One of the biggest shortcomings of hacks like me is the unwavering ability and willingness to jump to conclusions and mistake hindsight for foresight! Something similar can be seen in abundance in newspapers, television channels, news portals and magazines across India. As Rahul Gandhi is hailed as the new messiah and Sonia the new Gandhi, self styled pundits, hacks, experts and assorted doomsday prophets are tripping over themselves in a rush to write gleeful obituaries of the BJP and the Left . It is as if the new King Singh and the Indian voter have delivered such a decisive and brutal knock out blow that both the BJP and the Left are presumed down for the count. Pundits say that the BJP, till recently an alternative to the Congress, has no future. And the Left , kingmakers till recently, are history. Of course, the pundits also say that assorted regional chieftains like Ram Vilas Paswan, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav can now start looking for alternate careers.
I humbly disagree and present a few footnotes from recent history to show how breathless, shallow and shortsighted hacks and mass media can be.
Back in 1971, Indira Gandhi swept the Lok Sabha elections with her slogan of Garibi Hatao. So complete was her sway and dominance over the country that even opposition leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee praised her as Durga! The same Indira Gandhi was routed by the voters aft er the Emergency in 1977, losing even her own seat. A fractured and fractious opposition, which was totally written off in 1971, swept to power as the Janata Party. In 1984, Rajiv Gandhi won a mandate that even his grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru was never able to win. In the same elections, as India celebrated a “Youth” renaissance under Rajiv Gandhi, the leader of opposition party, the BJP, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was staring at a complete loss of face.
The BJP won just two seats in 1984, and you guessed it right, hacks and pundits instantly wrote off both him and the BJP forever. We both know what happened to the BJP in subsequent elections and what happened to the Congress. Cut to 1999 and you have pundits singing an entirely different tune. The NDA under Vajpayee is given a decisive mandate by the voters to rule India for the next five years and the Congress under Sonia Gandhi sinks to an all time low number of seats. There are titters galore about the complete failure of Sonia Gandhi as a leader. There is measured rah rah about the long term decline of Congress as a political party. There are even objectionable whispers about how Sonia Gandhi is planning to leave India for good. Suddenly, the BJP is the party of the future and every word spoken by strategist Pramod Mahajan is lapped up by the media as gospel. Honestly, do any of you remember any hack or pundit saying in 2004 that the BJP will lose the elections? Mamata Bannerjee is the latest example of how the mass media almost always gets it wrong! When the Left swept back to power in the 2006 assembly elections under Budhadev Bhattacharya, nobody gave a ghost of a chance to Didi to stage such a spectacular comeback in 2009. And now, we are busy saying the Left will never come back in West Bengal!
Let's face it. Both the BJP and Left are down, but not yet out. And India needs opposition parties!