The Congress Party may well end up with a shamefully low number of seats in parliament.
As India is bang in the midst of federal elections, undoubtedly one of the most impressive and largest democratic exercises in the world, it appears to be given that Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will emerge victorious.
The Congress Party – which ruled the second most populous nation after China for two terms of five years each and which once fought the colonial British and forced them to quit India – may well end up with a shamefully low number of seats in parliament.
The Congress’ prime ministerial candidate, Rahul Gandhi, though not officially declared the way the BJP had, and with a lot of pride and pomp, is a poor match for Modi’s proven administrative ability and smartness, which saw him travel from a tea-shop to the chief minister’s bungalow in Gujarat, a western Indian state.
On the contrary, Rahul was born with a silver spoon, nay a golden spoon. Son of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and current Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul grew in the lap of luxury, and till recently was reluctant to take over the reins of this country.
Not without reason. Although he and his party will not agree, the government of Congress’ Manmohan Singh (prime minister for two terms) has been guilty of corruption and poor governance. And the Indian voters know this only too well.
India today faces humungous problems. The growth rate has slipped to 5 per cent (from almost 10 per cent), too low to generate jobs for the millions who step into the market every year. Reforms remain undone. Electricity is inadequate, roads are terrible. Children cannot afford to go to school. Still, some 60 per cent of the people have no food.
But a small percent of Indians (maybe one or two) have grown fatter, and politicians and bureaucrats have taken bribes worth thousands of crores of rupees in recent years.
The rich Ambanis have built a 26-storey apartment block for themselves that ironically and cruelly looks down upon Asia’s largest slum, Dharavi, in Mumbai — where half-clad children on half-empty stomach still smile, where water is hard to find, where electricity is a luxury and where workers take turn to sleep because there is not enough room for all!
Modi promises to right all this by providing a clean administration, good governance. In the decade or so, he has been at the helm of affairs in Gujarat, the people there tell me that the state has progressed remarkably well. Modi is passionate about economic development.
However, Modi has his detractors. He was the chief minister when thousands of Muslims were massacred and raped – a revenge against the killing of 59 Hindu pilgrims in a train by Muslims.
Modi and his BJP are bent on building a temple for the Hindu god, Ram, precisely on the site where an ancient Muslim mosque, Babri Masjid, was vandalised and demolished brick by brick by Hindu fanatics in December 1992.
These make Muslims uncomfortable. Even some Hindus, who suspect that Modi is communal and might divide India on the basis of religion. It already is on language.
Yet, it must be remembered that several investigations into the so-called Modi excesses have given the man a clean chit. Even the really independent Supreme Court could not lay a finger on Modi. His supporters never lose an opportunity to point these out.
So, is Modi a hero or a villain? Time will tell us. But whatever he is, Indians are in no mood to vote the Congress for a third term.
Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at[email protected]