Four reasons how Congress can win in 2014.... and one why they won't
The vote share of the Congress has been going down since 1980, and it is only assassinations that gave it a periodic emotional bump. Even the 2004 elections saw an inconclusive result till the first round was over in UP and the BJP projected a national role for a bloodstained apparatchik (albeit a rebellious one). A terrified minority community voted Congress (Indira) enmass, helping it cross the magic threshold.
Till date the Congress benefitted from the TINA--there is no alternative--factor. Earlier Times have changed. There are alternatives. Congress (Indira) is based on feudalism, accommodation of all strains (and stains) and obeisance to The Family. There are many mini or lesser dynasties hiding in the sari folds of the Big F. For those who want a feudal party with inner party democracy there is always a BJP-but only within the constraints of a virulent brand of ritual Hinduism. Those who wanted a democratic party based on merit that would focus on governance still had no choice.
The demographics of this country has changed. A majority of this time voters are post reforms meaning born after 1991. By density of population and nature of work, almost half of India is urban. Coupled with the penetration of mass media, the aspirational levels are changing. The minimum standards expected of all services--government and private--are what were the maximum two years ago, and is moving upwards rapidly.
Disruptive politics--of the Mamta Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal variety--show that the people of India are fed up with the democratic theatre played out by the established parties and the shadow boxing they do. The people are not fooled any longer. When they have a secular, corruption free alternative, they embrace it with both hands. The key to understanding this shift is demographic: young, urban, secular and democratic.
1. Young: The young have a strong sense of idealism--and are in a tearing hurry. Go by rule of law (aka practice what you preach). Get out the corrupt. Simplify the law. The protests are not asking for looking at specific cases or 'fast track courts'. They are asking for the system to work, that all cases be tried expeditiously without fear or favour. This systemic change cannot be done in a 'tearing' hurry as the heir apparent seems to think (and demonstrated in action at an election rally and in words at a press conference) but is a constructive change from bottom up--police reforms, transferring funds to panchayats, giving 50% tickets to women, actually implementing RTI and empowering citizens.... The young smell out a bullshitter a mile away.
2. Urban: Upgrade public services. With above 90% of India's workforce still in the unorganised sector, any half-way successful person will be paying above 40% as tax (30% income tax and 12.36% as service tax). If the government takes away half their income, they expect to get that kind of service. The best way to do that is to use public services. AAP has tapped a potent nerve, now go the whole hog. Ensure that all government employees and peoples representatives use only public services--transport, health and education--and watch the quality of the services improve. And while you are at it, transfer the requisite funds directly to the panchayats. Let them take care of their own infrastructure needs.
3. Secular: The time of competitive communalism is over. Sure protect minority rights, but also ensure that the freedom of expression is upheld. Never negotiate with the lunatic fringe, and never ever let them control the discourse. The hooliganism displayed in preventing the exhibition of the Ahmediya's in the national capital should be met with firmness not benign state connivance. Enact a law that makes it clear that personal law of every religion must match or exceed the standards set by secular law, if not secular law applies. All Indian citizens should be able to claim the protection of Indian secular law at all times in their life. That is the minimum protection that the Indian Nation accords to its citizens. Religions that discriminate based on community, or sex or gender must be firmly shown their place. Religion is private. Keep it that way--off public spaces.
4. Democratic: Shun dynasitic politics. The half hearted attempt to be ahead of the curve and have reforms a la the King of Bhutan has come to naught. Have party membership lists and party elections. Instead of balancing interests based on 'political instincts' have the party elections as proportional representation and respect the formal outcome. If this is done properly, it could help in reducing factionalism and at the same time select candidates for all posts--right up to the ward and panchayat representatives. Shunt out dynasties--both the major and the minor. Despite all its positives, no self-respecting leader can join this party knowing that the top job will always be out of reach. To ensure some privileges to the top job--which for the last 10 years had to be de facto rather than de jure--the constitution was twisted horribly out of shape. The institutional damage done will take decades to heal, and even so repeat cannot be ruled out due to precedent (unless the supine judiciary steps in). Forget the no frisking rule for all--not just Robert Vadra!--and let all MPs, MLAs and officials be treated as ordinary citizens. Remember that you are representatives not rulers.
5. The Congress (Indira) cannot do any of the above. So they will lose, not only this election but subsequent elections too. They are history.
We note with amusement that the USA obsessed Indian press tries to call the Congress (Indira) 'India's GOP' on the lines of the Republican party being called GOP (Grand Old Party). The fact is that feudalism--of the secular and religious variety--are dying. So it's not GOP but RIP.