Life has a very interesting way of putting things into perspective, sometimes subtly and sometimes right in your face. We saw this aspect of political life in the last few days in Delhi. The two national parties, the BJP and the Congress, had their meets in Delhi. And the contrast between the two showed the current political status of India.
The venues chosen by both parties gave an insight into how their party leaderships think. The Congress chose the closed and smaller Talkatora Stadium. It seems the party knows it can’t get crowds to support it. Also, the never-ending suspense of its prime ministerial candidate and the murmurs of rebellion after the four-state drubbing might have pushed them to a closed environment from where hardly anything worthwhile emerged.
Of more significance was the refusal to declare Rahul Gandhi as its PM candidate. This denial was on weak grounds, as the Congress never followed this tradition when Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajiv Gandhi or even Manmohan Singh became prime minister. It seemed like the Congress knows it’s not in the race and hence is shying from letting Rahul Gandhi face imminent defeat.
Somewhere, this despondency gave way to anger, which one saw in Rahul Gandhi’s speech. Has anyone ever seen the leader of a party, in power for two consecutive terms, so bitter and angry about “how things haven’t happened”? Why was Rahul Gandhi angry? If he was angry about the lack of development or poverty, then his anger should have been directed at his own party than at anyone else. If he was angry about being challenged by Narendra Modi, then he came across as a bad sport. As someone said, Rahul’s speech was like a rich kid in college who knows he isn’t topping the class. All that the Congress got out of the AICC meet was the populism of three cylinders and a lot of gas from Rahul Gandhi.
Compared to the doom, gloom and anger of the Congress meet, the BJP meet, after a cold and slushy start (due to rain the previous day), turned bright as the sun came out and shone pleasantly. It almost looked like Atal Bihari Vajpayee used to say: “Andhera chatega, suraj niklega, kamal khilega”. The choice of Ramlila Maidan as a venue is significant as this is the very place the BJP started its rebuild process in the 1980s.
The BJP looked like a party confident of coming to power, and hence wanted people from across the country to feel its confidence and work harder. The high point of the event was the much awaited speech of Narendra Modi. He started off as a political Chanakya, trapping the Congress in its own web of class and caste feudalism. The Congress leaders’ ““Gandhis can only talk down to the poor, but will not accept a poor man as PM”. This emotional pitch coupled with the people’s growing aspirations can sound the death knell to political feudalism in India.
For long, many have spoken about how India needs to hear Modi’s vision. He didn’t disappoint. Many have taken pains to talk and write about the vision he presented, so I won’t repeat them. But as campaigning builds, this vision can only get more refined and better.
For me, the biggest take away was the call for federalism and balanced growth across geographies. This is significant because, so far, most calls for better federal structure have come from states and regional parties. For the first time, a national party has spoken big about it from Delhi. The Congress’s idea of federalism has been Delhi behaving like a Mughal ruler sending doles to local sardars. Narendra Modi talks of changing that and making states equal partners in the growth story. This can be both a political and a governance masterstroke. Overall, Modi clearly looked like the man who was telling the people, “Come May, this is what I will start doing”.
If asked to sum up Rahul Gandhi’s speech vs Narendra Modi’s, it would be No-Hope-Exists vs Know-Hope-Exists.
Jiten Gajaria is Convener, Social Media Cell, BJP Maharashtra. He is also an entrepreneur and writes on political issues. He tweets @jitengajaria.