This is the last ride Hitch Hiker will take,at least for some time. The launching and nursing of a magazine is taking its toll,especially time available for my independent pursuits. It has been a delight,these 15 months,writing this column for The Express,especially for the reader response I have received. Some of you have even invited me to be friends on Facebook. Thank you.
I am writing this as the final election tallies are streaming in on television. I think very few of us expected these results,and I think for most of us,they come as a bit of a relief. We were expecting a totally hung Parliament,and even perhaps another election within a year. The Congress combine has fallen just short of majority,but we can be assured of a stable government for the next five years. No one will dare to try to pull down this government,since that will only ensure that the Congress gets a larger number of seats in the next polls. And,very importantly most of us had little confidence in Rahul Gandhis political acumen,and we were wrong. For the astonishing gains the party has made in Uttar Pradesh,Congress has only Rahul to thank. He has managed to revive the party organisation,which had been in a state of coma for more than a decade,and it has delivered.
As I was writing the last sentence,Jyotiraditya Scindia became the first Congressman on TV to demand that Rahul become prime minister. Will he? I doubt it,but we could yet be treated to shameless cringe-inducing supplications from Congress MPs to Rahul,as we saw after the last Lok Sabha elections,when each and every MP pleaded with Sonia to become PM. I sincerely pray that Dr. Singh will not have to go through that ordeal once more,this time with Rahul seated by his side.
The other glad outcome of this election is that the people of India have unequivocally told the Left what they think of them. Mr Prakash Karat,with his Luddite cussedness,has single-handedly decimated his party. We must be grateful to him for that. He has done his nation a much-needed service. Though I do feel sorry for Buddhababu. Granted,the Nandigram and Singur issues were poorly and arrogantly handled by the Left Front government in West Bengal,but if these two messes are the reason why the people of Bengal voted against the Left,then they voted for the wrong reasons; they voted against development and a better future. Emotions overtook reason. This will only weaken the moderates in the partys state unit,and make the hard-liners stronger. And a resurgent Mamata is a scary thought. She is the perfect politician to sit in Opposition and protest,but the thought of her in power gives me the heebie-jeebies. I dont even want to think of what she will do to the Railways,if she gets that ministry,which she wants.
Of course,when the politburo meets to analyse the setbacks,the only conclusion will be that the Left was right and the people of India have made a mistake,that,OK,perhaps,the Left did fail to articulate and communicate its vision properly. Because that is the way Communists are; there is no room for scepticism in Communism.
This was an election that was devoid of any national-level issues. Not the nuclear deal,not national security,not the economy,not secularism,not good governance,not development (though lip-service was paid to all of these by the campaigners,but not,we could make out,with much conviction; they were mannequins mouthing by rote). It was also perhaps the most cynically fought Lok Sabha polls ever. The promises made in both the Congress and the BJP manifesto were as wild as they can get. If a BJP government fulfilled the partys promises,or if a Congress one goes through with theirs now,the economy would be bankrupted. Both Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa promised that they would make sure that a Tamil Eelam is established in Sri Lanka,a laughable fantasy and a heartless joke on the electorate. There was enough mud-slinging to build a largish Laurie Baker home. Yet nearly 60 per cent of voters trudged to the booths in the middle of a heat wave and cast their lot. Indias elections continue to amaze. And thats an immeasurably good thing.
So lets see how things turn out now. Well all be watching. Au revoir.