The year 1991 was a landmark in Indian political history. For starters, it could have seen the first BJP government at the centre and most probably the first Non-Congress Govt which could have lasted the full 5 years. It however, also saw the assassination of a former PM and hence a massive change in fortune for the Congress. PVN became PM and the rest is history.
5 years later, during the next general elections, the BJP, however, came close to forming a government, but managed to last only 13 days. Soon, they went on to rule the country after 2 years from 1998, all the way to 2004.
Well, we all know that, don’t we? And then there was India Shining, which somehow, India did not agree with and voted the Congress back to power.
And now, 2009, where they are back to where they were 18 years back. Struggling to get back to power, political untouchables all over again.
So what went wrong?
Between 1998-2004 when they ruled, they counted amongst their allies, the National Conference, the BJD, the JD(U), the TDP, the AIADMK, and after the fat lady pulled them down, the DMK, the Trinamool Congress.
2009 however, paints a bad picture – no more Trinamool or BJD or any coalition with any TN parties. The DMK and Trinamool went with the Congress and won massively in TN and WB respectively. BJD left the NDA, went as part of the third front and swept Orissa. In Maharashtra, the BJP-Shiv Sena combine were routed massively by the NCP-INC combine. The MNS also significantly ate into their votes. The TDP went as part of the 3rd front and got routed badly though. Wonder what might have happened if there had been no MNS or if the TDP had been a part of the NDA. So, simply put, its just a matter of not having the right allies this time when compared to 1999.
Still it begs the question, why did the allies desert the NDA before the elections? The BJP was and still remains, unfortunately, a saffron party. Noises about the temple in Ayodhya as part of the election manifesto simply didn’t hold water as a poll plank, most importantly with its allies. The NDA happened because of one man – Vajpayee. Parties joined the NDA as they knew he was the only moderate face in the party and recognized that his time had finally arrived to lead the country.
By 2004, however, he was pushing 80 and it was clear that he might not be the PM for the whole term if elected again. He eventually had to retire from politics before the term completed. Once he was gone, and Advani started making his noises about going back to Hindutva as the poll plank, the allies took the cue and deserted what they felt was a sinking ship. Whether they deserted a sinking ship or if the ship sank because the allies deserted it is open for speculation.
Well, all said and done, it might be good for the Congress to rule a second term, simply because there is no other alternative. Maybe a third front will emerge soon with a better and clearer leadership. More than anything we need a second front though. There is nothing like a good opposition to keep the Government on its toes. The BJP provided that all these years. But they seem to be waning so badly, even that might be difficult for them.
While the Congress turned into a one-family show a long time back, the BJP probably is turning out to be a one man show.