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Writing on the wall
Better alternatives can be provided only by self-introspection and overcoming multiple weaknesses
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The only advantage of failures is the opportunity they throw for those who have the ability to take the challenge to soar higher and steadier than they ever were. For the badly routed political secular forces in the Uttar Pradesh elections, the electoral results should serve as a lesson, provided they are able to engage dispassionately with the strengths of their political adversary and self-introspect their own short-comings and weaknesses. Former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, may sound rash but is not quite off the mark in reminding the national political parties opposed to the BJP style of politics about the absence of a leader with a pan-Indian appeal to match the Modi phenomenon and of the inability to sketch a positive alternative idea of political model. Today, there is much that is wrong with the mainstream Indian political parties adhering to secular beliefs and democratic-socialistic models of governance. Their own inner party battles and their inability to forge stronger and effective alliances is only one of them. The second is their inability to cling on to their professed ideological beliefs in their party functioning or governance. Third is their poor record of governance and their dynastic politics. Fourth, is their inability to shed politics of negative criticism and provide a convincing alternate economic model to the crony capitalist and quasi-imperial socio-economic and political model that Modi led BJP is offering. Fifth, their professed belief in secular ideals stands in absolute contrast to their inability to uphold these secular values during their respective tenures in power; there also being cases of so-called secular groups invoking communal politics to serve their petty interests. The credibility of many of these political groups and individuals stands tarnished due to their hollow ideological claims. Their inability to perform created the vacuum that allowed space to a phenomenon that right wing forces are becoming despite their hate soaked agenda and divisive politics. Propaganda as a tool in the hands of the latter is only one part of their success story.

While politics of Uttar Pradesh may have a larger bearing on the future of Indian political scenario, Punjab shows that all is not lost. Before that Delhi, Bihar, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu have shown that it is as yet not quite a cake-walk for the Hindutva forces. The counter political discourse in these states, however, offers little comfort but requires closer scrutiny to defeat these forces. The anti-right wing waves in all these states are an outcome of local issues, positive development agendas and the charismatic leadership that Congress or other alternate groups could provide. But to beat the BJP at the national level requires much more than a patch-work exercise of performance of some states and some leaders. It requires a stronger group that is acceptable and catches the imagination of pan-Indian sentiment. This could mean alternative alliances with emergence of a third front, the re-building of Congress or strengthening of Aam Aadmi Party, which cannot be written off; 22 seats in Punjab, finishing up second to Congress is no small achievement for a party that is still very new. The country's biggest bet could be Congress which has a presence across the country but that is only if the grand old party is ready to re-invent itself right from scratch. First of all, it would need to grapple with the question of its ideological moorings and take a committed decision on whether it wants to steadfastly hold on to its secular and socialist ideals or play soft Hindutva and pan-imperialist politics. Second it needs to design a holistic socio-economic and political model which has a saleable value among its vote-banks. Thirdly, it needs a better leader in command who is appealing enough among masses. The Congress' inability to come out of the shade of Nehru-Gandhi family may be one its biggest drawbacks. The belief that the Gandhis alone can keep the flock together is based on a flimsy premise. If the ideological moorings of an organisation are not enough to keep the party strength intact, it is time to revitalize and even re-engineer the party instead of imposing personality cults and iconising a family, whose members have immense contribution in the birth and strengthening of the party in the past. Unless that happens or unless some other competition in the form of a major alliance is able to cobble up a united common minimum programme that can excite the voters, fearfully it may, as Omar Abdullah points out, already be too late for the next battle of hustings.

News Updated at : Tuesday, March 14, 2017
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