2014 elections: Nominees mightier than agendas
In the history of Indian parliamentary elections, this is the first time that the polls are not being contested on issues, but it has become a person-centric election. None of the political parties are raising the issues of the common man. The campaign trail of Congress is limited to that of attacking BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. While, Modi’s main poll plank is attack on Congress president Sonia Gandhi as well Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. Regional parties have also restricted themselves to making scathing attack on Congress and BJP by pushing their party chiefs in the race of prime minister.
From 1st to 15th Lok Sabha, the elections were contested on different issues. The issue of country’s development was the issue in the 1st post-Independence Lok Sabha election which was held 25 October 1951 and 21 February 1952. During this election, emphasis was on to speed up the infrastructure development in the county, to provide education, health, employment to general masses. At present, the country is having several burning issues other than price-rise, corruption, unemployment such as education, health, and several other important problems, but these issues find their place only the manifestoes of different parties.
It is custom of parliamentary democracy that the leader parliamentary party get elected after the final results, who used to stake the claim of government formation in front of President. It’s different matter that some faces are considered as the undeclared prime minister nominees. For example, the 1989 election was fought the issue of corruption and Janata Dal’s president Vishwanath Pratap Singh was the party’s unofficial prime ministerial candidate. Post election, the name of Chaudhary Devi Lal was proposed during the parliamentary board of meeting, which was reacted by the members and the name of VP Singh was floated, which was accepted unanimously.
Breaking all the traditions of democracy, the 16th Lok Sabha election has been fought on the names of declared prime ministerial candidates. This trend has been started by BJP. The party anointed Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as BJP’s prime ministerial candidate during its Pune National Executive Council meeting. It is pertinent to mention here that party’s senior leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee was undeclared PM candidate during the 1996 Lok Sabha elections. His name of was not declared before polls. Vajpayee was elected as the leader of parliamentary party’s after the general election and he staked the claim before President to form government as the Centre as the largest party. The then President Shankar Dayal Sharma invited him to form the government. Vajpayee’s first government failed to prove his majority in the Parliament and collapsed in just 13 days. After then HD Devegowda elected as the leader of parliamentary party and took the oath of prime minister of National Alliance.
Former prime minister Vajpyee was in the battlefield of 14th Lok Sabha with the issue of India Shining, while Congress has made the misgovernance of BJP as their prime poll plank. The BJP had lost this election and Congress started correcting the arithmetic of numbers to form the government as centre. Congress president Sonia refused to become the leader of Parliamentary party seeking the pan-India protest over her citizen issue. After that the name of present prime minister Manmohan Singh was proposed and he was elected unanimously. But, this time, it’s the other way that the Congress has not made it official the name of party’s PM choice, but the party is seeking votes to make Rahul Gandhi as the next prime minister of the country.
The 2014 Lok Sabha has become person centric. The country is raising the slogans of Abki Baar Modi Sarkar. If one looks back to the history, former India prime minister Indira Gandhi had also contested 1971 election giving Gareebi Hatao slogan and she was an undeclared Congress candidate. While, the next election was fought with anti-Indira slogans like Indira Hatao, Desh Bachao and the 1980 elections were comparatively stable with slogan echoing Fir Se Lao Desh Bachao.
In democratic setup like India’s, prime minister is not elected by a voter directly. Interestingly, this time voters in India are being seen engaged more on prime ministerial candidate rather than discussing their own member of parliament (MP) candidates. Not only the BJP, many other regional parties are also trying to mobilise masses to consider their prime ministerial candidates as options. Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa, Samajwadi chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar are being projected as future prime ministers. The picture on the prime minister of India will only get clear on 16 May. Meanwhile, the whole poll campaign has been concentrated to the PM’s chair and issue like price rise, corruption and unemployment have taken a back seat.