Monday, December 9, 2013

Takeaways from Semi-Final 2013

So the carnival has come to an end, and the victors have been declared. The losers are in a deep sense of despair, trying to figure out the message that people of this country, particularly when it concerns states that add up to nearly 60 seats in the Lok Sabha. There are a few clear takeaways from this election, which I shall elaborate upon:

1. You cannot parachute leaders from Delhi in a country where sub-nationalism runs high
(Regional leaders shine all the way - courtesy LiveMint)
The Congress party's high command culture has been severely threatened by the rise of sub-nationalism in India. Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have clearly shown that weak state leadership devoid of ideas and ridden with factionalism cannot work to the advantage of Congress or BJP. The BJP scored in all but Delhi where it exists only because it's regional leaders had been identified and were leading charge well in advance. Vasundhara Raje, Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Dr Raman Singh undertook massive campaigns of public outreach more than a year in advance. Parachuting of Modi was icing for them, unlike the disastrous guerilla tactics of sending in an Amit Jogi or a Jyotiraditya Scindia, both of whom were undermined by other leaders from the same state and where Rahul Gandhi's 'magic' was expected to wash out all these tactical errors.

2. Congress is almost out of the Hindi Heartland; stares at 1977 repeat.

For the first time since 1977 is the Congress nearly wiped out of the Hindi heartland. The UP 'miracle' will never happen; nor will the MP or Chhattisgarh revival take place. Except Himachal and Haryana, which give only 15 seats together, the Congress is out of power and out of touch with more than half the country now. Add to that Gujarat, Bihar and West Bengal, the Congress is a demoralized force and stares at a 1977 repeat, where all its Northern bastions were stormed to the effect of exterminating India's Grand Old Party out of existence. Chances of revival are even slimmer till Rahul Gandhi continues to utter sheer nonsense during campaigns and Manmohan Singh remains Prime Minister. Another important factor is the Delhi election, where the Congress vote bank was dented by the Aam Aadmi Party, dramatically hurting them in turn.  Clearly, the Congress' traditional vote bank is searching for options.

3. There are no game-changers of elections except governance,effective implementation, and economic growth

Direct Cash Transfer, Food Security Act, Land Acquisition Act, Har Haath mein Phone Yojana, MNREGS and Right to Education were proposed by the strategy gurus of 10 Janpath as game changers for the Congress, hoping that this Dettol of largess can wash away gangrene of corruption, inflation and slow growth away. What has been demonstrated is that do whatever they can, nothing beats effective governance, fighting corruption and pro-growth strategies for poverty alleviation. Rights based, freebie based approaches are not going to work now, as the drubbing has shown to the Congress party. Rajasthan, the laboratory of Sonianomics, is testimony to it, where the Congress touched a new historic low for the state, winning less than 30 seats in a 200 seat Legislature.

4. NaMo is a factor

I know many will scoff at this by looking at the Delhi elections, but Delhi would not have seen the traditional Sangh vote base come out and support the BJP had Modi not put in so much effort. Selecting a terrible choice in the form of Vijay Kumar Goel was offset only by Modi's aggressive campaigning. Similarly, Rajasthan, the Congress' social laboratory, saw Modi steal the show from Rahul's antics by the sheer power of oratory and wit. The Congress lost all it could thanks to the lack of charisma, as Ramchandra Guha also pointed out on a news channel programme recently.

5. Dynasty politics has started to fade

Barring two candidates across the entire four states, the scions of stalwarts from either side lost badly to new candidates who were perceived to be weaklings. The people are now not going to be impressed by lineage - a sign of maturing democracy. More than 90% of the seats on which Rahul Gandhi campaigned were lost by the Congress in Rajasthan; same was the case in Madhya Pradesh and Delhi too. The charm factor does not hold a candle to the voters, who now vote with their feet.

6. Aam Aadmi Party is here to stay for only two decades - conditions apply

A new slogan will be needed soon
Why do I put twenty years? The only comparable for the AAP is the Telegu Desam in Andhra Pradesh, which is struggling for existence today. Similarly, the PDP has failed to go beyond the Kashmir valley in J&K. At best, AAP will be a regional or a metro-city party; however, if they continue with their socialist agenda they will see themselves being thrashed around like the Congress. Corruption is a major issue, but people will not just vote for clean leaders all the time if they fail to give them opportunities to prosper economically. Delhi is not Kerala, which survives on remittance. Delhi is a prosperous city that can talk about social welfare schemes, but there are bigger more complex states that AAP will never manage to dent like Gujarat, Tamil Nadu or Maharashtra simply because people there are not closet socialists.

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