The great moral revulsion against corruption witnessed across the country last year has suddenly vanished. A big issue has now become a marginal issue. To win an election, political parties have to focus on larger issues; they are: Social engineering (read caste/creed/religion), smart local alliances, selection of winnable candidates and superior poll strategy that includes media and social media management.
No wonder, the Congress has stitched up an alliance with fodder scam accused and RJD chief Lalu Prasad. Former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, who was forced to quit the BJP after being linked to mining and land scams, has been brought back to the saffron party. B Sriramulu, an associate of the Bellary mining barons, has also been readmitted. The Congress has re-nominated Pawan Kumar Bansal from Chandigarh.
Eyeing the Jat vote bank, a BJP emissary had covertly met scam-hit INLD chief Om Prakash Chautala for an alliance in Haryana but was forced to abandon the plan following in-house resistance.
YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy, another tainted leader out on bail after spending 19 months in jail, is a potential post-poll ally for both the NDA and the UPA. He is drawing massive crowds to his election rallies. Pre-poll surveys predict that his party will sweep Seemandhra.
Even AAP, which was obsessed with corruption, has now realised that a single issue cannot catapult it to power. It has belatedly embraced other key issues like ‘communalism’ to make the party more appealing and inclusive.
Political history has shown that anti-graft outbursts are seasonal and Indian voters have often re-elected the ‘corrupt’ after a token punishment.
An AAP-type pan-Indian anti-graft build-up had dethroned Indira Gandhi in 1977. However, the first non-Congress government led by the Janata Party lasted just two years. People re-elected the ‘corrupt’ Indira in 1980.
In 1989, another pan-Indian anti-corruption crusade spearheaded by VP Singh in the wake of the Bofors scandal, propelled him to the post of the prime minister. But his government fell within a year and the subsequent election brought the Congress back to power.
In 2012, the Congress wrested Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh from the BJP in spite of corruption charges against the UPA government. Sitting chief minister BC Khanduri, a man with a clean image, lost his own seat.
At the peak of the 2G, CWG, Coalgate and Adarsh scams, the Congress wrested Karnataka from the BJP even though the voters had the option of electing Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (S).
If the Congress is on the back foot today it is because of the party’s abject failure in the battle of perception and shoddy political and media management.
A politically astute senior BJP leader the other day rightly reflected it as he commented that the issues BJP leader Sushma Swaraj is talking about are “marginal”.
There is a parallel India where the ‘C’ word is not entirely anathema; where caste and identity politics still influences the electoral outcome.
At best, the anti-graft eruption was a sort of “collective effervescence”, a body of people experiencing an emotion together. It may be temporary but the converged mass thoughts have the power to obliterate a person’s individuality, wash or condition his identity and espouse a common cause.
Kay Benedict is a freelance journalist
The views expressed by the author are personal