“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” - Napoleon Bonaparte
Till a few days back Rahul Gandhi had a nickname that no poll victory could erase off. It’s ‘Pappu’ which means ‘loser’. However everything has changed overnight. The Congress party’s spectacular victory in the assembly polls in Hindu hinterland of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh has made people see the young Congress President in a new light. There is a metamorphosis of a new leader. By the time Rahul Gandhi completed one year as the President of Congress party on December 12, the Gandhi scion was seen as a well-worthy candidate for premiership of India at next year’s Lok Sabha elections.
While farmer woes, unemployment, demonetization, GST and a plethora of other factors have been attributed to the ruling BJP’s defeat in the Hindu heartland, the Congress and other opposition parties have pointed out to something else too that mattered. That is the attitude – the arrogance of the BJP leaders in the face of the mounting grievances of the ordinary man. Besides Rahul Gandhi even former Prime Minister Deve Gawda commented on this fact. “People have made this nation ‘arrogance-free by voting out BJP” Gawda who is the national President of the Janata Dal party has said.
With PM Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah, both not being people persons, there was an apparent gulf between these leaders and the common man which continued to be widened. Perhaps the BJP thought that playing the Hindutva card was a panacea for all ills. Given their authoritarian nature the party rank and file too could not muster courage to convey the mounting public grievances to these two stalwarts. The result was an unexpected drubbing, a virtual rout at the recently held assembly polls.
One cannot but wonder, if this was the result of the Hindu hinterland, what awaits the BJP in other states where there is a strong minority presence, at next year’s Lok Sabha polls. Given the strong far right-wing policies adopted by the Modi government with the mockery of racism it had made in States like Uttar Pradesh and the manner in which the regional and fringe parties are now rallying around Rahul Gandhi, it is certain that 2019 is going to be a tough year for Narendra Modi.The leader of the BahujanSamaj Party (BSP) and four time chief minister of Uttar Pradesh(UP) Mayawati yesterday extended support to Congress to reach 116- seat majority in Madhya Pradesh. The Samajwadi Party led by former UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav too has said Congress has his party’s support in the state.
Among the many strategies adopted by Rahul Gandhi in the recently concluded polls was the move to get the youth leaders work in tandem with the old guard. One of the obvious mistakes made by Congress at past elections was the two-level leadership during campaigns -- with seniors working with Sonia Gandhi while young leaders who mostly are Rahul Gandhi’s personal friends working as another team. With Rahul Gandhi taking over party mantle last year there had been some genuine efforts to bring the youth leaders and the veterans under one umbrella.
This time in Madhya Pradesh young Jyotiraditya Scindia worked together with senior hand Kamal Nath while young Sachin Pilot joined hands with veteran Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan to oust BJP Chief Minister Vasundara Raje Scindia of the prominent Scindia royal family. Incidentally Vasundara is the aunt of Jyotiraditya Scindia.
PM Modi has tweeted that he accepted “the people’s mandate with humility” and had congratulated Congress in a true gentlemanly manner. Perhaps Prime Minister Modi could have narrowed the margin of defeat and even carried away the state of Madhya Pradesh if he practised more humility and narrowed the gap between party leadership and the ordinary voter.