Millennium Post

Uncertain pre-poll scenario

The big picture emerging slowly with the political parties declaring their candidates for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections is interesting. The alliances are more or less sealed. The campaign too is picking up fast with the big wigs crisscrossing the country. More than 814 million people – a number larger than the population of Europe – will vote in the world’s biggest democratic exercise from 7 April to 12 May.

However, the 2014 elections are most significant for various reasons. Caught between scams, corruption, falling rupee, staggering economy, policy paralysis, non-governance, declining number of allies and quarrelling state parties – the election scene presents a confusing picture as there are no clear winners. The Congress banks on the secular – communal divide while the BJP is talking of change, and both have failed to meet the aspirations of the people. Both have a tough time to look for post poll allies. There are at least half a dozen prime ministerial aspirants including some regional satraps and emergence of the new players like the Aam Aadmi Party creates further confusion.

The evolving election scene broadly reveals three scenarios. The first is the return of the Congress-led UPA government. This is the least possible scenario in view of the declining strength of the Congress, weak party organisation and the anti-incumbency factor. Also it will be an acid test for the survival of the Gandhi family.  Congress President Sonia Gandhi emerged on the political scene in 1998 when the party was in tatters, became the first woman Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha in 1999, brought the party to power leading the UPA coalition in 2004 and managed to get a second term in 2009. The reluctant Rahul Gandhi has not been able to make much of an impact. In the event of a setback, the dynasty’s declining electoral influence may be questioned. The party’s despair can be seen by the way even senior leaders like Digvijaya Singh, P Chidambaram and G K Vasan are shying away from contesting polls. While the one time Congress citadel Andhra Pradesh is now totally out of reach for the party after the creation of a separate Telangana, the Congress has no allies in Tamil Nadu for the first time. Where the fight is mainly between the regional parties and the Congress in some states, there are seven states where there is a direct fight between the BJP and the Congress. The UPA is shrinking and no new allies are coming forward.  The Congress is hoping for a respectable three-digit number.

The second scenario is a BJP led NDA government. The BJP is riding high with big ad blitz and mega rallies and billboards and hoardings. The prediction is that the BJP may emerge as a single largest party it has to look for allies to form the government. With a shrunk NDA the party is now depending on the Modi magic. Although he is running an unprecedented ad blitz the polity is fractured and the anti-Congress votes are splintered. The Sangh Parivar is working for the BJP but Modi has annoyed many senior BJP leaders during the ticket distribution including Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Lalji Tandon, Kalran Mishra and others. New allies are hesitant because of his Godhra image. Evidently, the scene is not as hunky-dory as the BJP may wish.

The best-case scenario for the BJP is to get 200-plus to enable Modi to become PM. The worst-case scenario is 160 to 180 plus where Advani, Sushma Swaraj or Rajnath Singh could become PM candidates. So the top post is still open as it entirely depends upon the results. The party has no presence in the entire south except perhaps Karnataka, entire northeast and also big states like U.P, Bihar, and West Bengal. It all depends on how much the party can improve in UP and Bihar and also how much it can attract the new voters who number about 23 million.

The third scenario is a government led by an alternate front supported by the Congress. This includes new players like the Aam Aadmi Party, which has captured the imagination of people of Delhi. Then there is the TRS (Telengana Rashtra Samithi) and YSR Congress in Andhra Pradesh, which could play significant role in the polls. Smaller parties like the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, a splinter group of the Shiv Sena could also play spoiler role. This third alternative can happen if the Congress and the BJP together get less than the half way mark.

Yet another important factor is the emergence of strong chief ministers. They could bring a bottom up effect and bid for power in case of a hung Parliament. The regional satraps like Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), Jayalalithaa (Tamil Nadu), Naveen Patnaik (Odisha) and Nitish Kumar (Bihar) are keen to hold on to their fiefdoms.  Whether it is a third front or a federal front there are a number of prime ministerial aspirants including these leaders to stake their claims. This government will not be a stable one because of the inherent contradictions.  It is also important to see whether the caste card or religious card works this time.

As of now what is visible are a fractured polity and all players keeping their cards close to their chest for a post poll scenario where all options are open. It is a question mark whether the identity card, caste card and religious card will work or development and governance.

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