It was too much of a temptation to let go -- the attack on Rahul Gandhi. The UP elitists who want to prove their democratic credentials found the opportunity to attack him. The so-called socialists and federalists, who are traditional Nehru-baiters, are unable to contain their anti-Congress animus. Surprisingly, it is the Hindutva crowd which seemed to be the most restrained in their attack on Rahul.
The simplistic argument being laid out: Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav combined caste alliances with proper dose of modernism to sweep the Uttar Pradesh polls. Rahul Gandhi did not know UP because he did not know caste, wooed the wrong castes like the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and the Dalits, and ignored the right castes like the Brahmins. India's despicable political pundits have not outgrown their contacts -- the politicians and the bureaucrats -- who are their main source of information and wisdom. If any of them had talked to the people on the street in towns and villages of the state, they would have realised that caste is receding into the background, and that people are grappling with issues of security and livelihood, and that they are looking for opportunities and not for doles. Development for the people of UP is not about welfare measures of state and central governments. It is about physical and social infrastructure, it is widening of economic and intellectual horizons. It was not the question of Dalits, Muslims, Yadavs, Kurmis, Brahmins. The Dalits, Muslims, Yadavs, Kurmis and Brahmins were thinking in terms of their own outlook in social and economic terms. They also wanted to exercise their right to change the government as well. The Samajwadi Party seemed to be a reasonable alternative in 2012 as was the Bahujan Samaj Party in 2007. There is nothing surprising about 2012. It was there in 2007 and perhaps it was there earlier too if one cares to pore over the issues carefully in the earlier elections.
Rahul Gandhi did speak of development, but in negative terms. He played up what the SP, BSP and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) did not and could not do. And he proclaimed that Congress would do that, without specifying what it is that the Congress would do. He did not promise schools and hospitals, roads and economic opportunities. He spoke arrogantly of the money sent by the Centre for Bundelkhand, for the weavers and for other developmental schemes. It is an arrogance derived from the imeprious and imperialist Congress. People heard it and delivered their considered decision.
UP has changed. It is not divided on caste lines though caste can be read into voting patterns and percentages. The argument that Muslims made a difference for SP would be a wrong reading because Muslims did not vote as Muslims but they voted as ordinary people looking out for solutions. They did not vote as a Muslim block. This is the wonderful new development in UP, which was there in 2007 as well. They did not go to BSP as Muslims. They voted along with the others against the hoodlums' government of the Yadavs-dominated SP. Today they turned against the BSP on governance issues.
The Congress did not have anything to offer on matters of governance. The Congress pushed Rahul Gandhi to the front and they hoped to benefit from his mere presence. Rahul Gandhi had no illusions about charisma. Nor does Sonia Gandhi entertain any ideas of exaggerated importance of the family. She has experienced defeat in 1998 and in 1999 before she got the victories of 2004 and 2009.
So it is futile to attack Rahul Gandhi for not leading the Congress according to wise plans that the pundits lay out for him. Congress has no ideology, no core values, no vision. It wants to ride to victory on the image of the Nehru-Gandhi family. The party does not realise that India has changed and that young people -- even the poor and the uneducated -- are not bowled over by the charm of the family members. They could spot that Akhilesh Yadav was the earthy one who speaks of modern things like computers and also speaks their language. It was not a difficult choice to make.
Congress party will have to realise that it is futile and it is cowardly to hide behind the Nehru-Gandhis, that they have to learn to fight their own battles, in UP and elsewhere. Unless Congress stands on its own legs, not even the family can help them. It is not a question of lack of organisation and grassroot workers. It is a question of attitude and thinking. Congress will have to change the attitude that the Nehru-Gandhis will slog for the party and that they will just tag along and then enjoy the fruits of power.
It is not enough to hate Congress, which comes so naturally to some people. The Congress has its strengths and weaknesses. The Nehru-Gandhis are not the reason why the Congress is good or bad. It is so for other reasons.
Caste and community are done and over in UP. This is the major lesson that the pundits, the leaders of the Congress and of the BJP will have to learn.