Congress schemes, to no avail

Dec 09 2013, 16:49 IST
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SummaryIts defeat must be read as a vote against Rahul Gandhi’s legislation-based approach to governance.

Congress hierarchy and take these norms as being ideal, the effort to impose legislation on an unwilling educational system smacks of arrogance. And whatever else voters may or may not do, they invariably punish arrogance.

To make matters worse, the Congress misread what is arguably one of the major emerging Indian social crises, that of gender relations. Across the country, decades of adverse child sex ratios have led to a gender imbalance. As the generations that are the result of this imbalance reach adolescence, there is a serious mismatch where the number of boys is far greater than the number of girls in the same age group. This imbalance, together with a number of other factors, has contributed to a situation where violence is acquiring an increasingly prominent place in gender relations.

A largely legislative response to this gender crisis is, to say the least, inadequate. The change in law has not made women feel substantially safer in Delhi. If this is the best that a government can do, there is sufficient reason for public disapproval. And when state leaders from the same party are allegedly associated with rape and murder in Rajasthan, the public disgust with inefficiency turns into moral outrage.

In addition to its insensitivity to conditions on the ground, the rights-and-legislation approach has another debilitating political weakness: it places the Central government as the target of any failure. As Gandhi travels across the country talking about the laws his Central government has passed to guarantee a variety of rights, people understand it as a statement that it is the responsibility of the Centre to ensure these rights. Any failure to get the benefit of these rights is then attributed to the corruption of the Central government — and corrupt parties deserve to be thrown out.

The instinctive reaction of the Congress to such a failure is to tar others with the same brush, and it is not particularly difficult to exchange corruption charges in today’s political environment. But what the people have voted against is not corruption alone, but also the idea that a centralised group in Delhi can determine what the people should consider to be their rights, and then enforce them. The voters have told Rahul Gandhi in the strongest possible terms that if he really believes in the rights-based approach, he should at least let the people decide what their rights should be.

The writer is a professor at

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