A defining moment
K Ramachandra Murthy: A Defining Moment, It is no doubt a defining moment for the Congress as well as the nation.
Now that the most fiercely contested elections are behind us and the verdict was for stability and development, efforts should be made to build a consensus across the country for good governance and inclusive growth. “Sab Kaa Saath, Sab Kaa Vikaas” was the slogan of the BJP in the campaign and Narendra Modi, who is going to take the reins on the 21st, said on a number of occasions that fighting elections is one thing and running the country is quite another; a lot of exercise in reconciliation and persuasion is called for. Though absolute majority for a single party augurs well for stability of government, it might lead to high-handedness and autocratic decisions unless the spirit of accommodation that is essential in coalition arrangement is consciously imbibed. The people of Andhra Pradesh have given clear majority to TRS in Telangana and the TDP-BJP alliance in Seemandhra so that stable governments can be formed in the new States which need to be tended and nourished. The new governments should get down to the task of finalising the contours of governance and growth besides cooperating with each other in resolving the vexatious issues pertaining to bifurcation of the State. The new rulers have to rise to the occasion and act in a responsible fashion to establish best of relations between the people living in the two States. The heat and dust created in the electioneering have to be allowed to settle and a new leaf of friendship and cooperation has to be opened. It is the duty of the ruling parties in both the States to work for all-round development and welfare of the Telugus. All sections of the society have to be involved in this endeavour to provide everyone a sense of participation and fulfillment. The YSRCP in Seemandhra and the Congress and the TDP-BJP alliance in Telangana have to conduct themselves as responsible opposition.
There are two aspects to the tsunami the country just witnessed. It was a combination of an enormous wave in favour of the BJP led by Narendra Modi and a simultaneous huge wave against the Congress run by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. The outcome of the election makes it clear that wherever the BJP and the Congress clashed one-on-one the latter was vanquished. But when the BJP faced the regional parties that were strong and equally critical of the Congress policies, the national party had to concede the supremacy of the regional players. In States like Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh. Maharashtra and Gujarat, the BJP made mincemeat of the Congress. But when it came to States like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Odisha, which are under the rule of regional parties, the BJP could not break much ground. Those parties which were part of the UPA or those of them that supported the UPA from outside paid the price for their proximity to the grand old party. NCP, NLD, NC, SP and BSP came a cropper for this reason.
The lesson to draw from the outcome is that the 2014 general election poses an existential question to the Congress party. The people of the country had rejected the party this time with more contempt than the anger they exhibited in 1977 when the party faced rout in north India thanks to the Emergency excesses. There are only two options before the Congress. One, the internal democracy should be an article of faith with the leadership of the party which should allow good leaders known for their integrity and capabilities to grow in States. Asking the party to get rid of the first family might be too radical and impossible to implement, but delegation of powers to service-minded leaders would go a long way. Two, the people of this country should accept what Narendra Modi has been asking for: to go for Congress mukt Bharat (India without Congress). The Congress party can slowly dissolve itself by ceding opposition space in parliament to Third Front or a Federal Front. Anyway, the Congress could not get anywhere near the benchmark of 54 seats in the Lok Sabha to claim the office of the Leader of the Opposition. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by Arvind Kejriwal has the ideas and potential to play the role of a watchdog against the NDA government. ‘Reform or perish’ is the straight and simple message the people of India had delivered to the Congress party through their verdict. It is no doubt a defining moment for the Congress as well as the nation.