Vinod Mubayi and Daya Varma


The defeat of Congress in the four provincial (Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh) elections was more spectacular than even the exit-polls had predicted. In Delhi (70 seats),  Congress, which had ruled the state for 15 years, won only 8 seats against 31 won by BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) and 1 by its ally Akali Party, and 28 won by the newly formed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). In Rajasthan (199 seats) the ruling Congress won only 21 seats against BJP’s 162. In Madhya Pradesh (230 seats), Congress won just 58 seats against 165 by BJP.  The contest was closer in Chhattisgarh (90 seats) where Congress won 39 seats against 49 won by BJP. Mizoram was the sole saving grace for Congress; it retained its rule winning 33 of 40 seats.


The defeat of the Congress in Rajasthan signifies more than the periodic shifts in governance in part of the Hindi heartland between BJP and Congress. The sheer magnitude of the victory indicates the alienation of the voters away from Congress despite the passing of two pieces of legislation in the tenure of the UPA, the guarantee of a minimum amount of employment and the food security bill, which should have brought the rural poor to the side of Congress.  What this indicates is that the state level organization of the Congress in Rajasthan was quite unable to project a positive image of the party while the drumbeating of Modi partisans was able to elevate an otherwise uninspiring and lackluster Vasundhara Raje of BJP to the position of Chief Minister.


Of course, the unending corruption scandals that have afflicted UPA over the last few years have dented its image considerably.  Attributing a feeling of anti-incumbency on part of the voters as a reason for the defeat of Congress in Rajasthan is not correct as incumbency did not prevent BJP from winning in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh where it was the ruling party.


The fact is that Congress is completely bereft at this time of a leader and a positive image. Dynastic politics of the Nehru-Gandhi family sustained it for decades but this phenomenon is now reaching its nadir. Rahul Gandhi is an object mostly of jokes and while his mother Sonia commands some respect, she is a far cry from a dynamic campaigner. Narendra Modi, on the other hand, is quite possibly a criminal with blood on his hands and has very disturbing features of a possible fascist dictator; but in the prevailing culture he is able to project an image of a strong leader aided by a pliant media, in particular among TV anchors and the Hindi language press, as well as a zealous army of RSS-trained robots. These features of his image could, perhaps, redound to his discredit in states outside Gujarat and some of the Hindi heartland as shown, for example, by the results of the earlier election in Karnataka and the eagerness of BJP’s erstwhile ally, Nitish Kumar in Bihar, to distance himself from Modi. But to a large section of the communalized Hindu middle-class youth in the cities, he has the image of a “can-do” leader who will sweep aside all obstacles.


The success of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP; common man’s Party) in Delhi, however, also suggests that a considerable part of the urban electorate is susceptible to a fresh appeal outside of the traditional BJP and Congress circles.  AAP was formed on a single issue – corruption – that proved to be a powerful factor in the voting in Delhi overcoming more traditional alignments of caste, religion, and ethnic origin. While AAP’s leader Kejriwal has split from his erstwhile mentor Anna Hazare, what program he represents besides the slogan of removing corruption remains unknown.


While Congress may play a role in preventing Modi from becoming India’s Prime Minister, it will not be possible without support from regional parties. So far it is only the parties led by Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar, both of Bihar, which seem hostile to BJP and potentially pro-Congress.  Even DMK, which had allied with Congress for many years and was part of UPA, has dropped out citing the issue of Sri Lankan Tamils.


It is incumbent upon the Left to take stock of the political spectrum of India and its future and play a positive role in preventing BJP from coming to power in the 2014 parliamentary elections.  The CPM leader SitaramYechury in a recent speech cited Tripura, where a CPM government has ruled for a long time, as a model for a secular united front against Hindutva. He should explain, however, how the experience of a small state on the periphery of India can be transferred to the much broader canvas of the whole country and what CPM is planning to do in other states to implement this secular vision.

Top - Home