Millennium Post

What 2013 holds for the rivals

How the year 2013 will be and what it portends? Preceding the year 2014, the year of general election, next year portends to be eventful and will draw the battle lines for the Lok Sabha poll. A star — Narendra Modi, fresh from his election victory in Gujarat — was born on the nation’s political firmament and he will be BJP’s star campaigner in election to ten assembly elections scheduled to be held in 2013. Rahul Gandhi, too, will spearhead the Congress party’s campaign next year and be the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate. Whether the BJP will project Narendra Modi as its candidate for the PM’s post is not yet certain, but Rahul’s candidature for the top executive post, overtly or covertly, is a certainty.

On his party, the Gujarat Chief Minister, skillfully used the platform of the National Development Council to reach out to national audience and showcased the Gujarat model of development. His speech at the NDC was, as it were, a rehearsal for his election meetings — “lack of leadership, poverty of ideas and policy paralysis at the centre are taking the country towards negative growth”, he said. His speech seemed to be pitched at a role beyond Gujarat. UPA’s direct cash transfer (DCT) plan, will be tested in 10 states going to polls in 2013. The major states are BJP-ruled Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh (BJP), Rajasthan (Congress) and Chhattisgarh (BJP) and National Conference-governed Jammu and Kashmir. Besides Congress-ruled Delhi, elections are slated next year in four northeastern states: Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland and Mizoram.

The newly constituted co-ordination committee, headed by Rahul Gandhi, has identified five states — Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Karnataka — requiring special focus in the run up to 2014 general elections. Highly placed Congress sources say, these states accounting for 93 Lok Sabha seats, have been selected because there is possibility of reviving the organisation in these states despite the party’s ramshackle condition. With the exception of Odisha, which is held by Biju Janata Dal, the others are ruled by the BJP. The panel will identify and remove infirmities in these state units of the Congress and select candidates for the general election. It has accepted the ground realities and decided to tie up with Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan in Bihar where the party is virtually non- existent.

UPA’s direct cash transfer scheme, popularly known by the catchy slogan —Aaap ka paise, aapke haath — may turn out to be a game changer. Apparently, the scheme is launched with the general elections in mind and proposed to be implemented throughout the country b the end of 2013. But the DCT plan, backed by the catchy slogan, may influence the voters in the ten states. Government should ask its PR agencies, along with the Congress party’s campaign managers, to take the scheme to the people and explain to them its nitty-gritty.

Surprisingly, UPA’s newfound decisiveness signals that the prolonged bout of policy paralysis is coming to an end. Be it sectoral liberalization or DCT, government’s determination to push reforms overtly has erased the impression almost overnight that UPA is a non-performing dispensation. It will, doubtless, raise a public and electoral debate on reforms that has been missing for long. The mega corruption issues like 2G scam, Vadera issue and coal-gate appears to have receded into background.

What are the poll prospects in major states going to poll in 2013? It appears difficult for the BJP to retain Karnataka for the obvious reasons. In the event the Congress wrests Karnataka, the BJP will have no presence in South India and it electoral battle will remain confined to north Indian states. BJP is expected to give a tough fight to congress in the Rajasthan. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot suffers from anti-incumbency factor. In the neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, the two-term Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan too is hit by anti-incumbency and, of late, the Congress is breathing down his neck. Congress leaders say that they have to win back MP as it is a matter of life and death for him. In Chhattisgarh, good governance by Chief Minister Raman Singh, in spite of Naxalite problem, has placed him in a sound position. Whether he wins another term or not, however, is a matter of speculation. Advantage of Raman Singh is that he has a set of very bright and imaginative officers headed by the Chief Secretary Sunil Kumar. In Delhi, Sheila Dikshit appears to be formidable; she has really changed the face of Delhi with the Metro network spreading across the thickly populated union capital and a string of flyovers making the hordes of commuters to travel comfortably. Following successive defeats in elections, the BJP is a demoralised force and a divided house.

In J&K, Chief Minister Omar Abdulla, despite heavy odds, has ruled reasonably well but he faces a tough challenge from Mehbooba Mufti. However, the Congress-National Conference combine make an effective alliance. An entire different scenario unfolds in northeast and poll predications at this stage appear to be a difficult task. The year 2013 will be crucial as it will set the tone for general elections in 2014. (IPA)
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