The era of Pamulaparthy Venkata Narasimha Rao showed the people of India — though not the Congress Party — that a government run under the aegis of the 44-year-old party (for after all, in 1969 Indira Gandhi created a new party out of the embers which she left behind in the old) need not be headed by a member of the Nehru family to do a reasonable job of governance. It is therefore fortunate for the ruling branch of the Nehru family that their next choice for the Prime Ministership, Manmohan Singh, has turned out to be such a disaster. While there are many who point out that the mild-mannered economist is among the most potent weapons in the armoury of Narendra Modi, what is forgotten is that it is the litany of failures of Manmohan Singh that has sparked a growing consensus within both the Congress as well as Congress-leaning voters that Rahul Gandhi should take over from Manmohan Singh, and soon. Should such a transfer of Prime Ministerial authority take place before the polls, the Congress tally would certainly be increased, although the closer such a transition is to polling day, the lesser will be the dividend of the shift to Rahul Gandhi.
That dividend hinges on whether the heir to the Congress abandons his teardrop-generating Mills & Boon routine and focuses in his speeches on governance, and what he proposes to do to improve the abysmal standards of administration in the country. Enough tears have been shed over the years for the AICC general secretary’s grandmother and father. Certainly the deaths of both were tragic, and created a national catharsis. However, so far as seeking to place responsibility for their deaths on the BJP is concerned, as yet even the IB or the CBI has not brought forward any credible evidence that Narendra Modi rather than the ISI was behind the Khalistan movement or the wholly indefensible manner in which Bhindranwale was neutered by the Army while taking refuge in the Golden Temple.
If there is any record of any BJP leader meeting Beant Singh and Satwant Singh and motivating them to commit their horrible deed, this — as with so much else in Delhi — remains hidden from the public. Similarly, while considering the innuendo that the BJP (now led by Modi) was — even if tangentially — behind even the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the presumably extensive contacts between BJP leaders and LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran, which must have preceded Dhanu’s deed, have as yet been kept secret.
As for Muzaffarnagar, where the role of Azam Khan appears to have escaped the attention of the Intelligence Bureau officers who apparently brief Rahul Gandhi diligently, what stands out is the — perhaps wilful — incapacity of the state government to protect lives.
In Gujarat, the post-Godhra riots of 2002 were the first and thus far the last communal riots that the riot-wracked state has seen during the Modi government. In the case of Uttar Pradesh, there has been a surfeit of riots since Akhilesh Yadav became Chief Minister, but apparently the SP’s Good Cop face is yet to learn how to prevent such fires the way Modi has succeeded in doing for the past eleven years.
For at least the past four years, it has been clear that in the mind of the voter, the 2014 contest will be a referendum between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi. While even two years ago, Rahul had the edge over the Gujarat strongman, that position has steadily been reversed, and with each month, the attractiveness of Modi to the voter has grown even while Rahul’s voter base appears to be shrinking. After all, his is not the only family to have suffered grief in India.
In so many riots or railway accidents, there are families which have lost most of their members. Soldiers and police officers are dying with increasing frequency during these insecure years, and each leaves behind a family in as much pain and raw anger as has been described by Rahul Gandhi at Indore. Revealing one’s own pain and rage is usually less effective in capturing votes than showing empathy for the pain of others, and the more Mills & Boon becomes the AICC bible, the more votes will flow to Narendra Modi.
Indeed, it would appear that the Gujarat-born leader of the BJP is at — or close to — the figure of 220 BJP seats which this columnist predicted as the 2014 result, after Modi had taken charge as the Election Committee chairperson. Manmohan Singh is helping Rahul Gandhi boost his appeal, but mostly within his own party. But with each tearjerker sally, Rahul Gandhi is ensuring the victory of Narendra Modi.