As dust settles after the decisive UP and Panjub state elections in India, few things are becoming clear:
- Days of UPA are indeed numbered. Congress planned all along to pass the baton from Dr. Singh to Rahul Gandhi during Dr. Singh's seconds term; but seems like Rahul is coming as a 'dud' in electoral politics. With disastrous electoral performance in UP and emergence of many other non-Congress leaders like Akhilesh Yadav of SP to claim mantle of young voters; things are looking indeed dim for Congress Party led by Rahul Gandhi. Either he improves or Congress will have to start the transition to a new leadership using old hands like Pranab Mukherjee as intermediate steps.
- It is not that the charisma of Gandhi-Nehru family is totally gone. One single bad term by non-Congress parties and Gandhi-Nehru family led Congress comes back roaring. That is the history of modern India. But the question is will the non-Congress parties be so incompetent to repeat mistakes of Janata Party in post-emergency times or Janata Dal of VPSingh? With the rise of Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar and now possibly Akhilesh Yadav; may be, just may be; Indian non-Congress Parties have learned sufficient lessons of being in power. Of course, NDA proved earlier that non-Congress coalition can complete a term. So definitely Indian Polity is mature all across not to repeat past mistakes.
- All this means fundamentally it is the naive politics by Dr. Singh and then by Rahul Gandhi; that is what is at the root of Congress Party problems. No sane Prime Minister of India would have allowed appointment of a known 'corrupt hand' Suresh Kalmadi to head Commonwealth Games and invite the infamy thereof. While Dr. Singh showed singular ineptitude for Politics in his second terms and A. Raja driven Telecom corruption scandal erupted, Rahul Gandhi did not distinguish himself by the way he handled Anna Hazare. It seemed like Mommy Sonia was not in Delhi and the boy lost the plot. There was a golden chance for Rahul Gandhi to 'leaf frog' the anti-corruption campaign and to rally Indian Youth against corruption on the backdrop of Arab Spring, all led of young people. That would have simply swamped Anna Hazare. But instead, he allowed the narrative to be driven by Team Anna and landed giving a singular speech on the topic in Loksbha, but nothing more. Meanwhile foreign commentators (for example Bill Keller from NYT) eulogized Hazare. No wonder, Indian votes started to run away from Congress and experienced politicians like Sharad Pawar are signaling where the winds are blowing.
Where would all this go? I guess continued disarray in BJP can give Congress and UPA some reprieve. But unless economy improves, Congress and UPA are unlikely to benefit from weaker opposition. Inflation, lack of growth and lack of structural reforms; all of that is going to make economic improvement harder to achieve. Stronger regional parties would also not give enough room for Congress to achieve any policy coherence. All that means, continuation of 'muddle through' - Congress hoping for recuperative period while Opposition possibly exploring new political alignments.