Millennium Post

A much-needed change

If the spectacular performance of the Aam Aadmi Party in the most watched legislative assembly polls of Delhi augurs anything for 2014 general elections, it is the need for a credible third party – non-Congress, non-BJP – at the national level, with a strong regional presence. This column has been arguing in favour of one for some time.

The next few months in the run up to the general polls – as the countdown begins today – will be crucial. The country will show how it disavows the so-called Narendra Modi lehar or a Rahul Gandhi breast-beating and stands up to be counted for what is real in their lives. The reality lies in the following facts: (a) the food basket price; (b) adequate job opportunities for the youth demographics and those under 100-day job scheme; and, (c) an answer to whose land is it anyway.

On each of these issues, both the Congress and the BJP appear to be clueless. As much as Delhi’s former chief minister, Sheila Dikshit tried to bring the issue of ‘development’ to the fore in the last days of campaigning, the impact of it has been negated by increasing income disparities amongst the people of the state. In the minds of arguably the most informed population of the country in an urban agglomeration, the flyovers and the Commonwealth Games remained reminders of corruption and chicanery.

The factors that put paid her efforts, despite a palpable lack of anti-incumbency at the Delhi state level, were the issue of mehangai, large scale corruption, and a dichotomy in the policies of the Manmohan Singh government. The UPA II government made policies that were pulled at one end by the socially relevant welfare measures, and at the other, a continuance of the neo-liberal policies. This confusion led eventually to the policy paralysis for the past one year, besides of course the gargantuan corrupt practices.

On the other side, the BJP retained the two states it ruled and won one, Rajasthan, from the Congress Party. They will surely now tom-tom these achievements as those gained by their mascot for 2014, Narendra Modi. But in that, they will have trouble.

For, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh would not like to share too much of the glory of their victories. Considering the fact, this is the third term for both, they would rather see it as their personal gain than for someone who parachuted into their territory.

Having said that, consider this: the five states that had legislative assembly polls this time (yes, Mizoram is still a part of the country), hold amongst them just 73 Parliamentary seats out of a total of 543 or roughly one-seventh of the total seats that would go to polls in the summer of ’14. The BJP will try to increase the decibel level in their campaign that they have launched six months ago with Narendra Modi being the prime saviour of the party.

Congress Party leaders are already talking about ‘introspection’ – in their vocabulary it would mean to be an exercise on how it repackages its political messaging. They have very few initiatives left to create a spin on. The middle class, which is disillusioned with them already, will also have to weigh now their political choices.

As in Delhi Arvind Kejriwal has shown if someone knows how to tap into this disillusionment, electoral success will be their’s to have. Any third party of the kind would do well to ask why the fact that a prime minister who threatened to relinquish office on an issue of a civilian nuclear agreement with the US, would hang on to his seat on the face of the worst kinds of scams of the UPA progeny.

The third party will also have to show how Narendra Modi belongs to a party, which is described as Hindu ‘nationalist’ had so little to do with the nationalist movement for independence of the country in its previous incarnations, or even its paternal organisation, the RSS. The third party have to show the myth of the higher growth rate for Gujarat is so hollow, considering the social development parametres or even the growth of the capital base.

Delhi results have shown that the next general election will be qualitatively much different than the previous ones. The country’s very own ‘baby boom’ generation is redefining the politics of the day, free of the weight of history.

If these baby boomers have initially been swayed by the high profile campaign of the BJP that began six months ago, they will increasingly be provided options that would seem more apt for them when the third party (coalition?) begins with their own poll messages.

In other terms, Narendra Modi and the BJP will no longer be the default option in the people’s search for alternative to the Congress Party. Now, it is going to be a hard slog ahead.

The author is a senior journalist
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