No Punches Pulled: Every Party discards the manifestos once the elections are over
There is much noise over the unkept promise of jobs. Why not? After all, led by Narendra Modi, then prime ministerial candidate, everyone in the BJP did commit himself on the stump to create a million jobs a month should the party be voted to power.
Indeed, the promise was duly enshrined in the BJP manifesto. By all accounts, jobs have been hard to come by, especially in recent months due to the economic slowdown. That much ought to be readily conceded for it is an undeniable fact.
But the question that needs to be asked is whether it is the BJP alone which ought to be held accountable for its failed election promises?
The Congress’s Prince, who is going around asking his listless audiences in Gujarat to seek ~jabab ka sabal~ on jobs, ought to look himself up in the mirror. A cursory acquaintance with what his maternal great- grandfather, grandmother and father had promised to the voters beginning with the first Lok Sabha election back in 1952 will prove instructive, that is, if anything can prove instructive to someone who despite his 47 years remains mentally under-developed. ( Latest evidence: jawab ka sabal.)
Indeed, if Jawahar Lal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi had kept their election-time promises, there would have been no need for Modi to promise jobs. For India would have been a land of milk and honey already where everyone was rich and prosperous and there were plenty of exotic foods to go around.
Unfortunately, hunger and poverty stalked India for as long as Nehru ruled India, and he did rule for a very, very long time. His samajwad saw nearly three quarters of Indians living below the poverty line.
Daughter Indira was installed by the old Congress fogies in the hope that she would remain a goongi gudiya, doing their bidding as prime minister. Once she found Machiavellian advisers like P N Haksar and P N Dhar, whose bag of dirty tricks overwhelmed the rather straitlaced Syndicate leaders, Indira Gandhi became a leader in her own right. Her greatest electoral triumph came in 1971 on the back of the catchy promise of Garibi Hatao.
Her grandson should wonder why Garibi was not 'hataoed'. Again, had she wiped off poverty from the land, there would have been no need for a Narendra Modi to promise a million-jobs-a-month, to very nearly match the numbers that join the job market every month.
Now come to Rajiv Gandhi. He marketed New Hope in the election bazaar and went on to win a historic victory in 1984, helped no doubt by the round-the-clock telecast on the State-controlled Doordarshan of the last rites of the slain Indira Gandhi being performed by a sacred thread-wearing son in white dhoti and half-kurta and interspersed with visuals of people shouting 'khoon ka badla khoon'.
There was percentage in tugging at the collective emotional chord of the majority community. 'Nayi Roshni' dimmed soon into complete darkness instigated by the Gandhi family’s own home-grown Bofors scandal.
Interestingly, in the 2004 election, which surprisingly saw Vajpayee’s NDA lose power, the Congress Party manifesto promised to tackle “The root cause of corruption and generation of black money,” - yes, root out the cause of corruption and generation of black money. And recall what actually the party did when, to its utter surprise, it actually got the chance to make good on that promise. The number of scams, the amount of black money generated in the first UPA was probably the highest for any government before or since. And that includes the UPA-II as well.
The Congress improved enormously on its own record, though it should be noted, the DNA was all along contaminated. The 1937 ministries were riddled with high corruption. Old-timers will recall how a disgusted Mahatma Gandhi had threatened to quit the Congress following reports of corruption by Congress ministers. He was persuaded not to quit the party for fear that his resignation would undermine the freedom struggle.
The point is that political manifestoes are not worth the paper they are written on. Even in western democracies these are honoured more in breach than implementation. It is in the very nature of democratic systems to restrain and constrain a fast delivery of promises.
For, the system in all democracies, and to an extent even in one-party autocracies, to wit, Russia and China, grinds ever so slowly. The enormity of the tasks makes it well-nigh impossible to short-circuit processes for quick delivery, especially in democratic countries.
If Nehru’s promise of samajwad was a 'jumla', so was Indira Gandhi’s promise to remove poverty and Modi’s to create a million jobs a month. In the election market, the one with a better and a catchier 'jumla' scores, though a lot depends on who is selling it. And if they have our 'jawab ka sabab' kiddo, there can be no hope in hell of his selling anything to the voters who have tried and tested him - and rejected him with complete disdain. The Congress should go and get a better salesman to market its insipid wares. Period.
And if you think only democratic parties make tall promises, think again. The Communists ruled West Bengal for over 30 years without making much difference to the plight of the jobless and the poor. That is why the Indian voter, like the voter in every other democratic country, has become cynical, taking election-time promises with a tonne of salt - and not taking them on their face value.
Otherwise, they will demand from the Congress’s Prince, and soon to be king, why Nehru’s samajwad and Indira Gandhi’s Garibi Hatao had actually left the poor poorer.
In one word, election manifestoes are meant to be discarded once the elections are over. Even the politicians who release them with great fanfare on election-eve hardly seem to have read them. When the next election comes along, the old manifestoes are recycled with an addition or two of newer promises and an added emphasis on a new and catchy tagline.
Read, don’t speak extempore
Have you noticed that on social media Rahul Gandhi sounds much cleverer than he actually does in real life or on the campaign trail. The reason is not far to seek. For, he tweets not as Rahul Gandhi but as `The office of Rahul Gandhi.’ The royals do not do these things, you see.
They have minions to do these dreary jobs. However, if like Trump, we had Gandhi himself doing his tweets, our mornings would be far more fun. For it is in real life that the Congress Vice-President despite tremendous tutoring, muffs his lines. As in ~jawab ka sabal~. You would recall how sometime ago he copied a condolence message for the victims of the Nepal earthquake from his cell phone.
We have a small suggestion. He should give up trying to become an orator like Vajpayee or Modi. And like his mother, who even says Namestey after consulting the script, ought to come with a prepared text and read it out in his halting, faltering Hindi without rolling the sleeves of his kurta -- though, we must acknowledge, of late he is not rolling them as much as before.
The real face of secular-pretenders
The media in the capital is abuzz with the social media post of a well-known television anchor who of late finds herself without a worthwhile platform to showcase her talents, which, without doubt, are considerable. She has exposed the hypocrisy and double-facedness of her former employers who pretend to be secular-liberal but are actually ready and willing to do business with the `communal forces’ for opportunistic reasons. And the anchors who still strut their act as if they were the paragons of secularist-liberal values, including the Hindi counterpart of Arnab Goswami who has made a career by abusing Modi and Co. day in and day out, are complicit in the perfidious conduct of their owners.
And last but not least: The Business Editor of the Year award has gone to Harish Khare, the venerable editor-in-chief of The Tribune, for giving a whole new meaning to turnover and revenue.
(Virendra Kapoor is a senior journalist and columnist. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect that of Asianet Newsable.)