ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Failure of Success

The article by Aranyak Saikia entitled “A Look at the Economics behind BJP’s Victory” (EPW, 19 July 2014) made for very instructive reading. However, the reasons ascribed to the Congress Party’s collapse referred only to economics, with a nod to the “possible role of communal politics and religious polarisation”. But to me it appears that there was a huge leadership problem in the Congress, which neither the party nor its many advisers (the National Advisory Council, for instance) have reflected on in the aftermath of the election disaster.

The Congress strategists must have thought they were on a winning wicket with the populist appeal and success of the numerous welfare measures like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, and the various rights-based enactments (Information, Forest Rights, Education, Food, etc). The paradox of these measures is that their very success may have, in effect, reduced the “vote banks” of the Congress. If there is an effective employment guarantee scheme, for instance, the young people who are now at least sure of their daily wages immediately start to aspire for better things. The Congress, it appears, was not prepared with a convincing manifesto and road map for the post-welfarist state of the nation. As a philosopher is supposed to have said, there are two tragedies in life: one, not to have achieved your ambitions, and the other, to have got what you wanted. The Congress may have been a victim of the second type of situation: the very success of its programmes was its undoing!

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