Singh is King was a blockbuster Bollywood film of 2008. Very few ever dreamt it would haunt us, in a very welcoming way, in 2009 and that too post a general election.
Never has an Indian election been so bitter, so debased and deprived of real issues. Never was an election fought sans issues. Never was a general election in India witness to deplorable personal attacks but the lesson has now been swiftly learnt. Where the parties got it horribly wrong was while their leaders were aging, the voter was getting younger and it is no surprise that hatred lost to hope. And progress and principles triumphed. The return of the Congress-led UPA is going to be a welcome signal but not without enhanced expectations and this is what should worry Manmohan Singh, who after India’s revered statesman, Jawaharlal Nehru will be the only ever person to become Prime Minister of this country twice in a row, throwing anti-incumbency to the winds.
But like most elections, this one too has many lessons embedded in it and one hopes that those who craft the destinies of India’s politics will pay some heed.
Lesson # 1: there is a bigger religion than being Hindu or a Muslim and that is the faith of the economy: people want food on their table; jobs to go to and a home to live in. Riots destroy. Never build. This is a lesson that every political party must learn because in some way religious appeasement exists across the entire political spectrum.
Lesson # 2: given the fact that 65% of India’s voter base is between the ages of 18 and 35, is indicative of what an ideal political campaign must be: it must feed on issues pertaining to development and progress and not be regressive in its thinking. I believe the logic of aligning youthful idealism with policies and manifestoes is never more critical than it is in today’s times.
Lesson # 3: the time for alibis and excuses during the tenure of a Government doesn’t ever bode well when it comes to getting re-elected. The fact that the Communists have been decimated in these elections is both good and ironic. Good because they were the stumbling blocks to any kind of economic reforms in the previous regime and ironic because the only cadre-based political party in India is now left shattered.
Lesson # 4: you have to sense the pulse and not the idiom whilst preparing for elections.
Security was thought of as a critical issues post the Mumbai attacks but I guess the BJP didn’t realize, from its own understanding of Hinduism, that we as a nation, and not just Hindus, are pretty karmic about death. What we worry more about is not being blown up by a bomb but instead not having any means of subsistence.
Lesson # 5: the nation has moved from regionalism to federalism and this is a tremendous
signal: of the maturity of the Indian voter. We are now seeing the return of the two major
parties: the Congress and the BJP and the demise of regional factionalism and certainly the blackmail opportunities that were effectively the birthmark of these fringe parties.
Lesson # 6: the great divide between Bharat (rural or poor India) and India will remain. But this divide is easily bridged when it comes to voting in a Government at the Centre. And this time round, we have seen that divide melt because the aspirations of the people remain the same even though the definition ad intensity may vary.
Lesson # 7: politics is no longer the refuge of the scoundrel and perhaps for the first time, we saw professionals, either as independents or as party candidates fighting elections. This augurs well for a country that either elected dynasties or rank crooks. This is perhaps the most significant progressive signal from these elections. It is this that must now guide candidate selection of these political parties. The earlier concept of winnability is no longer cast in stone.
I believe India has moved many steps forward with these elections. We will continue to have an honourable man at the helm of affairs. My only hope is that this time round. Manmohan Singh is able to cleanse his cabinet of some of those corrupt ministers who were part of his earlier Government.
We will also see the emergence of Rahul Gandhi as a politician who thinks from his head rather than acts from the heart and the transformation of Manmohan Singh from a technocrat to a statesman.
In many ways, a perfectly happy ending just like we have in our Bollywood films!