CONGRESS IN INTROSPECTION MODE, ANALYSES POLL DEBACLE FAISAL HASHMI (March 09, 2007)
CONGRESS IN INTROSPECTION MODE, ANALYSES POLL DEBACLE
The Congress Party has finally started looking into the causes of its electoral defeat in Punjab and Uttrakhand. This has not come a day too soon, keeping in view the next round of elections, beginning with the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh next month.
Party president Mrs Sonia Gandhi was right on the mark when she told Congress Parliamentary Party on March 6 that skyrocketing prices had done the party in. Rightly so. When the prices of staples like daal, onions and vegetables soar the aam aadmi feels the pinch.
Then there was the classic Congress malaise of infighting and their leaders’ penchant for treacherous intrigues. This was more visible in the hilly state of Uttrakhand where old and tired war horse Narayan Dutt Tiwari presided over a house divided against itself. Though Tiwari himself abstained from the electoral battle he supported fielding candidates who were sure to lose. Whatever the outcome for his party, Tiwari does not stand to lose much in the evening of his life when he is preparing to bask in old glory before riding into sunset.
For reasons best known to Congress people, only they decided to field mostly sitting MLAs, most of whom were trounced, of course. That’s quite understandable in view of public resentment against governments for their deeds of omission and commission. No one but MLAs and ministers are held responsible for all the evils that befalls people. Anti-incumbency sentiment is a fact of life that a political party ignores at its own peril.
These are the general observations that Mrs Gandhi and her colleagues have made, but there are quite a few obvious things which have been left unsaid. For instance, the simple fact that if onions could boot out a BJP-led government in the past it could very well do the same to the Congress-led UPA government today.
However, a deeper case by case analysis is yet to be done. There are certain broader trends which need to be taken into account, like the Akalis winning mostly in rural Punjab while the BJP mopped up the urban seats. Why? Because the Sikhs are still largely a rural community, while the Hindus control most businesses in the cities. A majority of Hindu votes in the cities went to BJP, which has the pernicious habit of drumming up false charges like "appeasement of minorities" against Congress Party and cashing in on Hindu fears about terrorism and assorted issues. [See: Interview of Prof. ZM Khan, former professor of political science at Jamia Millia Islamia]g