Congress never so unpopular since 1977, mid-term poll likely

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30 Sep 2012

11 never so unpopular since 1977, mid-term poll likely&id=nc

In a Delhi drawing room, the day after Mamata Banerjee withdrew her Ministers from the UPA Government, I met a senior politician and asked how long he thought the Government would last. He said, “Till after the Budget Session. Not much longer.” Then, looking around at the gathering of businessmen, diplomats and journalists to make sure everyone was listening, he added, “The only thing that can be said for sure these days is that the Congress is not going to win the next election.” His small audience nodded in agreement.

The next morning I happened to be wandering about Khan Market when I ran into an old colleague from journalism who is now an honourable member of the Rajya Sabha. We stopped to chat. This gentleman’s sympathies lie with the Congress but when I asked him the same question I had asked the politician the night before, he said the same things about the survival of the Government and the unpopularity of the Congress. “They will let the Budget pass,” he said “but after that the election can take place any time… no I don’t think it will survive till 2014 even though no MP wants an early election. And, yes, Congress has become unpopular.”

What I personally find most interesting about the current political uncertainty is that the only thing everyone seems certain of is the Congress’s unpopularity. In long years of covering politics and governance in Delhi I find it hard to remember a time, since after the Emergency in 1977, when Congress has been this unpopular. The Prime Minister tried, when he made a rare address to the nation last week, to be reassuring. And firm about the need for economic reforms to ‘save’ the economy but most people I met remembered only this line from his speech, “Money does not grow on trees.” They mocked him for not having discovered this before he opened the purse strings for Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council to devise anti-poverty programmes like MNREGA.

Would the economy have been in better shape if thousands of crores of rupees had not been spent on programmes that have barely made a difference to poverty levels? Would it have been in better shape if our economist Prime Minister had been allowed to go ahead much earlier with reforms he knew were necessary? The answer to both questions is yes but there is an interesting aspect of the NAC’s interference in Government policies that has mostly gone unnoticed. This is that the interference has not worked to improve her image or Congress’s electoral prospects.

When Sonia gathered around her a caboodle of NGO activists, leftist economists and well-meaning do-gooders, her purpose was to ensure that she was seen as this Government’s Lady Bountiful. She appears to believe as her role model, and mother-in-law, once did that the way to win elections is to be seen to be always on the side of the poorest people in this country, those millions of Indians who live in horrible conditions below a poverty line so low as to be shameful.

In the time of the first Mrs Gandhi huge welfare programmes like the Integrated Child Development Scheme were devised. It boasts of being the biggest child welfare programme in the world but you only need to remember that 50 per cent of Indian children were declared undernourished in a recent survey by Save the Children to know how successful this programme has been. And you only need to remember that 70 per cent of India’s population continues to live on less than Rs 20 a day according to some estimates.

Sonia’s economic contribution to this Government, through her NAC, has been to create the rural employment guarantee scheme, MNREGA, which guarantees 100 days of employment to families below the poverty line at a huge cost to the exchequer. The NAC is filled with people who appear not to have examined the history of similar programmes before devising this one so they have ended up making the same mistakes.

The funds for MNREGA are too centralised to control once distribution starts and there are so many layers of administration involved in implementing the scheme that the inevitable result has been massive corruption. Even in States where the scheme works better there is no reduction in poverty levels because 100 days of employment a year serves mostly to keep people mired in poverty rather than lift them out of it.

The supreme irony of the mess that the Congress finds itself in today is that Sonia, a politician, made important economic decisions and Manmohan Singh, an economist, played at being a real politician. So if today the economic situation in the country is nearly as bad as it was in 1991, as the Prime Minister told us, then the person most to blame is Sonia Gandhi. If last week she ensured that the Congress Working Committee backed the Prime Minister in his latest efforts at economic reform it could be because she can, at last, see the writing on the wall. But, it could be too late to make a difference. If the general election comes next year, as most political pundits think it will, then the beneficial effects to farmers of FDI in retail will not yet be felt. So the opposition parties could make big political capital out of this decision once the campaign begins.

Meanwhile, Sonia Gandhi’s kitchen cabinet has yet another scheme in the making. It seems almost certain that the Food Bill it has prepared to enable more than half the country to get foodgrains at hugely subsidised rates will pass through Parliament. Which political party in our ‘socialist’ country would dare oppose cheap food for the ‘poor’? Sensible voices that have been warning of disastrous results for the economy have gone unheard.

So whoever forms the Government after the next general election could face an economic situation more dire than PV Narasimha Rao faced in 1991. Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh inherited a booming economy in 2004 and in eight years have succeeded in taking it downhill the whole way. Growth rates have dropped, the value of the rupee has fallen precipitously and corruption levels have soared to unimaginable heights. Politically the mood in Delhi is filled with gloom and uncertainty except in Opposition circles where senior leaders can be heard discussing the permutations and configurations of India’s next Government already.

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11 never so unpopular since 1977, mid-term poll likely&id=nc

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  • rvrbreeze

    You are too kind. “Unpopular?”
    Venal, vindictive, vicious, corrupt beyond belief, clueless,morally bankrupt….
    The party does not deserve to exist.

  • Kartik

    Serve the country right to elect a different political entity when the earlier one was delivering the goods. We get the government we deserve and the country sure as hell needs another 10 years of UPA rule before enlightenment dawns on the sheeple (or maybe not).

