The irony about Rahul Gandhi's failure is this.
People may be rejecting his charms -- such as they are -- but in its place, what are they opting for?
I think they're opting for something worse. I think people are becoming ever more conscious of various local identities based on religion, language, caste, etc.
So you have regional Hitlers springing up all over the country.
Since you mention Uttar Pradesh, the guy who eventually won, one Mulayam Singh, is apparently known to run his district in such a manner that the district is 'untouched' by the rule of law or the machinery of law enforcement. Mulayam is The Law there.
Then there is the satrap named Narendra Modi who taught a lesson to the Muslims in 2002 and runs a financially uncorrupted administration focused on development of the state and now based on his record in Gujarat, aims to become the Prime Minister of India.
Then there's the octogenarian L. K. Advani, who feels the post of prime ministership is his by 'right' -- since he has not been able to occupy it yet, he feels cheated and robbed. 2014 will see a massive tug between the various aspirants in that right-wing party.
Let's see who might be qualified to be the prime minister.
Clearly, Rahul Gandhi is not. He seems to have fudged his educational qualifications and done very little real work in his life. And this does not quite make him like the British Kings in waiting -- Diana's sons, William and Harry -- as those two blokes appear to have proper military training and have got real jobs in the armed forces.
Manmohan Singh is an economist -- and probably the first economist-turned-politician in the world and who also ends up becoming the prime minister of a country.
He seems to think of himself as God's gift to India. The job of prime minister of India is such that one tends to acquire the delusions of being a Maharaja and develop a sense of indispensableness. But India has been around for thousands of years.
India will manage quite well after Manmohan Singh goes. Gandhi and Nehru are dead too.
Crediting Narendra Modi too much for the state of the State of Gujarat takes credit away that should in all fairness go to the hard-working and smart people of Gujarat. The state has ALWAYS been a leading Indian state. No wonder it's leading the way even now. It will do so either with Mr. Modi in the CM's chair or without him.
The tales one hears of Mr. Modi's inclinations to be a Hitler-like figure are scary. He may not have plans to exterminate any particular races, but he runs a pretty autocratic ship.
Nitish Kumar is running a clean administration in god-forsaken Bihar. He is getting some deserved credits for running a good show there. But Bihar has done so badly in recent decades under successively corrupt politicians -- not the least of whom was Laloo Prasad Yadav -- that the bar is essentially set too low for Nitish Kumar. Not to forget the inconvenient detail and truth either that once upon a time Mr. Nitish Kumar was a close lieutenant of Laloo Yadav.
Maharashtra is another relatively developed state in Western India -- predictably therefore being home to a few more prime ministerial aspirants.
If honesty is the criteria, one could also mention the CM of Odisha or the CM of Goa.
But look at the other side of the coin now. Imagine the best of these guys being in the PM's chair. Imagine APJ Abdul Kalam being the PM. Or N. R. Narayan Murthy. Or Ratan Tata.
So what? What will happen then? What are the REVOLUTIONARY changes that will come to pass under their leadership that are not happening now?
Is India somehow miraculously going to get transformed into another Singapore, South Korea, or Switzerland, Norway, or Germany?
I am afraid not. Any right thinking, sane Indian knows that Indians will do their VERY BEST to stay poor for the foreseeable future. I don't know about the far future as brain transplants might fundamentally change the thinking styles of Indians. Until then, it hardly matters who lives in 7 Race Course Road.
India has seen a wide spectrum of folks in the Prime Minister’s chair à from the first occupant, the elegant if privileged Jawaharlal Nehru, followed by the much-admired-for-some-mysterious-reason Lal Bahadur Shashtri, to Mrs. Gandhi in due course, the daughter of Nehru (thus arguably making Nehru responsible for starting the odious tradition of dynasty in Indian politics), Morarji Desai, who also earned fame for being a urine drinker, small-time kings like V. P. Singh, to pilots and benefactors of dynasty such as Rajiv Gandhi. The problem with blaming the Nehru-Gandhis for foisting a dynasty on India is of course two-fold: 1) there are other dynasties in politics in India as well. Many of the former kings of the princely states have made politics their new business. The examples are too numerous and I don’t want to name any specific ones and leave out others thus appearing to be partial to any single dynasty. 2) people of India have apparently voted voluntarily for some of these dynastic figures. Which shows that may be Indians – like the British people – probably love to be ruled by kings and such.
The days of optimism are over for me – 1991 and 2002 and 2004 are NEVER going to come back for me in this life time. To explain those dates: I think in my youth, I was prone to being optimistic and the fact that Narasimha Rao knew 13 languages or whatever had probably made me feel that he was quite a talented guy. 2002 saw Abdul Kalam as President. A scientist becoming the head of state made me happy I think as a science-loving guy. Even Manmohan Singh, with his clean and intellectual image, was a sign of hope, when he became the PM. I don’t mention 1998 as the nuclear tests clearly did not create any illusions in me that India had suddenly become a superpower or anything. And the Kargil dumb charade of a war was of course silly business.
So here’s congratulating Arun Jaitley or Sushma Swaraj or Mulayam Singh or whoever else becomes the next PM.