How Sonia & Co. helped in the rise of Modi

BY RK MISRA

The best way to remember your wife’s birthday is to forget it once. The surest way to show a penny pincher  political party it’s place  is a penalizing push to it’s posterior.
The 2014 mandate  was just about that-a resounding slap to the Congress-notwithstanding that division of votes led BJP to majority with 282 seats. The BJP got 31 per cent votes and the Congress 19.3 per cent. This in effect means that almost  five of every ten votes cast in 2014 ignored both the national parties, the BJP and the Congress.
The fact, however is that whether due to post-poll paralysis or a  self-induced  stupor, the Congress national leadership seems to be in a drugged trance, yet to find their bearings following the sound thrashing after a decade in the saddle.
It could do well to look towards Gujarat, not because the one man  who singlehandedly masterminded their departure from Delhi hails from here  but also because the political events unfolding in India are but a manifestation of the affairs of the Congress in this state through the years.
It has been almost a quarter century since  the Congress came to power in Gujarat on it’s own steam. It was in 1985 that Madhavsinh Solanki was re-elected to power with a steamroller majority and just three months later replaced with Amarsinh Chaudhary because  of an  anti-reservation agitation fuelled by a former Congress chief minister, Chimanbhai Patel. Solanki was  brought back, again just three months before the elections were due, with predictable results. The Congress was ousted from power in March 1990 with Chimanbhai Patel replacing Solanki heading a Janata Dal government. Since then the Congress has never got elected to power in Gujarat.
The Congress did however form governments  in the state through the backdoor twice,only to lose out  when elections followed. The first time this happened  was when Chimanbhai Patel broke away from the parent party to form a regional entity, Janata Dal-Gujarat. He later ousted the BJP from his ministry in October 1990 but continued in power with Congress support, eventually merging his regional party into the Congress to continue as Congress chief minister till his sudden death in 1994.He was replaced by Chhabildas Mehta but the Congress lost in the elections that followed in 1995 ushering in the first BJP government headed by Keshubhai Patel.
The Congress was back in Gujarat through the backdoor  after the BJP saw itself ousted from power. Patel faced a rebellion from Shankersinh Vaghela when the latter walked away with a large chunk of party legislators to Khajuraho past October 1995.Veteran leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee brokered peace with Patel replaced by Suresh Mehta and  party general secretary Narendra Modi sent out of Gujarat. However the peace was short lived  and the hounding of the rebels led to the fall of the Mehta government(it was dismissed) with Vaghela forming his own regional outfit (Rashtriya Janata Party)  and coming to power with Congress support in 1996 after a short spell of President’s rule. However Patel was back in power in March 1998 at the helm of a BJP government after decisively beating the Congress-RJP combine in the Vidhan Sabha elections that followed. Narendra Modi replaced Patel in October  2001 and thrice  thrashed the Congress, virtually into oblivion in Gujarat until he handed over the reigns of the state to his chosen replacement Anandiben Patel. As for himself, he replicated Gujarat  countrywide in 2014, to takeover charge of the country, sending the Congress into stupor it stoutly refuses to shake off.
The Congress in Gujarat was handicapped by the looming figure of Ahmed Patel, the political advisor to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Patel  who hails from Gujarat, had a decisive say always and no leadership worth it’s salt  could ever develop in the Congress in the state. The last man standing was Madhavsinh Solanki who refused to bow  before Patel. Even his son, Bharat who was a minister in the UPA government, had to move into Patel’s good books to take his career forward in the Congress. Incidentally, Madhavsinh Solanki’s  was the last elected Congress government and he was  the longest serving Congress chief minister in Gujarat. His record was broken by Modi who however could not break Solanki’s record  of bagging 149 of the 182 seats in the 1985 Vidhan Sabha elections.
The main reason for the sorry state of Congress affairs in Gujarat was the complete lack of understanding of the emerging situation by it’s party top brass. The Congress high command has made no mean a contribution in the growth of Modi and the dimunition of it’s own party leadership in the state. Everytime there were reverses in elections and the president of the state unit put in his papers, it took months, even over an year for the top brass to make up it’s mind on the replacement. It happened in the case of Sidhartha Patel, Arjun Modvadia and even Shaktisinh Gohil. By the time, it moved, the situation had changed on the ground. Hardly any leader has been nurtured. It is the same pack which is being reshuffled. Had someone cared to study Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s strategy of crisis management,-of going into battle with a new slogan and a new team-it would have known how to tackle Modi. Ironically it was Modi who adopted Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s tactics and decimated the Congress. By the time the Congress High Command realized the importance of  the insignificant spark it had neglected in Gujarat, the blazing inferno had already taken the toll of it’s government in New Delhi.


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