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Rahul’s Mona Lisa smile

Rahul’s Mona Lisa smile
Highlights

Madhusudhan: Rahul’s Mona Lisa Smile, If you believe Friday is unlucky, Friday the 16th of May, 2014 turned out to be the unluckiest day for the Grand Old Party of India. Never in its 129-year history, has Congress sunk to such lowest number of seats in Lok Sabha as it is now.

Madhusudhan: Rahul’s Mona Lisa SmileIf you believe Friday is unlucky, Friday the 16th of May, 2014 turned out to be the unluckiest day for the Grand Old Party of India. Never in its 129-year history, has Congress sunk to such lowest number of seats in Lok Sabha as it is now.

Until the Black Friday for the party, many Congress men had feared defeat, but not decimation in double digit proportion that robbed the party of official opposition title when Congress members sit in the 16th Lok Sabha. The party that had presided over the destiny of this country since the freedom movement and most part of post-independent era has been reduced to a non-entity. A look at the post-poll political map and the computer-generated graphics of the composition of new Lok Sabha shown on national TV channels makes it clear that the country has turned saffron. In some states, Congress has no representation. That means for the first time in post-independent India, a national party like the INC has gone without scoring a single seat in many states.

What a shame! More shameful, of course, is the ignominious defeat of big wigs who pooh-poohed exit polls’ predictions and psephologists, who had the last laugh on Friday. Almost all the projections had come true; in fact, the BJP tally went beyond the party’s wildest dreams of breaking the 272-seat barrier without allies’ support.

For many, it was unbelievable. Was it Modi Magic or Modi wave that Congress campaign managers had brushed it off as media creation? As the results started pouring in and ministers in the UPA-II government started falling like nine pins, then only it dawned upon the party that it was not just Modi wave that swept the party aside but NaMo tsunami that flattened whatever stood in its way. Exceptions were the Gandhi duo in their traditional bastions.

Is not the BJP’s victory beyond expectations? Yes, indeed. But if we go by the history of Indian parliamentary elections, the voter, often derided by the elites as ignorant, illiterate and easily falls prey to inducements, is capable of springing a surprise. In 2014, he gave the ruling Congress a shock that would take at least five years to recover from it. In a way, this is people’s victory; triumph of democracy and a vote for stability and a hopeful bright future.

Every national election has sprung surprises, reminding the principal parties that they should not take voters for granted and sometimes the polls had shaken up the parties and stirred them from slumber. If the Congress had forgotten those lessons or chosen to ignore them, it paid for underestimating the astuteness of the voter and overestimating its own ability to turn the tide in its favour.

The Congress’s cardinal mistake was to bank upon the party’s president and vice-president and last minute bid to use the Priyanka charisma card in just two constituencies to save the faces of mom-son duo. They succeeded, of course, but the party could not make any dent in Uttar Pradesh despite the Gandhis’ repeated attempts to revive their sagging fortunes there.

Even after the ignominious defeat, no Congress person has blamed them for the party’s rout. Sonia and Rahul Gandhi had, in good faith, owned it up. However, not missed on TV viewers was his enigmatic smile a la Mona Lisa before speaking to the media in New Delhi after the poll results had given BJP a decisive victory. How could one interpret the inscrutable dimpled smile?

If somebody framed it, it needs an in-depth study and analysis. Had he taken the Congress fall in a philosophical way as victory and failure are part of politics and one should treat them with such attached detachment as a water drop on a lotus leaf? Or, did he have a premonition that Congress would bite the dust?

But his party stalwarts had put up a brave face when they were grilled on Congress prospects during post-exit polls TV debates. Their defense of Congress welfare schemes and shielding of the dynasty belied Rahul’s “I know it” smile on Friday. Did they also know Congress was going to fail miserably? Still, as true loyal Congress workers, they chose to rubbish all the exit poll results and hanged their hopes on the final official word.

Now, with the people’s verdict out, how could they reconcile themselves to the new situation and justify their campaign gibberish? After all, was it not campaign rhetoric that should be forgotten once the election was over?

Yes, indeed. But, surely, it would return to parliament in the form of opposition, the new role Congress is going to play. It is also a wish of Rahul Gandhi that the role reversal would do a lot of good for his party. Unwittingly, his joke has come true.

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