What went wrong for the Congress? There is a simple answer. Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh failed to speak heart-to-heart with the Indian people.
At the risk of repetition, a few things must be said about
the Congress party. It is necessary to do so when Narendra
Modi presents through his many interviews a ‘firm’ but
‘Constitution-bound’ picture of himself.
The Congress blames the media for not covering the party
enough and for getting carried away by ‘Modi’s marketing.’
Its chronology is all wrong. The media picked up Modi only
after the United Progressive Alliance’s failure.
In the UPA’s second term, Congress president Sonia
Gandhi should have given Singh more breathing space to
take big decisions on the economy, liberalization, governance, Pakistan and bilateral border trade.
Singh should have presented a coherent economic policy to
attract India’s 570 million young people under the age of 30.
Singh knows how to boost business in bazaars and malls and
in the educational and health sectors. But he didn’t give the
perception that he was on the job.
If the perception of ‘more jobs are coming’ could have been
maintained, the Congress would have been in a much better
Remember how Modi offered to build hundreds of thousands of homes during his 2012 assembly campaign in
Gujarat? That program has failed. Few homes were built and
people are reluctant to move into them because of their inferior quality. But nobody talks about it because the perception
that Modi is a ‘doer’ sells.
Many speculate what will happen if Modi becomes the
prime minister. One can say with certainty that the information and broadcasting ministry and the director of the Press
Information Bureau, who sell the government’s achievements, will be the most important portfolios under him.
Sonia Gandhi should have intervened in the war between
Pranab Mukherjee and P Chidambaram. She should have settled it by giving Mukherjee more powers because his experience made his a deserving case. Also, it would have corrected the historical perception of injustice done to Mukherjee
by Sonia Gandhi when she chose Singh as prime minister
over Mukherjee, who was his boss in the early 1980s.
The political Mukherjee would have imparted the wisdom
needed to counter the Modi juggernaut, if not defeat him.
Another blunder Rahul Gandhi made was to not join the government. If he thinks that he has ideas, he should have started somewhere.
In terms of political leadership, Modi has no competition.
He has traveled more than 200,000 miles, staking his claim
for the prime minister’s post, all alone.
Instead of going after then comptroller and auditor general Vinod Rai, the Congress and the Prime Minister’s Office
should have been on its toes to counter what he said about
the 2G spectrum allocation. When a whirlwind was forming,
Congress leaders sat idle because of their arrogant mindset.
People have bought the perception that the ‘UPA is corrupt’
because there was no credible face saying otherwise. By presenting a convincing picture of what exactly happened in the
2G business, the Congress could have helped itself.
Its ministers smirked instead. Remember Kapil Sibal and
his ‘zero loss’ statement? The 2G scam figures stuck in voters’
minds because the Congress party was lazy and complacent.
The Congress obviously under-estimated Modi. By alleging
that he was a communal face Congress leaders felt he would
be rejected by secular India; a half-baked thought. Modi
went rural and Congress leaders remained trapped in their
cozy power trappings.
India is not Gujarat, Congress leaders would argue. But
India need not become Gujarat to appreciate Modi’s sales
pitch of a development agenda.
I visited an Uttar Pradesh village April 22 to find out what
the villagers thought about Modi. We drove some 35 km (22
miles) from Lucknow and took the car off the highway. The
village was Tendua Hiran Kuddi, its official name is different.
The sarpanchis a Congressman, but his brother R K Singh
said, “Since the last three days we have no power. Modi ko
laanapadega(wehavetobring Modi). Let him come and fix
our power problem.”
If Singh’s Cabinet had traveled to the villages they would
have known where their assessment of Modi was going
wrong. The support for Modi is also because of the sub-
human suffering India’s poor are compelled to endure.
I met Prachi, Ruchi Singh, Kamla Kashyap and her sister.
All smart teenagers. All commerce students. Their exercise
books written in Hindi were neat. They go to college in near-
by towns or in Lucknow (22 miles away) just twice a week;
they can’t afford the bus fare to attend college every day.
