State elections have changed the way opinions are being expressed on Cong leadership and about the BJP.
Since the state assembly results last Thursday (19 May), two sets of views are dominating the op-ed space in print. The first, media pundits across board are finding merit in Amit Shah and Narendra Modi’s strategy of expansion of BJP and the second lot are a series of very convoluted justification of how they were so widely off the mark in their prediction of the West Bengal results.
The first is more interesting. It took just one election, in which BJP won a single state and in the others managed to only increase its vote share to change the perspective of the media worthies. Simultaneously, those who till recently were all praise for the recent performance of improved Rahul Gandhi 2.0 post his mysterious sabbatical of last summer , sank into a crisis of confidence apprehensive of India, indeed, becoming #CongressMuktBharat if Rahul were to take full time charge of the party.
What’s common between the two thesis is that after grudgingly swallowing the outcome , the commentators have changed tack and are freely dispensing advice to both Modi and Mamata on how to make the most of a good verdict. One would have thought by now they would know that these two self made leaders seldom listen to the counsel of others. But, guess, they feel it is worth a try, if for nothing else , to build bridges and mend fences as neither Modi nor Mamata are likely to go away in a hurry.
What all this still doesn’t explain though is the abrupt jettisoning of media’s darling Rahul Gandhi like the proverbial baby with the bathwater. Newspapers and TV channels that were vehemently opposed to Modi and BJP are writing first drafts of obituaries anticipating the imminent decimation of the grand-old party (in its current form). While some are joining the chorus of “Priyanka lao, Congress Bachao” — others are decrying the formula of “more dynasty” to make up for the talent deficit in the current generation of the family. The larger ecosystem created by the Congress seems to be more concerned about the future of Congress than, perhaps, Congressmen themselves.
No matter what the political soothsayers have to say about the proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes, in their heart they know Congress has not only lost its capacity to be the party in power at the centre but also its viability as an alliance partner. If BJP can rise from being a party of two MPs to ruling majority, why can’t Congress repeat such an act? Or for that matter , the return of Lalu’s RJD in Bihar.
The inherent fallacy in this wishful thinking is easy to explain. BJPs turnaround was achieved not by any one man or family. It had the entire organisation of the party and the RSS working for its revival. Lalu’s rehabilitation was achieved by the unstinted backing of his community i.e. caste base, who felt one of their own had been victimised in the power war of the political elite. Unfortunately, Rahul Gandhi evokes no such emotional surplus among Congress’ core constituents.
Thus the prospects of BJP occupying the central space vacated by the Congress and the motley crowd of regional warlords jostling against it, is not a scenario that excites the media mandarins. But, these elections have brought home a few more sharp realisations that are even more unsettling for the Congress nurtured ecosystem.
Even without winning elections BJP can emerge as a force to reckon with nationally by sheer increase in Vote Share. If the new trend of the electorate voting decisively in state elections based on local issues and sub-national lines, it is likely they will vote in the Lok Sabha elections keeping the larger national picture in mind.
Narendra Modi still remains the most popular and credible national Leader. Therefore, no matter which way some of the forthcoming state polls (Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan etc) might go , people may yet trust Modi with another term as the Prime Minister. So, it is not the Congress or Rahul Gandhi but Narendra Modi and BJP who can’t be written off in a hurry.