- Arun Jaitley
The 2014 General Elections delivered an absolute majority for the BJP and overwhelming majority for the NDA. This was a surprise for many. The bigger surprise, however, was that the Congress got relegated to just 44 seats in Parliament.
Since May, 2014 India has seen many State and local elections. The BJP has increased its vote in each of these elections. It has done exceedingly well in States like Maharashtra, Haryana and Assam where it traditionally played a second fiddle to regional parties. The results of the local elections in Odisha and Maharashtra have shown that the BJP is capable of winning major States on its own. The first message of these elections is that BJP has become a pan-India party which is now fast spreading its roots even in the eastern and southern States. The forthcoming election for the Karnataka Assembly will reassert this.
But what about the Congress? In Odisha, it got squeezed out of the contest. In Maharashtra, it got pushed to third or fourth place in most cities. It is not even a major contestant in States like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. It is struggling to survive by becoming the tail-ender in an alliance in these States. Many in the Samajwadi Party are wondering if it was worth leaving 103 seats for the Congress in Uttar Pradesh. Is the Congress willing for an introspection as to why this is happening? Having denied to the Congress the position of being the ruling party, the electorate is now well on its way to deny it a role even as a principal opposition. Once out of the power, the Congress refused to accept the reality. Its disruptive role in Parliament has projected it more as a fringe rather than a mainstream political party. It has failed to behave like a natural party of governance. It is seen as anti-reformist, anti-growth. Scandals of the 2004-2014 continue to tumble out.
The Congress Party’s stand on demonetization of high value currency is costing it dearly. Tax evasion enables a small percentage of the population to unjustly enrich itself at the cost of the exchequer. Public resources get reduced and hence the expenditure on the vast section of population is reduced. The poor have overwhelmingly supported the demonetization. The Congress Party has lost its traditional constituency of the poor electorate to the BJP. In any case, a Party which has governed India for more than half a century cannot afford to take a stand which supports excessive use of cash and ridicules the new tools of technology which will enable digital transactions to be a substitute for cash. The Congress has lost it’s image as a responsible political organisation. From a natural party of governance, it has moved to the fringe. It’s policies have alienated its constituency of the poor aam aadmi.
Parties which adopt dynastic succession as an alternative to merit-based leadership creation, suffer from a natural disadvantage. Tall leaders do not grow in such parties. The strength of the party overlaps with the charisma of the current generation of the dynasty. If the current representative of the dynasty lacks the ability to lead the Party or the country, the Party suffers. It becomes a crowd around a fading dynasty. This now seems obvious in the case of the Congress.