Defeat has so far done nothing to revive the Congress, but it has certainly revived Sonia Gandhi. It could even be said that she has blossomed since she led our oldest political party to its worst defeat ever. She who spoke hardly at all in the 10 years she ruled India never loses a chance now to tell the Prime Minister how to behave.
In recent days, she has accused him of encouraging communal violence, selling “false dreams” and not caring enough for women. Her loyal attack dog (guess who!) has gone so far as to suggest that women power could become a force that will push Narendra Modi into the sea. This slightly mysterious remark is more interesting than you think. Let me explain. In the past 10 years, Sonia successfully defanged every major opposition leader and this includes those who led the BJP. She failed only when it came to the ‘chaiwallah’ from Gujarat. So the only solution left is to ‘push him into the sea’.
This might not be easy so perhaps it is time that the Congress president began to analyse more honestly the reasons for her party’s humiliating defeat. She could begin by admitting at least in the privacy of her boudoir that the report prepared by her loyal servant, Shri A K Antony, was no more than an attempt to sell her a false dream. He absolved her and her son of blame and she graciously accepted this absolution. But, if she is serious about “coming back to power”, as she says she is every time she speaks, she needs to examine more carefully what went wrong. If she does, she will find that it was the economic policies she imposed on the government through her National Advisory Council that slowed the economy down and killed off jobs in the private sector. In the public sector, there is almost no scope to create any more jobs for the 15 million young Indians for whom new jobs need to be created every year.
She may also discover that Indian voters have changed since the days of the other Mrs Gandhi. They can no longer be fooled by slogans and welfare schemes named after some member or other of the Dynasty. In the past decade, this is all they got. So they were more than happy to listen to a ‘chaiwallah’ who told them that India had no business to be wallowing in poverty. And that she had every right to become a rich, developed country. This is not a “false dream” Madameji, it is what most Indians want. This is why they threw the Congress economic vision of ‘poverty alleviation’ into the electoral dustbin.
Another thing Indian voters noticed during this election campaign was that behind the talk of alleviating poverty was a corrupt, feudal political system. Rahul Gandhi may have banged on about bringing real democracy within the party, but in the past 10 years, the number of hereditary MPs in the Congress went up noticeably. Nearly every young MP comes from a political family. Unfortunately, when lesser political parties saw that the mighty Congress was promoting feudalism through the ballot box, they copied closely and the infection like some awful disease spread even to the BJP. It should come as no surprise that a recent poll shows that most voters voted for Modi and not the BJP. My own humble assessment is that without Modi, the BJP would not have got more than 150 seats.
The Prime Minister had to select his team from the ranks of his own party but he is now making a serious effort to change the way his party thinks. The corridors of power are awash with rumours. A senior minister whose son allegedly took money for transfers and postings has been ordered to return the money. A minister who wanted to travel abroad for his son’s commencement ceremony has been reminded that his duty is to the public. A minister caught kowtowing to a mighty industrialist was reprimanded. So those who became ministers in the hope that they could make a small fortune and pass on their ‘legacy’ to their children are quickly discovering that this is unlikely to happen.
The ‘chaiwallah’, Madameji, is determined to change the political culture that was created under your aegis. It was this political culture that led to your defeat because in these days of instant communication people are no longer as gullible as they used to be. They can tell the difference between real development and sham welfare schemes. They can tell the difference between real leaders and heirs, and if they jeer at Congress chief ministers when they appear on stage beside the Prime Minister, it could be because they are sick to death of them. Everyone is.
Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @tavleen_singh