More than a little saffron sheen is lost

It’s time the political discourse moved away from threats from Pakistan and our capability to cope with them, to economy and good governance.
Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar (Photo | PTI)
Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar (Photo | PTI)

Whatever spin the cheerleaders in the BJP-NDA combine may try to put on the election results in Maharashtra and Haryana, it is difficult to deny that more than a little sheen has been lost. The myth of invincibility and crushing momentum of the saffron juggernaut failed to deliver a clear majority in Haryana and the numbers were far below expectation even in Maharashtra. 

There is no need to waste time wringing hands reviewing ‘whats and ifs’ that could have averted the disappointment. In Haryana, the once-powerful Jat Empire struck back hard and succeeded in humbling the non-Jat CM who in any case had exposed himself as a leader without any leadership qualities. An inept administrator, Mr Khattar had miserably failed to maintain law and order when the Jat Reservation agitation exploded, nor had he distinguished himself any more creditably dealing with ‘Godmen and Gurus’ in conflict with law.

True, his personal reputation for honesty and integrity remains intact but it would be a very gullible person who would believe that the administration was cleansed of corruption that had become endemic under Hooda’s Congress government that promoted crony capitalism and quid pro quo sweet deals. It is not surprising that all the ministers in his cabinet bar one lost the elections. The Khattar Sarkar had simply failed to deliver on-ground what was promised. In the end, neither the PM’s charisma nor the well-oiled clockwork-like organisation of the RSS could ensure a simple majority. It was distressing that government formation to secure another term in office first hinged on attracting independents and rebels. Most depressing aspect of this post-poll ‘strategy’ was the embrace extended to the likes of Gopal Kanda, a politician with an unsavoury reputation. Uma Bharati was constrained to raise her voice against such immoral decisions. 

To some, it may seem we are spending too much time on a small state while Maharashtra deserves greater attention. Let’s not forget that Haryana borders the Punjab, Rajasthan, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and is adjacent to the Jat belt of Uttar Pradesh. Once proud of being the breadbasket of the nation, today it is plagued by peasant unrest and agriculture suffering stepmother’s treatment. Nor is the state of industrial health any better. Gurgaon has encountered more than its fair share of labour unrest, violence unleashed by trade unions enjoying political patronage and now the recession has forced many flourishing manufacturing units to cut down production and announce lay-offs.

Khattar can’t be held responsible for all these ills but we can’t remain blind to the simmering threats to political instability. Conditions are ripe to fuel casteist passions, primordial clan loyalties and to seek enemies outside the kinship fold. Unfortunately, the inability to punish lynch mobs has exacerbated communal tensions. And, before we take leave of Haryana, it needs to be underlined that this was where defections were first wielded as a lethal weapon to undo the electoral verdict. Aya Rams and Gaya Rams have since mutated to myriad exotic species and are labelled differently but let none forget that horse-trading can end only in nightmares.

In Maharashtra too, there appears no cause for jubilation. The Shiv Sena has emerged more powerful than was expected and is flexing muscles insisting that the 50-50 formula be adhered to. In any case the undisputed show-stealer in that state was Sharad Pawar who displayed once again what being a strong man entails. NCP has pushed its ally the INC easily to the fourth place—no lion in winter this Maratha touching 80. 

It would be premature for the opposition to gloat over ‘resurgence’ of the Congress in Haryana or seek solace in reassuring results in 51 other bypolls held along with elections to these two state legislatures. RaGa’s invisibility certainly relieved the candidates and party workers of the crippling deadweight of dynasty. Had he led from the front in his characteristic quixotic style, the results would have been different. Ironically, once the results are unexpectedly favourable, the sycophants lose no time in crediting the high command and Sonia Ji’s stewardship. As long as the Congress workers suffer from such servile mentality, BJP doesn’t have to worry about any serious opposition. Those who talk—and rightly—of arrogance and overconfidence of BJP, should spare a thought for the insufferable sense of entitlement that the scions of Nehru-Gandhi clan continue to exude. 

It’s time the political discourse moved away from threats from Pakistan and our capability to cope with them, to economy and good governance. Inclusive growth can’t be sustained without social justice and communal harmony. Aggressive posturing can only aggravate divisive disputes. Democracy needs a strong opposition. It’s for those who oppose the BJP-NDA to find their feet.

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