“My vote is for India, my vote is for Congress” says one of the poll ads of the Congress. I chuckled as a stream of thoughts came to my head. It has been almost 35 years since the Emergency was imposed but the self directed eulogies of the Congress has ceased to end. It was in the heydays of the Emergency that Debkant Baruah declared “Indira is India and India is Indira”. The party drew a cropper across the Hindi heartland in the elections that followed and went into a hibernation. India’s democracy won then though Indira lost.
Nothing can be more ridiculous than saying that a 125 year old party is the same as a 10,000 year old civilization. And the public loathes anything that ridicules them. The country consists of the people. The whole nation, its growth and the story of its civilization is made up of the people who carry forward its undying saga. Even when the Congress led the freedom movement under the aegis of Mahatma Gandhi, it never claimed to equate itself with the nation. But power in weak hands gets into the head.
Walking past the streets of Delhi, one can see that the BJP and the Congress are fiercely competing for hoarding space, the BJP being the obvious winner in the ad-war. But being in the opposition for five years obviously gives you enough slogans to mouth for you are not in the driver’s seat. And what if the driver runs his car only after permission from two super drivers. The Left parties raised the red flag for every step that the UPA considered for four long years before pulling the rug. Sonia Gandhi’s influence over every activity of the PM is evident from the fact that today 10, Janpath is the most famous address in the country today.
One such ad of the Congress gleefully declares ‘JOSH’ with the smiling face of a twenty-something girl beaming from the hoarding. I sarcastically returned the smile. What energy or JOSH is being talked about? Youngsters are bearing the load of pink slips and B-School pass outs are finding no ground to stand on. Factories are stopping production after stocks have piled up with no man to buy them. All this looks frightening to my generation which has never seen an economic crisis in its lifetime. We have been the beneficiaries of the Rao-led reforms and the Vajpayee led IT-Telecom revolution. Shopaholism was the disease that we suffered from. Not anymore. Time has its own cures.
But selling a rosy picture which mocks the day to day life of the common man boomerangs as a hard rock on your face when the election results are declared. BJP’s over-confident declaration of India Shining is case. The BJP kept whirling in its feel-good slogans. But Summer 2004 ended up being the hottest one for the party. The public would perhaps forget a few bomb blasts. But if the campaign of a party mocks their misery, they will see to it that the misery is shared by the party, sooner or later.
Everybody loves to be young today. The young voter is the new gold mine of the vote market.The Congress obviously is trying to bank on its ‘young’ face Rahul Gandhi. He is being projected as the rightful inheritor of the Nehru-Gandhi legacy; someone who will sooner or later come of age as the faithful ‘mahamantri’ safeguards the throne from invaders. He has been freed from all competitions with Priyanka’s blank refusal to enter the poll fray. Well, the Congress can only have an intra-family competition as the party is nothing more than the army living off the grants of the Gandhi family.
But there is a catch. This is the most apolitical generation post-independent India has produced so far, a generation that flaunts its apolitical badge. The political ignorance is something they are even proud of. Who will attract them? Will they give the number during the polls? Mr. Advani can no longer talk of his days of incarceration under Emergency as they are only aware of the Emergency ward in the hospitals. They cannot be told of the economic stagnation that the country faced in the socialistic era of Nehru and Indira as they only know that Manmohan Singh brought in liberalisation under Narasimha Rao’s government. But yes, they have seen the Kargil war and proudly recall the Pokhran tests.
But what will happen to our democracy if the citizens turn apolitical? This election will be over in a month but the country will move on. How, then, will this civil society move ahead in the vaccum of educated political opinions? This is a million dollar question that the country will face even after the polls add heat to the summers this year.