Man of the moment – Manmohan Singh

Manmohan SinghDecisive – that’s the word they are using to describe the Congress’ (and the UPA’s) victory in the 15th General Elections. Though the Election Commission is still a while away to declare the final results, the writing on the wall is in bold capital letters – MANMOHAN SINGH WILL BE PM FOR 5 MORE YEARS, and I hope he does.

Though the campaigning by the Gandhi family, especially Rahul played a major role (as evident from the party’s performance in Uttar Pradesh), it was the image of the incumbent Prime Minister and the prime ministerial candidate that made people reaffirm their belief in the Grand Old Party.

As much as it is a win for the Congress, it is also a defeat for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies. Politics of hatred might work at the local level, but when it comes to the national politics Indians have higher expectations from its leaders. And the personal attacks also seem to have backfired.

The lesson for the BJP here is that it first needs to build a strong leadership, at this juncture Lal Krishna Advani doesn’t seem to be the Prime Ministerial candidate for the next General Elections. And they shouldn’t even think of Narendra Modi, the Modi magic turned out to be a hoax in the larger national arena and the Gujarat Riots of 2002 has tarnished his image for ever. Even dollops of development cream can’t remove the ugly scars.

The party needs to develop a strong leadership, a leadership that Indians would not directly associate with its rightist leanings, someone like Atal Bihari Vajpayee (but who speaks with fewer pauses). The problem is who will it be?

While the BJP ponders over its leadership woes, it should also start rebuilding its image. And for starters that can play the role of constructive opposition instead of the usual disruptive and rabble rousing tricks that they employ inside and outside the House.

The next five years are very important for the BJP as they have a lot of undoing to do and the Congress would have already started projecting Rahul Gandhi as the candidate for the PM’s post for the 2014 elections. They need to counter the Rahull factor too.

Though I admire Manmohan Singh, I sometime wish, like so many other Indians, that he was a little more assertive in speech. Sometimes words (and how you say them) are as important as the deeds that they articulate. But this is SMS’s day, his stand on the Nuclear Deal was in a way ratified by the electorate.

Though a UPA win was expected, the numbers even surprised the Congress. Their internal calculations had given them a far lesser figure. About the exit polls, they weren’t as off the mark as 2004, but the margin of error was big. I think it Dorab Sopariwala on NDTV who came the closest.

Congress sweeping Delhi 7-0 was also expected and the margins of victory are also impressive.

Having assembly elections with the General Elections undermines the importance of the Legislative Assemblies atleast in the national media. Though I believe that it should be the general practice, as it would save crores of public money.

The 2009 General Elections would be remembered for another thing – the beating that the Left got in its bastions West Bengal and Kerala. It was a long time coming. Nowadays ideologies seem to be a disposable commodity and clinging on to it might not always translate into votes. Beliefs should be firm, but at the same time flexible to meet the needs of the changing world. Else the world would just leave you behind.

Coming back to Manmohan Singh. It is unlikely that he would fight the next elections, though technically he didn’t fight this one too (for a Lok Sabha seat), but the good gentleman should deliver what the common Indian expects of him. A clean and efficient Prime Minister is not enough, what India and Indians want is a corruption free and smoothly functioning administration. I know it is a tough task but someone sitting on the most powerful post is expected to work hard.

The Congress should also refrain from populist measures, they might be good for votes but not for the economy, that is slowly trying to recuperate.

Though I want to write a lot more, but after spending 15-hours inside a chilly television studio, working, I think my body deserves some rest. Moreover the head also doesn’t seem to be working right. 2014 will be a far more interesting fight, provided the BJP plans it right.