Elections 09 ended with a resounding win for the Congress-led UPA. There has been clamour in my (intellectual) neighbourhood, signalling disappointment at BJP’s dismal performance. Few have ‘condemned’ India for another five years with statements on how ‘uninformed’ voters have led the country into a downward spiral. I am thrilled, on the other hand, that the present-BJP is nowhere close to any kind of power at the centre.
My grouse against the BJP run into many dozens. My two cents here:
1. Communalism – A party that blatantly and openly approves of intolerance for other religions can never be broad-based to take the whole country forward. Their existence, and hence, interest will depend on keeping the minorities at bay and suppressed. And, we have already seen with SIMI and IM that no good can come out of suppresison. A frequent line of argument to support BJP has been that the ‘pandering’ of minorities will only empower them and how the ‘islamic’ rate of population growth is a cause for conern. One only has to read the Sachar committee’s recommendations to banish themselves of irrational fears and understand the daily difficulties the minorities work with.
2. Leadership Bankruptcy – Apart from Arun Jaitley, there is not one leader of note in the safforn party who can stitch together two streams of thought, or even worse, articulate anything that is worthy. There is a clear absence of thought leadership in the party, visible throughout the two-month campaign. All their speeches tried to only belittle the previous government with scant mention of plans for their government, sans a few notes on the IT-sector.
3. Urbane-ness – India continues to be a nation of the rural and will be so for the many decades to come. Rural India encounters problems that are vastly different from their urban counterparts, solutions for which have to be now and here. NREGS and the loan-waiver schemes were hallmarks of such solutions. The latter, an economic waterloo and the former, an implementor’s nightmare. Divestment, Mandir and Uniform civil code does not matter to over 70% of the populace. My own (little) experience tells me that caste, and not religion, is much more deeply entrenched in rural India. It really does not matter to a farmer if a temple is built at Ayodhya or not. He is only worried about his upcoming crop and the debts he has to repay. So, is loan-waiver the best way to help him? May be not, but it was a political master-stroke.
4. Image Reality – My dad, a (an erstwhile, hopefully) BJP supporter, liked to go on about the ‘clean’ image his party enjoyed and how it was filled with incorrputible persons. The truth cannot be further than this. ADR’s latest press release summarizes the ground reality – politics in India is universally murky across parties. In fact, if you consider percentage of the total MPs elected, BJP has a much higher percentage of MPs with criminal background than any other political party in the country. In Karnataka alone, the party has been as political as any other, with various defection-engineering schemes executed successfully to tempt legislators from other parties to joining the BJP. The point being BJP is as political, clean and honest (or not) as any other political party in the country.
Frankly, I am excited about the UPA because of the promise it holds. Cynical, experienced old-hands might balk at my naivette but I see much potential for things to happen with the kind of likely ministers in the cabinet – Tharoor, Jairam Ramesh, Scindia Junior, Pilot Jr., PC and MMS himself. The initial statements on the economy, the cabinet structure and polity sounds encouraging and promising. I only hope the promises are lived up to.