The marathon exercise of conducting the biggest democratic election process in the history of mankind has finally come to an end. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has come out as the single biggest majority holder, a situation taking place for the first time since 1984 in an era where coalition politics had been accepted as the norm.
However, the outcome of the 16th general elections has surely not come as a surprise to the leaders of the Indian National Congress. The success of Narendra Modi, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and now the soon to be former chief minister of Gujarat, along with being known as a progressive leader, can be traced to the fact that India’s heart was set to vote the Congress out more than voting the BJP in.
Within the first hour of counting, it was clear to whom the majority was going to go to. Even some BJP leaders themselves were surprised by their party’s incredible performance, especially in the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, where the party won 72 of the 80 seats. “I would have been content with 50 in UP, but this is very good,” said a BJP leader. The surprise this time in BJP winning however is that the party’s numbers have managed to undermine even some of the strongest regional parties in the country, especially in the northern belt. Regional heavyweights such as the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party in UP, and the Janata Dal (United) in Bihar have suffered huge and unprecedented defeats paving way for a complete sweep for the BJP.
The angst in the Indian population against the Congress was so viral, that in cases such as New Delhi, even though AAP lost, the new party managed to significantly raise the percentage of votes it received compared to the party’s performance in the state polls last year. In some seats in Delhi, AAP was ahead of some of Congress’ most veteran politicians.
The creation of this situation for the Congress is the party’s own dynastic structure. A party which itself is plagued by lack of democratic structures within its workings, trying to govern the world’s largest democracy, was always going to be an ardent task. This situation of the Congress and Gandhi family’s control was specifically brought into public debate as whether the party under their leadership was even letting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh do his job.
Evidently Sonia Gandhi was able to control India’s fortunes and misfortunes without being in a public position to be held accountable for. During the press conference held by Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi to congratulate the new government today, Sonia Gandhi said that the party’s “parampara” (traditions) was one of its biggest assets, and this perhaps indicated that the Gandhi family is still in no mood to dilute their grasp and commit to a more democratic structure in order to pull out the best political leaders from their own talent pool.
And the Congress in fact, does not have a shortage of able leaders; it is whether they are allowed to perform their duties without being bound to the family’s definition and interpretations of their paramparas. For example, a person like Narendra Modi would have probably never been able to reach the top echelons of the Congress party’s leadership as he did in the BJP.
A political party which has decided to remain dynastic and where talent cannot be nurtured unless it was hand-in-hand with whatever the ruling family wants will find it hard to sustain itself in today’s environment. The Congress, despite doing well in its first tenure, needs internal introspection more than anything else. The ills and mishits that have deluged the party since 2009-10 have mostly come from within the party and its ideals than any other external factors.
Congress’s failure has come from the Gandhi family, and it remains to be seen how the party’s other members, loyalists, careerists and dissenters, will deal with such a massive loss and whether they will demand Rahul Gandhi to step away from taking any centric political roles in the future. By the looks of Rahul Gandhi’s body-language and expression during the press conference with Sonia Gandhi, the young scion may just happily abdicate his political responsibilities that his surname automatically gave him upon his birth.