So it begins. After the announcement of the election schedule Wednesday, political parties have pulled up their socks and started negotiating alliances with potential partners. As these LS elections are bound to be a compelling game-changer for the Indian polity, all eyes appear to be looking in this direction.
For one, the upcoming elections will be an unprecedented event in human history. With 100 million additional voters joining ranks in the voters’ lists – making the total number of voters a whopping 814 million – and voting to take place at more than 900 thousand polling stations, the filling up of 543 Lok Sabha seats is to be decided by the powerplay of such astronomical numbers.
Displaying loyalty to our fondness for psephology, many opinion polls have already predicted outcomes based on surveys conducted in their own capacity. Notwithstanding the recent exposes sparking doubts about their modus operandi and result-oriented approaches, they still manage to make headlines. While news channels give in to their number-crunching and clairvoyance, let us put the whole electoral exercise in perspective and try to assess the options available. According to the economist Surjit Bhalla, it’s the negatives that define a party’s electoral chances. If this is true, we can take a look at how deep are the waters that today’s political contestants find themselves in.
For all the political scrambling, these elections may appear to take the shape of a quadrangular contest; the four sides being represented by the Congress, the BJP, the Third Front, and the AAP respectively. To ease our analysis, we may first pull the Congress under the microscope. About the Grand Old Party, it may safely be stated that it never seemed so frail in its more than 100 years of existence. Its structure has crumbled and all that’s left is the power centre in Delhi remote-controlling all its activities. Defined rightly by the term ‘policy paralysis’ that its critics most vehemently use, the Congress has lost much of its steam especially in the last 5 years. Moreover, the drubbing in the recent assembly elections in Rajasthan, MP, Chattisgarh and Delhi has taken an additional toll on its prospects. Tantamount to adding fuel to fire, the first (and supposedly the last before the elections) interview of Rahul Gandhi was like hammering the last nail in the party’s coffin.
In contrast, the BJP’s electoral fortunes may however see a silver lining in these elections. Having said this, the moot factors are Modi’s handling of the minority issue and the Sangh Parivar’s regressive politics. Despite being the crowd puller that Modi is, he is yet, in his personal capacity, to come clean on 2002. Albeit he’s received a clean chit from the SIT, his solipsism – exhibited in his referring to himself in the third person – and his elusiveness in apologizing for 2002 in the clearest of terms certainly are spikes in BJP’s flesh. There also are accusations from various quarters casting doubts on his ‘tall’ claims of Gujarat’s development. Nonetheless, the pro-development image he’s created may serve him well which only the 16th of May 2014 will corroborate.
The Third Front, as an additional alternative, is a unique formation in itself. The coming together of the secular bloc in this form may steal Congress’ thunder. Since the Third Front has considerable ideological variation under its aegis and a mix-and-match of powerful regional leaders, occupation of Treasury benches by its MPs, if it comes to power, is likely to involve lots of vociferous negotiations and political makes and breaks. While Mamata may have no objection to Jaya becoming the next PM, other leaders in the coalition will also want to make themselves heard and mightn’t find this preposition acceptable. Given that senior leaders such Mulayam Singh Yadav and some others are already purported to harbour Prime Ministerial ambitions, formation of an unstable hodgepodge government at the Centre may be unviable.
Lastly, there’s the AAP. After a checkered stint at Government formation in Delhi, it seems to have dawned upon Kerjriwal that politics is much more than roadside demonstrations. During the AAP’s reign, the floundering exhibited by the CM and his cabinet disenchanted middle class voters. The lower class voters, however, still think of the AAP as their proxy as it is ‘seen’ to champion the very same issues that rankle this class. Even when the party is not in power, its antics continue fetching media footage which, ironically, is discombobulating its leaders since media was the most potent tool used by the AAP to capture public imagination. Moreover, the AAP isn’t contesting as many Parliamentary seats as the other parties. Ergo, even if it doesn’t fair well, an easy alibi could be anyone’s guess.
As previously published in a newspaper, India is rightly a circus. Its elections are both its greatest conundrum and its cardinal strength. The Election Commission – the most respected bureaucratic organization in India – has to be lauded for keeping the elections depoliticized and transparent. Undoubtedly, it has to deliver this time around as well on what is to be the Greatest Show on Earth.