Monday, December 08, 2008

Ready for the final exams? Some tips

Sheila Dikshit was a gone case, especially after Mumbai 26/11. Delhi, like every place else in the country, was angry at what was happening in Mumbai. Pundits wrote off whatever chances Dikshit had had as people queued outside polling booths on Novermber 29. Mumbai was still smelling of gunpowder as Delhiites were getting their fingers inked. The high turnout, analysts said, generally upset the ruling party. They were wrong. Dikshit has won the Congress a third term, a rare feat in these instant-gratification times. When Delhi voted on November 29, the Mumbai wounds were fresh and the Congress government at the Centre was being squarely blamed for being soft on terror. So what really happened that saved a Congress government in Delhi and pulled the rug from under BJP’s Vasundhara in Rajasthan while keeping it away from power in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. There are lessons to be learnt here for both Congress and the BJP or for any party for that matter.

Change we can believe in
Facial change is farcical. Sheila Dikshit was not really strong when the poll bells rang. She was in pretty bad condition. The trading class was angry thanks to sealings and demolitions, the South Delhi upper crust was up in arms against the Bus Rapid Transit corridor and the poor were poorer because of the price rise in recent times. Delhi wanted change and was seriously looking for one. The BJP picked a relic from its cupboard as its chief ministerial candidate. Vijay Kumar Malhotra did not represent change, he was more of the same. Vijay Kumar Malhotra was old, regressive, rancorous and effete. The majority of young voters could not relate to him. Aunty Sheila was more progressive in spite of the occasional foot-in-mouth disease (She called murdered journalist Sowmya Viswanathan adventurous because she was driving home so late in the night). She was forgiven because BJP leaders could be worse with their brand of divisive politics and regressive rhetoric. My guess is that the not-so-high-profile Harshvardhan could inspire more people than Malhotra can. Delhi was not so much Congress’s win as it was Sheila Dikshit’s. It was however BJP’s loss. No one expected miracles from Malhotra.

The Congress failed to snatch the chair from Shivraj Singh Chauhan in Madhya Pradesh because it did not provide an alternative. It provided alternatives — Digvijay Singh, Sudheesh Pachauri and Kamal Nath. Any one of these could become the chief minister if Congress won. The voters chose to stick with Shivraj Singh Chauhan, whom they were only discovering and who came up as earnest. He also reflects change from the old-world politics of the relics like Kailash Joshi and Sundar Lal Patwa. People want real change, not just a change of face. Look at Uma Bharti. She may be out of BJP, but she was more of the same. And far more cantankerous!

Walk The Talk
Years of Congress rule in Madhya Pradesh (which then included Chhattisgarh) had failed to take the state out of the category called BIMARU (Bihar-Madhya Pradesh-Rajasthan-Uttar Pradesh). It’s not that Shivraj Singh has worked any miracles since he took over as the third choice of the Bharatiya Janata Party in five years (Uma Bharati and Babulal Gaur preceded him). But Shivraj Singh was a breath of fresh air in a party rotting in the constant in-fighting and ill-will thereof. He was different and pretty unheard of outside his state, though he was a central minister during the NDA regime. He was not larger than life, so he got to work immediately. When the time came to seek votes, he went to the people of Madhya Pradesh with what he had done, which was very little. But that very little marked his sincerity. He was rewarded.

Compared to him Sheila Dikshit has done a lot of visible work in the last 10 years. Delhi’s air is cleaner, there are more flyovers, then there is the Metro, which will soon be the largest network of its kind in the world. The Bhagidari scheme is not only a popular buzzword but it works. A lot of babu work has now been shifted to the electronic route and it has brought corruption levels down. Sheila Dikshit comes out as an honest and earnest politician. She is pretty much clear of sleaze, something Vasundahara Raje in Rajasthan is not. Her regime was seen as corrupt. She was seen as tolerating all the misdeeds that her ministers and babus committed. People have little tolerance for corruption. People were thinking about development and a clean government while she went about talking of terrorism.

The Mumbai Message
That brings us to the shock and horror of Mumbai that both Vijay Kumar Malhotra in Delhi and Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan attempted to encash in this election. It backfired and how! These leaders miscalculated the anger in Mumbai and over Mumbai. You don’t need to be a political analyst to understand that the anger was against politicians in general. It was not about BJP or Congress. The angry outpourings were against the political system and not a party. The fact that a commercial featuring Vasundhara ranting against terrorism was repeated ad nauseam on TV channels only made things worse. It was disgusting to hear her while the encounters were on in Mumbai. No body in her party had the good sense to take it off air, because the bad sense of vote-greed prevailed. Look who has the egg on her face now!

The result of the so-called semi-finals is a clear signal to the political class: People dislike politics over dead bodies. They want action against perpetrators of terror and more protection for the common man, but empty promises won’t do. Get specific. People want more development and less corruption. They do want change but not for the sake of it. Ready for the finals?

1 comment:

सबकी कहानी said...

Its been well established after the assembly election results that voters do percieve terrorism as a national issue and do not hold any particular party responsible for attacks. (though Manmohan singh government has been seen as a soft leader while tackling terrorism.)
Had this been so, congress would have been completely wiped out from Delhi.
For the greater interest of India's security, all the parties need to sit together and take a final call on the issue, which concern us all at all levels.