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Sonia, Please Wake Up
As a card-carrying pseudo-secularist and an alleged chamcha of Sonia Gandhi, these results make painful reading. Brother, we are not talking defeat here, we are talking rout. Nevertheless, one result in this semi-final match lifts my sagging spirits: the Congress loss in Raipur. Those attempting to influence the result in Chhattisgarh, and their identities are too well known for any coy fudging, have been given a fitting reply. The Congress defeat in the state is, in fact, a victory for clean electoral practices.
The blatant and crude manner in which M/s Jogi & Jogi with their sundry collaborators played out this synthetic scam was immediately detected by the electorate. The repugnant Dilip Singh Judeo was stitched up, for which he will doubtless pay a heavy price. And rightly. However, this exercise to 'cleanse' public life, expose corruption, was a manifest fraud. Mr Ajit Jogi appears both stunned and chastened. Few feel sorry for his predicament.
All independent reports coming out of Raipur suggested that this gifted and energetic tribal leader would romp home. Instead, he and his party snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. We must pay tribute to the 'native wisdom' of the people of Chhattisgarh for foiling an investigative masquerade to derail Indian democracy. Those salivating stingers polishing their spy cameras for 2004 may find the exposures they achieve coming back to haunt them.
The Congress, unlike the BJP, is not very good at introspection. Hubris, a conviction that they're blessed with all answers, may have worked in the '60s and '70s. Today it's self-delusional and silly. Talking to Congress leaders on Thursday, I got no sense that they were any wiser. A temporary setback, traditional anti-incumbency, caste consolidation, a fluke win, was the diagnosis I heard. It is enough to make a die-hard Congress supporter defect to the saffronites.
A BJP triumph undoubtedly, but aided and abetted by monumental Congress incompetence. In the last seven days, while Sonia's party slept in Rajasthan, lulled into complacency by the opinion polls, the BJP pulled out all the stops. Vasundhararaje used AC Nielsen to identify nearly 50 constituencies which were lost narrowly in 1998. These were carpet-bombed. When I think of Congress election managers and compare them with Pramod Mahajan and Arun Jaitley, I think of Chetan Sharma bowling to Javed Miandad. The name Ambika Soni is whispered in awe at 24 Akbar Road. She works through a cabal, has little knowledge of ground politics and is an excruciatingly bad manager. Above all, she is a loser! Perhaps Sonia Gandhi could ask Ambika to spend more time tending her garden and less time in the party office.
All, however, is not lost. If a week is a long time in politics, five months is an eternity. I wonder how Dr Togadia and the rss will react to a prime minister considerably emboldened by this "personal triumph" and determined to eschew the mandir-Hindutva agenda for the finals, whenever they take place. I see the seeds of huge conflict here—a conflict the Congress could usefully exploit.
But Sonia Gandhi has to put her house in order and reorder her priorities (alliances to begin with). Otherwise, she could be out of a job herself.