As India awaits the verdict of one of its most hard-fought and bitter general elections, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said Monday the UPA government had failed to gauge the change taking place in the country in 2010 and 2011 — when anti-corruption protests hit the streets of Delhi and elsewhere — and realise the extent of anger that was building up.
The 2014 results, he said, will be the “product” of those “crucial years”.
Chidambaram was in conversation with The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta after Gupta’s book Anticipating India — The Best of National Interest was released.
The finance minister said that both Gupta and he came to the view, with different sets of data, that the Congress did not draw the right lessons after returning to power in 2009.
“The cities of India voted us to power, except for Bangalore. And all the poorer states to which we had directed many of our anti-poverty programmes did not vote for us. We got fewer seats in the poorer states and we got many more seats in the affluent urban areas of India,” Chidambaram said.
“It is not that we did not notice it, but we didn’t draw the lessons that we should have drawn after noticing these facts and work out a more consistent philosophy or policy that would appeal to the vast majority of the people of India.”
Not just the government but the political class as a whole, including the main opposition BJP, “completely failed” to understand the changing mood of the people, he said. Looking back, he said “it is clear that opportunities were missed” and “crucial mistakes were made”.
While the finance minister said the “promise of a new dawn may be a false promise”, senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad contested it hotly and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid chipped in on a lighter note and asked whether the dawn he was referring to was spelt “d-a-w-n” or “d-o-n”.
Khurshid said he did not foresee the rise of either a new “dawn” or a new “don”. “I think there might be uncertainty for a while. But I don’t see a new dawn. We are trying to see the DON doesn’t hang around for long,” he said.
Debunking the doomsday predictions for the UPA, he said Chidambaram will be around to finish the budget work. “We are not going away. This is a promise. We are here and we are here to stay.”
Prasad contested Chidambaram’s observation saying he too thought there could be uncertainty when the election process started at the beginning of the year. “But, the more I have campaigned and travelled, now I believe the situation may not be there. We are going to have a very stable government,” he continued…