What are the trend-setting takeaways for the 2014 General Elections campaign from the outcome of the four assembly elections held this November-December the results of which were announced on December 8 (Mizoram, being one Lok Sabha seat only, doesn’t matter for the mainstream political parties when it comes to the electoral equations and thus the political calculations to devise strategies and design campaigns).
Look beyond Rahul Gandhi – Look inside – Though complete redemption impossible in the time available but, at least, some ground can be saved, some humiliation can be averted:
It was ignorance and arrogance both that led the Congress party, the grand old party of India, to bite the dust, to go down so miserably.
Arrogance has been trademark of Congress rule and whenever they continue in government for more than one term, we see its convoluted form on display. First, the Manmohan Singh led UPA government messed up with the economy during the first three years of its second term. Then, in order to win the elections riding on easy money, they pushed schemes to pump easy money into the lives of millions of its targeted voters (at the cost of others who have been mostly silent till now – the middle-class bearing the brunt of everyday corruption and price rise – that was until now).
This has been a tried and verified route to pull votes the Congress party strategists believe. They have been doing this at the cost of the middle-class votes. Also, they have been attracting the minority votes significantly. Their equations have been to rely on votebanks coming from the bottom of the human pyramid as well as from the minorities.
But things are changing now. The middle class is emerging as a major segment in Indian electoral politics. This middle-class is aware of its rights and votes accordingly. The huge youth base of India, across the caste, class and religion lines, that votes on ‘issue-based politics’ comes from this class. To add to it, there are other significant claimants of minority voters now in the league as well.
In all this, the Congress party could not understand or gauge the public sentiment on issues of price rise and corruption. Political corruption in India has become a global talking point and Manmohan Singh’s government is seen as the most corrupt of the governments in the office.
And the price rise – it is affecting all, the targeted votebank of Congress at the bottom of the pyramid, the minorities, as well as the ignored middle-class.
By the time, the Congress party strategists realized the deteriorating ground for them, it was too late. The Rahul Gandhi elevation was a desperate effort to reclaim the lost ground. In 2013, Congress could win just one big state, Karnataka. But linking this to Rahul Gandhi factor, if they thought so, was again a mistake. Congress didn’t win in Karnataka but BJP lost it.
The other approach that the Congress party strategists saw to corner votes – the populist schemes – direct cash transfer for subsidies and the food security have failed to leave any impact so far and there is very little time left in the Lok Sabha polls.
The Rahul Gandhi factor and the ‘easy money for easy votes’ experiments, both have failed to help Congress.
In 2009, the situation was different. UPA had performed well in its first term. Then there were populist schemes like the farm debt waiver riding on a successful government and a faceless opposition. Also, Narendra Modi was not a popular leader of national stature then.
It’s different now. UPA has failed on almost every front in its second term. Results of the assembly polls just concluded tell us the populist schemes did not add to the votebank. In fact it was slipped away considerably as the huge losses in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi (both Congress ruled till the elections) show us. And Narendra Modi is a much taller leader of national acceptance now. No other political leader comes anywhere near to him in popularity.
And midst all this, Rahul Gandhi is failing, again and again. The Rahul Gandhi factor has become more of a hot air than substance. Rahul does campaign extensively but his words are still fatigued by the old symptoms of his politics – no connect, no context, no modulation, repetitions, alienated words and poorly researched customization.
He is failing to establish the connect that is needed to align the voters. And remember, Rahul Gandhi is the main campaigner for the Congress party.
Though it cannot save the day in the prevailing circumstances, a Congress party relying heavily on Rahul Gandhi needs to introspect if it has to save itself from the ignominy of political marginalization in the next Lok Sabha polls.
It needs to realign its campaign on the lines of fighting the Lok Sabha polls in a sporting spirit, beyond character assassinations. It needs to act humbly and sound so while approaching the voters. Rahul Gandhi must not make the voters vote for hours in his rallies. The Congress party strategists must look beyond the trio of Sonia-Rahul-Manmohan. Their leaders must not make insensitive comments on price rise and corruption.
And they must look utmost sincere, sensible and honest in dealing with price rise and corruption. It is difficult for them to do because it has been the work culture and culture of the Congress party.
They have two opportunities to set the precedent to base their campaigning for the Lok Sabha polls – the JPC report on 2G Spectrum Scam and Anna Hazare’s renewed agitation for the Lokpal Bill.
Can they do it this time? Going by the government’s attitude on the 2G scam report, it doesn’t look so.
Watch to see an interesting trend analysis unveiling!
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/