Every election should sharpen society’s focus on the essentials, and remove that which obstructs progress. Political parties must learn from the results and modify their behaviour and manifestos. This is the evolutionary principle behind survival of the fittest. Politics should see changes in the public mood and transform itself just as businesses are expected to anticipate market trends. Unfortunately, except for the BJP in the present day, almost all parties are trapped in past positions, hoping for incumbent governments’ failure rather than becoming more relevant to the changing times. It is, perhaps, some such anticipation of change that has prompted the BJP to undertake the radical changes it has in the composition of its government in Gujarat and, to a lesser extent, in Uttarakhand. Time will tell what the factors were behind these moves.
Everybody in the country knows why the Congress is struggling. The ineptitude of the ‘Gandhis’ has ensured that its outdated ideology has not kept pace with the transformation in the political environment. Despite having ushered in economic liberalisation under Narasimha Rao (with more than a nudge from the IMF), it remains rooted in the socialist mode of thinking. Instead of making people better off, it is obsessed with making everybody ‘equally’ poor. So, while it takes on various guises at election time – presently that of being temple hopping Hindus – it reverts quickly to top-down control of everything. This was what prompted the creation of the leftist loaded extra-constitutional NAC above Parliament and Government.
It is the regional parties that command the majority of the opposition votes these days. Unfortunately, in the context of creating a ‘national’ opposition, they do not have any single leader to coalesce around as a prime ministerial candidate. The trend in the past has been to prop up the Congress. They are presently more used to the Congress bringing up the tail rather than leading the flock. The people are aware of this and have shown the ability to distinguish between national and state elections. This is another factor that is being overlooked by present day politicians – the more discriminating voter. The Aam Aadmi Party, for instance, may have to learn the lesson that the promise of free electricity may work in the jhuggis of Delhi, but be a pretty low priority for people in Uttarakhand. The next round of assembly elections will make the trends clearer and the parties that learn the necessary lessons will fare better in the finals, come 2024.