For the past few months the Congress campaign in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls has by and large centred around one man – BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Yes, there has been the occasional talk of how the Congress gave RTI, Lokpal Bill and Food Security Bill to the people of India. Nonetheless, it’s Modi or rather Modi-bashing by the Congress which generally made the headlines on most days.
Thus, one day Modi was called Hitler and the other day he was called impotent. And the next day he was called Idi Amin and Zia-ul-Haq by various Congress leaders. Congress president Sonia and vice president Rahul Gandhi too chipped it saying that the Gujarat CM was hankering after power, he was obsessed with himself, and he was doing ‘zeher ki kheti’ and so on. Later, Priyanka too joined in and took repeated pot-shots at Modi.
In fact Rahul, some said, broke an unwritten code between the Congress and the BJP when he raked up Modi’s marital status at a rally, forcing BJP leaders like Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley to remind the grand old party of skeletons in their own cupboard.
Moreover, attempt by the Congress to appoint a panel to probe the case of using state machinery for snooping on a women in Gujarat allegedly at behest of Modi was also seen as an act of ‘desperation’ by the BJP. While any illegal surveillance has to be probed at all costs, the Congress needs to answer as to whether what they wanted to do was out of righteousness or whether it was aimed at entrapping Modi. The timing definitely seemed circumspect but with UPA allies like NCP and NC denouncing such a move, the Congress was forced to back off, as per reports.
The moot point is whether this strategy of the Congress will reap any dividend when results are announced on May 16. Given the mood of the nation and the fact that most opinion polls have predicted a worst-ever performance in history by the Congress party, it seems unlikely. With ten years of anti-incumbency staring the Congress in the face, topped with accusations of scams, corruption, policy paralysis and a ‘silent’ Prime Minister, one can take the risk and say that the plan to go all out and attack Modi may just have backfired on the grand old party.
Again, if opinion polls are anything to go by then Modi has been topping the popularity charts vis-à-vis Rahul as far as PM candidates are concerned. This is not to say that the gates to 7, Race Course Road are now open in anticipation of the Gujarat CM. To know how the BJP fares, one still has to wait for May 16 (when the counting of votes takes place), but as far as Congress is concerned some of their leaders have conceded that 2014 was perhaps their most difficult election ever.
It would not be misplaced to say that the difficult situation that they have found themselves in was a creation of their own doing. Perhaps the victory of 2009 made the Congress complacent to an extent that they thought that they would be voted back to power no matter what they do. But the fact is that an electorate which is increasingly voting on plank of good governance cannot be taken for granted any more.
Rahul may have said that Congress is in the DNA of Indians, but the people do not seem to have bought it. The Congress too realises this and that is why some of their leaders have been talking of backing a Third Front government at the Centre to stop BJP and Modi in their tracks.
On the other hand Modi and other BJP leaders too have been taking on the Congress and the Gandhi family. In rally after rally Modi has talked of good governance and development on the one hand and the need to get the country rid of Congress and Gandhi family on the other. He has also, many say to unnerve the Opposition, has repeatedly referred to Rahul as `shehzada` and to Manmohan Singh as a `remote-controlled PM`.
But there is a huge difference here. BJP is the Opposition which has rushed in to fill the space conceded by the Congress, whereas the Congress is the party in power which has to give an answer to the people about the failings in its tenure. So in spite of the fact that Modi may have shortcomings, the masses reeling under price rise and unemployment may not buy into Congress’ arguments of the Gujarat CM being a divisive leader and may just make him the next PM of world’s largest democracy. Especially, when the BJP’s PM candidate has been pitching himself as the man who will address people’s problems and work towards transforming the country into a global power.
The BJP has been saying that it reflects Congress’ bankruptcy when the party’s leaders choose not to talk about why the people should give UPA a third term and what their accomplishments have been and instead try to instil fear in the minds of the people about BJP and Modi by calling them communal. They may have a point. With the perception of the Congress hitting an all-time low, probably they realised the offence was the best defence.
However, when the masses are struggling to make both ends meet, then they use the mighty weapon of the vote to direct their anger towards the ruling class. In times like these it`s best to say sorry for the inadequacies if any, rather than camouflage the wrongs committed and attack someone else. Just like former PM of India Indira Gandhi did when she sought people’s forgiveness in 1980 and appealed to them to give her another chance.