Kejriwal’s Punjab Victory Will Alter Course Of Indian Politics
The emerging consensus that there is a wave in favour of AAP in Punjab is terrible news for the BJP and Congress, not because they will have lost the election but because the road ahead will become that much more difficult.
The image of Narendra Modi, after reversals in this round of election, will have lost sheen irretrievably. The euphoria his victory in May 2014 general elections had generated should have begun to evaporate after two successive AAP victories in Delhi in December 2013 and February 2015, the RJD-JDU victory in Bihar followed by BJP defeats in the 2016 assembly elections in Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Pondicherry. These did not appear to demoralize him. But defeat in key states in the current round will create internal restiveness and aggravate the political effects of demonetisation.
For the Congress, AAP’s further rise spells an existential danger. Its inability to reclaim lost ground in the Northern states will begin to look like a pitiable reality, exactly as the visage of the Gandhi-Nehru parivar will. Holding onto Akhilesh Yadav’s coat tails in UP will carry neither Rahul nor the Congress very far.
That Priyanka Gandhi may give the party a helping hand at a critical juncture is a hope some peripheral Congress leaders nurse. If her behavior were anything to go by, she is by some accounts, in indifferent health and cannot focus even on Rahul and Sonia Gandhi’s constituencies, Amethi and Rae Bareli, which have been assigned to her for safe keeping. But she clearly has a tremendous sense of survival. There were fears during the 2014 general elections that these seats would be swept away in the Modi wave. That her mother and brother may not be in the next Parliament was an unnerving prospect. She stiffened her sinews and in two weeks of campaigning ensured success for her sibling and her mother. She has talent but, apparently, is short on stamina.
There are several reasons for the Congress’s expected defeat. Among the reasons is the habitual delay in naming the Chief Ministerial candidate. Amrinder Singh was projected as CM far too late in the day.
Congressmen murmur but never actually say that the Congress President will not project anybody who might have the potential of eclipsing the family, particularly Rahul. I am not implying Amrinder specifically but there are instances.
I have always maintained that in 2014 Delhi Chief Minister Sheilah Dikshit may well have come up trumps in the state had the party High Command by hint or gesture talked of her in Prime Ministerial terms. Remember the state victory would have been her fourth in a row. Her late husband had been a popular IAS officer; she had been a minister in the Prime Minister’s office.
Instead of these credentials being advertised, something that would have enthused the cadres, the High Command demonstrated hostile indifference. Dikshit lost. That was the beginning of Kejriwal and AAP.
It is now ofcourse too late in the day for any movement towards fulfillment of Sonia Gandhi’s dream of crowning Rahul as Prime Minister. What future for the party Vice President who is now playing second fiddle to Akhilesh in Lucknow?
During the Panchmarhi conclave of the Congress in September 1998, senior leaders Kamal Nath, Arjun Singh and Jitendra Prasad had refused to see the writing on the wall: they had shot down a proposal that the Congress must seek alliances for survival.
“No” they said “we must recover the social base lost to the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party.” By what feat was this goal to be achieved?
Chandrajit Yadav and Rajesh Pilot (Sachin Pilot’s father) cried themselves hoarse: “in the present circumstances, there is no alternative to alliances.”
What irony, then, that 18 years after Sonia Gandhi shot down alliances at the Panchmarhi conclave, an alliance has been forged in UP precisely with a party which was anathema to party leaders who are even today part of the Sonia coterie.
The BJP and the Congress would not have been in the state of funk in which they are today had they defeated each other in the contest. As the third force called AAP rises from Delhi to Punjab, making inroads in Goa too, the demoralization of the congress in states like Rajasthan will become palpable as results start coming on March 11.
Corporates, comfortable with alternating between Congress and the BJP will now have to find new ways of placing their bets.
In anticipation of the Punjab results, Kejriwal has already immersed himself in the Delhi Corporation elections due in two months.
What must cause considerable disquiet to the Modi-Amit Shah duet is AAP targeting Gujarat. To make matters worse Hardik Patel, the Patidar icon, is already positioning himself in that state as a Shiva Sena leader.
Despite the chaos attending demonetization, Modi was able to prove one thing: he could make the country stand outside its banks without any leader being able to ignite a revolt. Things will change now. The momentum behind Kejriwal and Akhilesh will make Mamata Banerjee, Nitish Kumar-Lalu Prasad and others look like a muscular array of regional forces. Where Rahul fits into this arrangement only time will tell.
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