The year 2013 is coming to a close. An important poll battle has just ended. A crucial battle is to be waged in the coming year. Before the first half of next year ends, the fate of the Sonia Gandhi-Manmohan Singh regime would have been decided. Newspaper headlines have called this last Assembly battle ‘a rout for the Congress.’ M.J. Akbar’s article in the Sunday Times (December 15, 2013) is captioned: ‘Post-poll lessons for the winners, and whiners’. The last three sentences of the article sum up the piece thus: “India seethes when every Indian is angry. We have got a glimpse in 2013. We will see the full face of anger in 2014.”
The prospects for the Congress in the coming encounter therefore may not be very different. Till before these last Assembly elections, I used always to recall the post-Emergency Lok Sabha elections of 1977 to caution the Congress Party how, in a vibrant democracy popular fury can become the most effective instrument for ushering into the political system the much needed attribute of accountability.
1977 was the first parliamentary election in India’s political history in which the Congress Party was dislodged from office. For thirty years, the party had seemed invincible.
But in early 1975 the Allahabad High Court accepted an election petition against Smt. Indira Gandhi and not only annulled her election to the Lok Sabha but besides, disqualified her from being elected to Parliament for a period of six years. The opposition naturally demanded her resignation. Mrs. Gandhi’s response was: invocation of Art. 352 and imposition of the Emergency.
A series of steps followed which brought India’s democracy to the brink of annihilation. Over one lakh opponents of the Emergency including patriots like Jayaprakash Narayan, A.B. Vajpayee and Chandrashekher, besides more than 300 media persons were put behind bars. Numerous curbs were imposed on the media.
If Indian Democracy has survived this critical crisis of 1975-1977, the credit goes to two factors. Firstly, the valiant struggle for the defence of democracy put up by Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan along with the political parties who had accepted his leadership when he, even before the Emergency, had mobilized a campaign against corruption. Secondly, the electorate’s angry record-breaking verdict in the 1977 Lok Sabha elections.
In that election, out of the 236 Lok Sabha seats in the northern states, the Congress Party secured only two seats, one in Rajasthan and the second in M.P. In U.P., the Prime Minister of the country, Smt. Indira Gandhi herself was defeated in the elections.
I hold that the recent round of Assembly elections has been for the Congress Party the second disastrous defeat since the Emergency days, despite all attempts to buy over the voters. In Rajasthan particularly, numerous election-eve decisions were taken to tempt the voters. In one of my earlier blogs relating to corruption, inflation, black money etc. I had remarked that in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the country need not be surprised if the Congress score slumps to two digits.
I have undertaken numerous yatras in my life. My last yatra was in 2011. It was named Jana Chetna Yatra. The duration was 40 days.
The yatra was a campaign against corruption, inflation, particularly food inflation, and black money. The demand was to stop corruption, bring down prices, particularly of food articles, and take steps to bring back to the country money stashed in tax havens overseas.
I was myself surprised to discover that the popular response to this last yatra was far greater than to all my earlier yatras.
Following this campaign in the country, GOI presented a White Paper on the issue in Parliament, but there has been no follow-up. Not a single paisa has been brought back.
A recent news report put out by the international watchdog Global Financial Integrity (GFI) has revealed that in 2011 over Rs. four lakh crores of black money was illegally taken out of India. This was 24 percent more than the previous year!
December 17, 2013