“Modi kahawahai(thereisa Modi wave),” Kamla said.
Prachi felt Modi had caught the attention in their college,
but she would vote for the Congress’s Annu Tandon (her vil-
lage is in Unnao, Tandon’s constituency) because her uncle is
part of the MP’s team.
Since Tandon is considered close to Mukesh Ambani, many
people feel she will spend money for poor people’s weddings,
Prachi’s father said.
Except Prachi’s family, the entire village is shifting its sup-
port from the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party to
the BJP, R K Singh said. Only because of the hopeless power
situation, he added.
Just as the Congress perfected its response to all arguments
against the dynasty, similarly Modi and his clan have per-
fected the hypocrisy of taking the development agenda to
people with Hindutva in their hearts.
Supporting a dynasty is the highest level of hypocrisy in a
democracy. Likewise, to say that Hindutva and development
are not contradictory is a jugglery of words.
Modi, in interview after interview, says, ‘I will work under
the Constitution.’ This is the safest pitch any Hindutva leader
can forward to duck the sharp quizzing in the middle of the
election. Modi has perfected the art of answering difficult
questions without getting trapped where he can give headlines to ‘news traders.’ Even to differentiate between ‘news
traders’ and the ‘media’ is a Modi ploy to criticize the media.
Nothing is going right for the Congress also because it does not show enough confidence, which is para- mount in an election campaign, which is actually all
about the ‘performance’ enacted before voters by leaders.
A senior BJP leader told me in an off-guard moment, in an
off-the-record conversation, “It’s not the question of whose
arguments are right or wrong, who is ethical and who is
lying. It’s all about the people’s readiness to buy our lies agai-
nst their lies. Abhamaramaalbikrahahain(Ourgoodsare
sellingnow).” That is called success in an election campaign.
The fundamental political belief on which the Congress
edifice stands is not in question. The biggest evidence to justify this argument is how Modi presents a mild picture of
himself in interviews. Modi is exploiting the spread out 10-
phase election to the fullest.
The Modi of the 2014 Lok Sabha election and the Modi of
the 2002 and 2007 assembly elections in Gujarat seem to be
different personalities. Can’t we see how quickly the BJP and
even Modi are distancing themselves from Giriraj Singh,
from Pravin Togadia?
Just see how quietly Amit Shah went about saying sorry to
the Election Commission. This is REAL good news. It is a
victory of the secular ethos the Constitution wants everyone
to abide by, and is forcing Modi to stick to rules.
The legacy of UPA rule is a huge problem. Due to a series
of charges against the UPA, the Congress has lost the psychological war before losing the real one. Those floating voters supporting Modi are not anti-Muslim nor are they saying
that the 2002 riots were justified. It means the Congress is
losing out in election mind games.
By already narrating, and by stringing the media along in
this endeavor, what he is going to do as prime minister is actually a fine case of adding to the hawa with panache.
When Modi displays this confidence on television, he attracts floating voters in the remaining phases of the election.
As a consummate politician, he knows there are always ifs
and buts in an election where 1.4 billion opinions are judging
him and more than 800 million voters are actively dissecting
him. But by showing confidence in his eyes, correct body language and very precise expressions on sensitive issues, he is
brilliantly helping his campaign.
In an ABP News interview, group editor Shazi Zaman asked brilliant questions that unsettled Modi a bit, but he carried the moment with him because of the clarity in his replies.
Modi’s more than dozen interviews are helping him fine-tune the rough edges of his campaign. He is trying to influence floating voters, undecided voters, non-committal and
These could have been Congress voters, but its divided
house, torn between the old guard and Rahul Gandhi, seems
to have got completely confused.
They are, it seems, the first victims of Modi’s unprecedented marketing onslaught.
What went wrong for the Congress?
Sheela Bhatt on how the party erred and landed itself in such a sorry mess
The simple reason behind the Congrss party’s failure is that, from left, Rahul Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi failed
to speak heart-to-heart with the Indian people.