We misread the mandate of 2009: P. Chidambaram

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Apr 29 2014, 06:43am hrs
PCThey were critical years and whatever happens on May 16, it will be a product 2010 and 2011: P. Chidambaram. Express Photo: Praveen Khanna
Both Shekhar and I came to the view, with different sets of data, that the Congress party misread the 2009 mandate, finance minister P Chidambaram said on Monday. He was speaking at the launch of Anticipating India, a collection of the National Interest columns by Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief, The Indian Express Group, reports fe Bureau in New Delhi.

While we got the largest chunk of seats from prosperous parts of the country, from urban India, we did not read the signs, the FM said. While he suggested a pro-growth strategy as opposed to a more pro-distributive one was the way the party should have gone after 2009, power minister Jyotiraditya Scindia disagreed, saying rural India had given the Congress an equally powerful mandate.

Chidambaram pointed out that while the India of old was a petitioner society, the current India was an aspirational one. Indias political parties, he said, failed to understand the changes that were taking place in the mood of the country in 2010 and 2011 and that the government failed to anticipate the extent of anger that was building up. The opposition party didnt see it either, they were at a pretty low point too, he said. No one today is resigned to his fate, people believe their fate is better and the condescending attitude of political parties should go, he said.

They were critical years and whatever happens on May 16, it will be the product 2010 and 2011. Its clear opportunities were missed and crucial mistakes were made. Clearly the political class should have communicated with India. Whoever noticed first and began to communicate is going to reap the benefit, the minister said. Although not spelling it out, Chidambaram was referring to the sharp build-up in pro-poor expenditure, rising deficits and the interminable delays in project clearances, often justified on the grounds of protecting the interests of the disenfranchised.

While not conceding whether the UPA would lose the election, Chidamabram said, I also anticipate the promise of the new dawn may be a false promise. These are difficult times; people think there are simple solutions that can be found without reference to the rest of the world which is naive. He added that whichever party is chosen to lead the people must be prepared for a long and arduous journey.

Chidambaram said the failure of the global economy to recover as anticipated had impacted growth in India. Subsequently we took steps to anchor growth and we are among the large economies that are growing well, the minister said.

Responding to Shekhar Guptas question on whether the higher turnout at the polls signalled the way voters would behave, former chief election commissioner, SY Quraishi, pointed out there were as many more voters in supposed anti-incumbency elections as there were in pro-incumbency situations. The short point, Quraishi said, was that the ECs enrolment campaigns had been a success.

While Shamsher Sharif, secretary general, Rajya Sabha, asked whether the Parliamentary style of elections had been reduced to a Presidential one, Gupta said this had been the case with even the Congress party when it had leaders of a certain stature.