-Manmohan Singh leadership. Their
functioning as twin power centres had
failed, he said. It was time therefore for Rahul Gandhi to become the sole power
centre as Prime Minister.

Was Digvijay Singh, said to be Rahul Gandhi's mentor, knocking out other prime
ministerial hopefuls by saying that the
Sonia-Manmohan pairing would not be repeated by, say, a Rahul-Chidambaram pairing?
Before we could figure that out,
another ranking Congressman changed the whole scenario.

Janardan Dwivedi, who never utters a syllable unless it is official party gospel,
said the Sonia-Manmohan team was
something unique and could be "an ideal model for the future." Other party satraps
rushed in to endorse that view.
But Digvijay, the mentor, stuck to his position, thus creating a Great Moment in the
history of Politics by Confusion.

So what's going on? It cannot be that the Congress is finally recognising the
unwinnability of Rahul Gandhi. That
would be a repudiation of mother's love and hence inconceivable. So, anticipating a
poor performance in the next
election, is the Congress trying to save Rahul Gandhi's face by putting poor
Manmohan Singh up front as a shield? Or
is there a plan to project Manmohan for now and, if the party were to win a credible
number of seats in Parliament,
then ditch him and put Rahul on the gaddi?

Calculations and confusions are important for the Congress because it is likely to
benefit in this election from the
weaknesses of the BJP. In Karnataka at any rate, it will win because of the
terrible record of the BJP Government.
But the early moves of the Congress in the State show that it is not learning
anything from its fortuitous advantage.
The opportunity to win the trust of the people may already be lost. Senior leader
Siddaramaiah was looked upon as
the most credible among Congressmen and a government under his leadership was
something many people in the State
longed for. But as soon as elections were announced in the State, the party
appointed as its strategy committee's
chief a discredited former Congress leader who had acted like a bull in a china shop
whenever he tasted power. That
this man was Siddaramaiah's nominee dashed all hopes about the lone remaining
Congress leader. The party has since
been busy trying to give tickets to other renegades, corruption kings and party
hoppers. The colours may change, but
the tragedy of our democracy will continue.