The Congress will be unsuccessful in its strategy to change the subject from its governance failures
The Congress never learns from history. Whenever it is cornered because of its misdeeds,corruption and poor record of governance,it tries to take cover under phoney secularism,because it has no answers.
When we were active in the JP movement in Bihar in the 1970s,the Congress branded him as a communal leader who kept company with forces out to destabilise India. Some leftist parties even called Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan a fascist. Soon,Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency,arrested the opposition,imposed stringent press censorship and stifled,with brute force,any dissent against her rule. The public justification given was the need to uphold the principle of secularism,though the emergency power was invoked to save her own chair. During the general election in 1977,despite the strong anger of the people,the refrain of the Congress was that only it could save India and defeat communal forces. The Congress faced a washout in north India. When the Bofors issue seriously compromised the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi,the Congress again invoked the secular-communal card in the 1989 Lok Sabha election. Yet it suffered a humiliating defeat. It invoked the same card against the BJP through the 90s,yet it could not stop its rise. Without doubt,the governance record of the BJP-led NDA under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee remains a milestone in the democratic history of India.
Today,the credibility of the Congress-led UPA is at an all-time low. Corruption,serious deficits in governance,inflation,unemployment,gross mismanagement and abuse of institutions,particularly the CBI,have become the defining features of the Union government. Each passing day reinforces the impression that the Congress-led UPA government is the most corrupt Union government since Independence. We have almost lost count of the scams because they appear with alarming regularity. No one knows when the next scam will explode. But for a strong campaign by the opposition,the media,and interventions by the court,not a single scam would have been fairly investigated by the Congress.
The Indian economy is at a terminal stage. Except inflation and the fiscal deficit,everything is going down. Aprils industrial growth figure was revised downwards,from 2.3 to 1.9 per cent. Overall growth may be less than 5 per cent. Even Indians are not investing in India. FDI in retail was pushed through despite strong opposition. After more than 10 months,there is no investment in this sector,either. Infrastructure growth is politics neutral since every party supports it. The NDA had a shining record in this area. Yet the UPA has messed up. Telecom,an important area of infrastructure growth,suffered a serious blow because of massive corruption in the award of licences. The power sector is in a mess because of coalgate. The national highway programme,another outstanding success story of the NDA regime,is suffering because of massive corruption,delays and lack of transparency. Real estate,another engine of infrastructure growth,is mired in corruption,favouritism and lack of clarity on policy issues.
The only link between good economics and good politics is good governance,which has become the biggest casualty under the Congress-led regime. Why is it that when the national growth rate has come down to almost 5 per cent,nearly all BJP state governments Gujarat,Madhya Pradesh,Chhattisgarh,Goa are repeatedly registering 10 per cent plus growth? The obvious answer is good governance. Today,there is a serious lack of trust and a crisis of credibility in the combined leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. If Indians are reluctant to invest their rupees in India,why will foreigners invest their dollars and pounds? This crucial question is not being answered by the Congress,because they know they have no answer.
The next election will be fought only on these issues,namely corruption,inflation,rising unemployment,the critical state of the Indian economy,national security and the peoples profound sense of disappointment. The Congress knows it has no tangible explanation for its failures,therefore the secular-communal card is being played again. The party has a dubious record on this account. Apart from riots in different parts of the country,the brazen way in which it has sought to shield and bail out the leaders of the Sikh massacre of the 80s is well known. The Congress lacks the moral authority to talk about secularism.
India is secular because its civilisational and cultural heritage is secular. The India of 2013 is a different India,confident,sure of its strength and a profound human resource,mostly young,aspirational and with a stake in the growth of the country.
The India of today is looking for an alternative at the BJP and Narendra Modi. Today,he enjoys immense popularity,reflected in various popular opinion polls where his ratings are almost triple Rahul Gandhis. Congress leaders entertain a pathological hatred of him,though the people of Gujarat have elected him repeatedly. Riots are unfortunate anywhere,and the guilty must be punished. But today there is peace,progress,prosperity and all-round development in Gujarat,where no riots have taken place for the last 10 years. The Congress needs to ask itself what explains his outstanding popularity despite their consistent campaign of calumny. It is his impeccable integrity,exemplary record of good governance and strength of leadership.
The people of India are yearning for a change. The Congress is raising the same old bogey of the secular-communal divide. It has failed in the past and is bound to fail again.
The writer is a BJP MP and deputy leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha
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