Ayushman Jamwal works on the foreign desk at CNN-IBN.
Congress whimpers in the face of Moditva
Posted on: 12:59 AM IST Dec 19, 2012 IST
There is a Goliath called Modi looming over the state of Gujarat, in real life as well as in 3-D, who is once again poised to bag the Chief Minister seat of the state. His mega rallies, eloquent and witty speeches over the past weeks have captured the hearts and minds of the people, while his well known track record as Chief Minister bears the hopes of millions' of Gujaratis. He prospers within their imaginations and the political destiny of the state, as he's all set to return with a two-thirds majority. In the battle of perception, Modi is clearly undisputed while the Congress struggles under a damaged image and from poor political strategy.
In a pursuit for objectivity, many Indian news channels have dubbed the Gujarat polls, a decisive BJP vs Congress battle. However, it's evident that the Congress party is simply putting up a token fight against the phenomenon of Moditva. Over the past decade, the party's state unit has failed to produce leaders to challenge the BJP's dominance in the state and rally any anti-Modi sentiment into political capital. The party has seemed content with frail campaigning and misplaced tact. Be it Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi's weak attempts at statesmanship, or even Sanjiv Bhatt's wife getting the Congress ticket to play nothing more than a stale victim card on the 9 pm news, the Congress campaign has produced only embarrassing faux pas and done no favours to the party's position in the state. The party has made no attempt to rally the rural masses untouched by Modi's well publicised development story. It hasn't developed grass root political resources and delivered key support to local leaders, leading to a faction of them to switch over to the BJP. The party didn't even try to woo Gujarat's political veteran Keshubhai Patel as he cut his ties with Modi, who instead isolated his numbers by floating his own party.
The Chief Minister's greatest strength is his international image as a development and public service guru. Many factors have facilitated that image beyond Gujarat's urban growth, not least Modi's advanced PR machinery, and the absence of corruption allegations when graft is such a political hot button. Modi is not only riding a prominent fan wave, he is also in the advantageous position to mould the widespread anti-Congress sentiment in any way he pleases, be it over corruption, underdevelopment, inflation, or even the Centre's alleged discrimination against Gujarat. The state polls are such a walkover for the BJP, that Modi has deftly mixed national and state issues in his campaigning to set the stage for his political future. His latest rants over Sir Creek are a prime example as he referred to the disputed territory in Gujarat as a 'dil ka tukda' (piece of the heart) alleging the government's intent to hand it over to Pakistan. His move is simply a political challenge and nothing to do with the reality of the dispute. Modi has made his stand clear, and challenged the government to do the same to create a political discourse on his own terms.
In the shadow of Moditva, the Congress continues to confidently speak of how the state is gripped by repression, under development and anti-incumbency. BJP spokespersons on the other hand are relaxed with patronizing smiles on news panels, as and when they're called on to comment on the polls. Ordinarily, I am against patronizing behaviour, but for the Gujarat polls, I believe it's high time someone does patronize the Congress party. I am eagerly waiting for the election results so that the Congress' charades on television come to an end. Yet, I am confident that similar to their poor election performance in Uttar Pradesh, they'll pat themselves on the back even if one of the many elections statistics remotely seems in their favour. That is the nature of politics, when even in defeat one panders to the sycophants. Yet, the power dynamics are clear in the Gujarat elections. As Modi rants against the Congress, the party is quick to answer, chastising him for inappropriate behaviour. But when the Congress raises its charges, Modi ignores and powers ahead with his much loved campaigns, confident of victory and privy to the weakness and the disingenuity of his challengers.