It Could be India's Finest Hour

There are these two old cliches ‘nothing succeeds like success’ and ‘failure is an orphan’. By the time this goes into print, wise analyses and expert comments on the whys and hows discussing the latest Delhi elections would have been done to death. Every one is, of course, wiser after the event pointing out how wrong the BJP was, how courageous the AAP has been and how irrelevant the Congress Party had become. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, they say.

Supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) celebrate the party’s victory in the Delhi Assembly elections. For both BJP and AAP winning the election was the easy part, relatively. The hard part — to fulfill promises, to give least government and maximum  governance has just begun. Pic/AFP
Supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) celebrate the party’s victory in the Delhi Assembly elections. For both BJP and AAP winning the election was the easy part, relatively. The hard part — to fulfill promises, to give least government and maximum  governance has just begun. Pic/AFP

There is one thing about which everyone agreed. The grand old party of grand old men and women who led us to independence and shepherded us in our early years is now a pale shadow. That the party was dying for some years and was on artificial life-support was obvious to most of us. It is a pity that its leaders chose this suicidal path and did nothing to revive the party. The Congress Party deserved better and the more optimistic among us still see a glimmer of hope that the party will, somehow, resurrect. Maybe that will happen but for this two other things must happen. The present parties must shoot themselves in the foot to become unpopular and the Congress must suddenly discover leaders from within, not self-elected leaders and sycophants. For the present, one does not see such a leader emerging.

AAP has won a great victory and with great victories come great responsibilities. These relate to fulfilling the dreams of the many and impatient who voted for the party. There is great danger, however, that the winners of 2014 and 2015 will both suffer from complacence, if they are not very, very careful. Hubris can be dangerous and premature hubris is fatal.

Apparently, the BJP had become prematurely complacent. The Congress made the mistake of targeting Narendra Modi in their election campaign last year but the BJP learnt nothing. Instead of basing their campaign on issues, they did exactly what the Congress Party did last year and instead of selling a dream they chose to portray a nightmare. The electorate was not interested.

Nevertheless, for a party that was full of exuberance and confidence a few months ago, having conquered the world, the BJP suddenly seemed unsure of itself ahead of the Delhi elections. It is good to have a firm and committed leader — India needs that after years of indifferent leaders at the top. But it is far better to have a committed collective leadership helping along. India is far too large, too diverse, there are far too many problems and even more aspirations for issues to to be left to one man to solve. It is just not fair to the leader or to the country.

The one thing that did make a difference to the average Indian voter was the spurt of all-round fundamentalist activity. The call for Ghar Wapsi, Love Jihad, the hounding of Shireen Dalvi in Mumbai, or churches vandalised, have been dangerous deviations and definitely took many supporters away from the BJP. So also was the call for Hindus to produce more children. Praveen Togadia and Asaduddin Owaisi are equal embarrassments to most Indians. Let us keep religion at home and out of politics.

Somehow, people expected that this would be stopped quickly enough but this did not happen. This lead to the impression that we were becoming a nation that is showing signs of intolerance and one that outrages about inconsequential issues while true outrages of corruption, crumbling law and order, discrimination against women, poverty, disease and ignorance slip past.

After a long gap of several decades we have a government at the centre that is not going to be shackled by the compulsions of coalition. It becomes automatically suited to deliver the promises that await fulfillment unless it gets itself tied down by irrelevant prestige and petty communal issues. The BJP government cannot afford to deviate from the goals it has set for itself, and issues like elections to a union territory and disproportionate stress on such elections are counterproductive.

For both BJP and AAP winning the election was the easy part, relatively. The hard part to fulfill promises, to give least government and maximum governance has just begun. Both need mechanisms that seek to deliver instead of self-aggrandisement as has so often happened in the past. Elections are over, the reality check has begun. The future can be a great moment in our history if we play it right or an unimaginable tragedy if we mess it up.

The writer is a former chief of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)

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