When he became the 13th President of India, Pranab Mukhejee said that 13 was not an unlucky number for Indians. Yet there may be some who will be happy to see the end of 2013. It has been a phenomenal year in political terms. Who can recall that in January, Rahul Gandhi dramatically accepted the poisoned chalice from his mother and took on his inheritance. Then the challenge was to the BJP to find an icon which the youth of India could look up to and rival Rahul.
Here we are at the other end of the year and it looks different. At first, the Congress pooh-poohed the idea of a prime ministerial candidate. They had their own unique way of choosing the PM as and when the need arose. Let the BJP do whatever they needed. The results have shown that this was a serious miscalculation on part of the Congress, a misjudgment of how modern day politics works. The battering the Congress got on December 8 crowned an annus horribilis as far as the Congress is concerned.
Politics has now changed irretrievably. Not only has Narendra Modi defied all expectations of the sage commentators and become a hot favourite of the masses, but as a final coup de grace we have Arvind Kejriwal, who has pioneered the strange idea of actually listening to voters. Mandal politics is past its sale-by date as voters prefer performance to identity politics. A combination of Kejriwal and post-Mandal politics spells a warning for the regional parties which are still dreaming of forming a third front.
Two big questions will be answered during 2014. Can the Congress recover enough at least to lose respectably and secure seats in three digits or will it spin down to catastrophe with fewer than 80 seats? The other question is: Is AAP here to stay and grow as a significant third party at the national level and replace not just the Left, but displace the Congress as the second party in national politics?
The Congress is fighting back, but ironically the more it fights, the more it becomes clear for how late it has left the comeback. Two years ago Rahul Gandhi went to Niyamgiri and offered to fight for the tribals. Congress ministers got the signal that all mining and infrastructure investments must be held up in defence of the tribals and the environment. Now poor Jayanthi Natarajan