Philadelphia – The Congress Party was in full swing to chug along into the next term a few months ago, with no challenge from the opposition in sight. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was just divided in party politics at state levels and lacked the presence of viable leadership on the central stage then. The elites in Congress were so confident of winning the election that they remained busy poking fun of the opposition parties and their leadership in a less dignified manner. They laughed at the leadership of the opposition by calling names, from “Chaiwallah” (hawker in the street) to Hitler, when some of their own leaders rose to power from nowhere or corrupt places in public service. Instead of building the lead by addressing all major issues in the lives of voters through resolution or keeping them in focus during the campaign, they remained engaged in a meaningless exercise of shooting the messenger of the opposition. It never registered to them that it was an insult to the common sense of the voting class, and they compiled pain to injury that they had inflicted by calling the same “Aam Janata” (aka commoner), as a cattle class. It was just a matter of time before they could see such a campaign boomerang on their fate.
The preservation of the status quo was the convenient option of winning the election. It may prove to be their big mistake to overlook the hourglass which was blinking on changing conditions in the days ahead.
Corruption was the issue which was eating away the psyche of the nation in the form of eroded confidence of the people in government. It had been present for decades on the political scene in India like many nations, and the nation became weak slowly by its weight. The party which ruled the Republic of India for almost half a century remained progressively more insensitive to the menace of the scrooge. There were plenty of scams of a large magnitude, shining like stars in the empty sky during the current UPA administration headed by Manmohan Singh.
We can look at a few significant ones for our purpose. The 2G Spectrum scam in 2008 involved cabinet minister A. Raja in bribery, fraud and impropriety with allocations of 2G spectrum licenses to 122 telecommunication corporations. There was also a coal blocks allocation scam (2004-2008) where the Government of India allocated coal blocks to many private companies and public sector units so recklessly that Indian taxpayers are about to lose billions of dollars over a long term period. If the Italian Government had not investigated Augusta Westland in 2011 for the Indian Government’s VVIP Helicopter deal of 4000 crore rupees for 12 helicopters, Indian taxpayers would never have known about the involvement of the former Chief of the Indian Air Force in kickbacks in the deal. Then corruption has a trail to the halls of the Indian Parliament to buy votes and to the stadiums of sports where the Commonwealth Games were played in 2010 in the capital. The image of sports in India is tarnished by politicians as they have seen them as an easy source of power, control and soft money. Cricket, hockey and the Olympic games in India have lost their shine in the eyes of the public and internationally because of the violation of the sanctity of sports by the involvement of politics with not so noble goals.
Inflation is another major issue which the government has failed to tackle effectively and decisively. Even in a dire fiscal period, the Indian voter rates corruption over inflation as the number one issue which worries him the most in this election. So what do the elites in the Congress party do? They ignored Anna Hazare’s movement on the fight against corruption, then never cooperated on working for the anti-corruption bill (the Lokpal Bill) the first time around. The leadership of the party thought of saving the careers of criminal elements in the legislatures. They proposed exemptions for them from being thrown out of contests in the 2014 election under the new mandate from the Supreme Court ruling. It prohibited persons with a criminal record in the past from contesting or holding any public office. Even Rahul Gandhi, as lone ranger and leader of the party, dubbed it a travesty to the party’s commitment to public service.
Aam Janata waited too long to realize their dream of a knight in shining armor rescuing them from further decay. Then a miracle did happen. It was Arvind Kejriwal with his brand new party, which was never tested in any election previously. He founded a new party called the Aam Adami Party (AAP) just a year ago on only one agenda – to fight corruption. Congress never took him or his party seriously. There was a mini-election on a national scale in November of 2013. It was a preview of the big event in 2014 with five states, including the three big states of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh in the heartland, with New Delhi and Mizoram in the mix. When Congress lost badly in all places except the small state of Mizoram, it was an utter shock to the hierarchy of the Congress Party. Goliath was wounded badly by David on his own turf. It was the beginning for the Lok Sabha election of 2014 to become a nightmare for the Congress Party and its impaired vision. This mini-election proved that 72 seats for Lok Sabha from these five states were up for grabs for all other parties except Congress, which could have a consolation prize in one seat only from Mizoram.
Arvind Kejriwal may be a rising star on the political scene, but he will face a rough road in the coming days. He has impeccable credentials to carry on his Herculean fight against the deeply entrenched monster of corruption. He is a newly anointed David to fight against a Goliath in the form of the Congress Party, which has accumulated and imbibed the power of politics for six decades. He is an IIT graduate with a career spent in public service and a character to support the noble causes of the missions of Ramakrishna and Mother Teresa voluntarily. He probably carries the true wish and support from the real Aam Adami from all walks of life, which Congress failed to muster for the same task. Time will tell how this David would succeed in taming the monster of corruption and diminishing the image of Goliath on the Indian political scene simultaneously. Only the process has begun now.
Once Mahatma Gandhi quoted a sermon – “Democracy is a great institution and therefore it is susceptible to be greatly abused. The remedy therefore is not avoidance of Democracy, but reduction of the possibility of abuse to a minimum.”
The people of India have raised their stakes in this belief now more than ever.