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The crumbling dynasty and a rising son

| 3/8/2012 9:00 PM Thursday

The Assembly elections for five states (Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur) are over, and the results that have come are nothing short of a stunner. Although not many predicted the Congress to achieve great inroads, a decent show was always on the cards until Tuesday morning (6th February, 2012), when the party of Gandhis and Nehrus lost its face and the charm of the so-called heir apparent (read: Rahul Gandhi) fell flat. The Congress party performed so badly that it couldn’t even manage to hold on to Goa (winning a meagre nine seats). Although all this might not impact the overall fortunes of the Congress party, the results would dramatically alter the future course of many.

Uttar Pradesh:
The Mother Of All Battles

It is said that the keys to the Centre lie with Uttar Pradesh. This state, which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha, has always featured in all the national parties’ scheme of things. It is no wonder then, that Rahul Gandhi picked UP as his launch pad. And since the ‘Yuvraj’ was in the fray, the entire Congress bastion was in full force in the state. Their efforts were somewhat supported by the anti-incumbency wave and the very fact that no party has been able to achieve a feat of two continuous terms in the country’s most populous state.

Still, the Congress could not make many inroads, and was beaten black and blue by the Samajwadi Party (SP), a political outfit on course for an image makeover and a generational change. Akhilesh Yadav, its heir apparent, has led the party to a thumping victory. What needs to be mentioned here is that both Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav have infused young blood into their respective parties. However, the difference lies in their approach. While Gandhi filled the Congress with the Deoras, Pilots and Scindias (who are no better, and gained political position out of dynsatic rules), Yadav at least brought in people with some credentials. His election campaign was handled by professionals, MBAs from IIM-L. Media briefings were handled by Media Moguls, while detailed analyses were carried out for each and every public rally. Another point which worked for Yadav was the very fact that he is a grass root worker and understands the issues of the people. On the other hand, Rahul Gandhi is, at best, imported material. It is indeed clear that Yadav is set to gain a strong footing in UP politics, and may be elevated to the national level as well.

While the whole of the Congress party has been insulating Gandhi by asserting that he cannot be held responsible for the poll debacle, the argument stands no ground. It is evident that though people like shaking hands with the Nehru-Gandhi scion, they do not trust him at all. This has become evident time and again.

Consequences Ahead

The Congress has not made enough gains, despite the electorate’s anti-incumbency in the state of Punjab. The current government of BJP-SAD has returned to power. This could have a negative impact on economic reforms, though a key uncertainty has been lifted. The results will not provide the political space for the government, or the confidence to carry through unpopular reforms. While limited fiscal consolidation and some movement on infrastructure is possible, unpopular structural reforms will be tougher to implement, including FDI in multi-brand retail, the Land Acquisition Bill, the Lokpal Bill, as well as pension and insurance reforms.

 

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