  • Mukesh

    Sir, Congress has been accused of following:-

    1. For Sonia Gandhi a foreigner to rule India with selecting people of low calibre like MMS, Pratibha so that Internationally India is represented weak.

    2. For not following democratic system of ruling i.e. using CBI to supress the genuine opposition.

    3. Managing India poorly from economic front, i.e. Europe and Japan were destroyed in WW II in 1945, and we have also got liberation in 1947 but see the quality of life they are enjoying and we are living gutter type.

    4. For ignoring majority to promoting dangerous minority to remain in power.

  • Jitendra Desai

    You are right.Next govt that takes over from this kabal of looters will face empty coffers and lofty promises.In 2004, they got a bountiful economy.This is what they have done with it.They could be more unpopular than Mrs Indira Gandhi of 1977.
    Raibareli did not return a single Congress MLA in recent UP elections.In 1977,AP,TN,Kerala,Karnataka were solidly behind Congress.What is your take in these states? Congress could be in double digit come 2014.

  • V.N.Seetharam

    It is delicious to think that there could be an early election sparing us of another two year agony of Manmohan-Sonia tyranny.It is only a hope and wish but sadly would not become a reality. The UPA has a bandwagon of selfish, utterly unscrupulous, outrageously vulgar and and blatantly communal of politicians of the Mullah Mulayam,jealousy eaten Nitish and CBI
    scared Mayawati along with fringe players of the virulent virus type in the form of Lalu and Ultimately the colossus of Corruption, sleaze and a monumental folly Karunanidhi surviving till date to lend life to his beloved Kanimozhi, Raja,Dyanidhi and dumb Alagiri. All these are high intensity resins preventing the tottering bricks of the UPA and it iscertain that with the sleaze money Sonia will remain an Empress with Clothes!


    As soon as this Govt goes it is good for country.It has made lives of people miserable all over country.But still it cant listen sane voice of its advisors but listening to the flattery of some cabals.If this govt last till 2014 that would b more damaging to congress.Now if election held it would get about 100+ seats but in 2014 it may not get 10+ seats.It has antagonised all and every strat of society and it only hopes to crea an pro muslim wave to get all muslim votes which is unlikely as UP election showed.In UP congress tried very best to ull muslims to its kitty but dismally failed.SP got all the muslim votes.As of now polarisation of muslim votes is clearly visible against BJP but in favour of Congress and it will vote where ever it sees the regional party coming with flying more damage Congress doen by antagonising a hyge 85% of hindus by succumbing to its vote bank politics and declaring welafer measures on religion basis for muslims only and not on the basis of poor and poverty.Now Hindu votes will not go to Congress and also Muslims vote will not go so what is prospect of Congress except total elimination all over india.we hope for best so that we would eb saved from all these vote bank politics corruption loot diversion of our funds to the kitty of sonias bank accounts overseas.

  • S. Suchindranath Aiyer

    So? Congress has the deep purses and war chests that they have stashed away for 65 years. They leave a scorched earth to whoever comes to inherit a bad reputation and return to rule (loot) the naive, starving, illiterate Indians one more time. Big deal.

  • Joginder

    Well said, ma’am.

    The current unpopularity of Congress owes much Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare. (Even though i am quite aware of your misgivings regarding these two, their impact cannot be denied).

    But unfortunately the main opposition party, the BJP is now-a-days looking more and more like Congress Mark II, barring a few leaders. Seeing the doings of some of their regional netas one can notice that they’ve learnt a lot from Congress about sophisticated ways of using power to get rich. Nobody actually sees them accepting grubby notes, and yet they become mysteriously prosperous. Off-hand I can easily name a few such MLAs and State Ministers. People no longer tolerate their netas getting rich before they (the people) themselves do so.

    This was the time for BJP to project a clean image. The Ramdev and Anna phenomenons ought to be reason enough to wake up. If they don’t, then Congress might successfully sell the notion that, “Yes, we are thieves, but we’ve been stealing for 65 years and are almost sated. Why are bringing in new set of thieves who are starving; you want to go over the process again?”

    • aAbhijeet

      Dear Mr Joginder,

      You sound like the Mother who knows her Daughter is Ugly but still want her to marry a handsome prince. Give up!! Why would anybody vote for Congress just to keep BJP out of power because even some of BJP leaders are corrupt ???? And on what basis are you charging the BJP ???? It seems the Congress supporters have lost all the courage & vision, hence maligning the BJP as a last ditch effort.

      • Bong

        @ aAbhijeet: I thought Joginder’s comment makes the point that Indians will no longer tolerate corruption. And that BJP should project a clean image otherwise Congress will reap the benefits. Doesn’t seem like congress propaganda to me.

        In my own opinion, BJP will do well in the elections if it (1) kicks out the corrupt leaders, never mind the loss of a few dozen netas and their chamchas because millions (yes millions) of Indians will give their support in return; and (2) projects Modi as the PM.

  • Prashanth K.P.

    I suppose we are already late in putting out a corrupt, inefficient and despotic government as is the incumbent CON led UPA2. Though an early poll might not bring in a strong opposition as desired, a change in governance will certainly stop the rampant loot the current government is indulged in, immersed in.

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