Death of the grand old party

Some books don’t let us rest till one doesn’t finish them in one go, and Sanjay Jha’s recently unveiled, “The Great Unravelling: India after 2014” belongs to same category, an undeniable masterpiece on contemporary politics of India written by someone who is the master of his craft. Sanjay Jha is a man who wears many hats: he is a political commentator, investment banker, cricket buff and an author cum columnist who writes for many national dailies. In his new book Sanjay Jha spills the beans about the aspects that have led to a steady downfall of Congress Party from the political scenario of India post 2014 elections by questioning its leadership at the helm, and the meteoric rise of BJP under the leadership of prime minster Modi and his brother in arms, Amit Shah. Jha analyses how grand old party of India, has been reduced to rubble, from being an invincible party once that has ruled world’s largest democracy for 55 years. How Congress party had once won 404 seats in 1984 elections and today same party has almost been fossilised and could end up winning just 96 lok Sabha seats collectively in 2014 and 2019 elections and how UPA’s rival BJP has rose to power like a phoenix from the ashes, from being a party that had won just two seats in 1984 elections, today same BJP has won 303 seats on its own in 2019 parliamentary elections and is currently ruling in  seventeen states with its alliance partners while Congress has been confined to just few small states.

As per the author, the downfall of Congress started with the clandestine, politically motivated, agitation at Jantar Mantar by the social crusader Anna Hazare, who was fasting unto death in favour of Jan Lokpal bill. What started as usual and typical agitation at Jantar  mantar turned into a tornado at Ramlila Maiden due to wrong approach of handling the protesters by then UPA 2 regime and all of sudden, agitation gave shape to movement in the form of, “anti-corruption movement” and many players like Arvind Kejriwal started jumping into the fray after seeing the opening of political window that they could pounce upon. An enervated BJP sniffed the chance too, and in Gujarat Mr Modi knew his time had come.

Author writes about anti-incumbency wave that Congress was caught in before the 2014 general elections and how BJP started cornering UPA from all sides on corruption scandals, like commonwealth scandal, Radia tapes etc. that ultimately pushed Congress party to wall. Corporate owned media started running simultaneous media trails on prime-time news debates against UPA regime and how under the Modi regime BJP transformed from being a modest threat to Congress to a fierce competitor.

Sanjay Jha being an open critic of BJP and its politics doesn’t shy away from praising Modi and his ilk for their tireless election campaigning when Congress was virtually sleeping. Modi outplayed his rival Rahul Gandhi who was running the campaign for Congress, by his wit and innovative ways. He took the election battle from dusty plains of Indian states to digital media platform, that played big role in his victory, while Congress kept on procrastinating and had to pay price for it. Every stone that Congress threw at Modi, he kept on converting into milestone.  Like, when Mani Shani Ayer called Modi, “chaiwallah” he played a sympathy card and started his new campaign, “Chia pia charcha” that turned the wave in his favour and when they started questioning him on Gujarat Pogrom of 2002, he questioned then on 1975 emergency and 1984 Sikh riots thus Congress starting complaining instead of competing.

As per the author, India saw the economic boom in UPA reign under the leadership of Manmohan Singh from 2004 to 2014, but Congress failed to sell their achievements in market, they went into a defensive campaign with no strategy to counter Modi tsunami. Jha blames Congress leadership for its defeat as party’s internal democracy in crisis, which has led to the concentration of power in few hands. Gandhi’s have been looked upon as demigods in party circles and their word is considered as sacrosanct with no one ready to question.

Sanjay questions the leadership skills of Rahul Gandhi, who took reigns from the ailing matriarch Sonia Gandhi; how he has failed to deliver on the expectations of party’s rank and file, by often being reluctant when it comes to delivering and often disinterested in his job. He writes how Rahul’s personality and popularity suffered a serious blow after his poor show in face to face interview with Arnub Goswami on Times Now. People started questioning his political maturity and his poor communicative skills.

Author has written an in-depth coverage on Current BJP regime, how political hubris and myopic vision of BJP has put country’s economy in trouble with GDP in shambles and unemployment index touching record high and how minorities have been marginalised in secular India. How dissent has been silenced by sedition laws and media is no longer playing the role of fourth pillar in democracy. Author doesn’t take away credit from status quo for taking government sponsored social schemes to last mile in rural India which Congress failed to do so. With paucity of newspaper space, I couldn’t touch many important topics in book, but I can only say that the book has much more to offer than what I have written.