An Indian view on history, current affairs and politics

June 1, 2023

16 May 2014 – Day of Hope or Despair

16 May 2014 is likely to be a watershed day in the modern History of India. This is the day that will decide the fate and future of not only the major political parties in India but also of a lot of current and potential political leaders of the nation. The long drawn out election period has seen many an intense battles among prominent political leaders as also the emergence of a new political force and its leaders in the form of Aam Admi Party (AAP). The rhetoric has ranged from the sublime to absolutely low down gutter induced expressions from various leaders. In the run up to lure voters to vote for them, some candidates have shown a remarkable lack of concern even for the time tested and proven institutions of the country known for their apolitical and secular credentials like the Indian Armed Forces and the election Commission itself. Unfortunately the country lacks an effective system to punish and side line such anti national elements in an exemplary manner. It is a pity that the nation has to bear such obnoxious and unpatriotic leaders who not only may win their parliamentary seats but may also be in the fray in the next general elections. There is no doubt that in an overall context the quality of the candidates standing for election leaves a lot to be desired.

The Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) is expected to be the single largest party as per most predictions. But then that is neither here nor there. Historically BJP has been the second largest national party but when it comes to making alliances it has its limitations in view of the distrust shown by many smaller parties on its perceived Hindutwa agenda. For these political parties it is a convenient stance to take against BJP since it helps them to secure their local communal and caste based vote banks in their respective regions. In view of the increased influence of regional parties at the centre because of the need to form coalition governments in last two decades, such regional parties just aim to get a few seats in the national parliament so as to gain some bargaining power with the largest political party aiming to form the government. With every additional Lok Sabha seat that they get, their bargaining power increases manifold. In this scenario BJP has a tough task in hand unless it can garner a minimum of 230 parliamentary seats of its own if it wants to form a reasonably stable coalition government. This however is a tall order, recent exit polls notwithstanding. But then one cannot discount this possibility too since BJP could surprise one and all and even breach this figure. The fate of Mr. Modi is directly related to the performance of BJP. In case the BJP is conveniently placed to form a government, either on its own or with its known allies, Mr. Modi will then have an opportunity to consolidate his position in the party and hopefully succeed in taking BJP and the nation to greater heights. On the other hand if BJP is not in a position to form the government in any manner, then this may spell the end of the road for Mr. Modi and his national aspirations. His detractors within the BJP itself will spare no effort to run him down and blame him for the debacle. In such a scenario the BJP will be back to its old ways under the leadership of the old guard and once again become party that will continue to knock at the gates of the Indian parliament but without actually getting in to lead the national government.

The Congress party is in a worse situation as are its leaders. By all counts and predictions Congress is unlikely to reach anywhere near the numbers it presently has in the Lok Sabha. As things stand, it may even struggle to get 120 seats this time in the Lok Sabha. If this happens, the future of Rahul Gandhi would be sealed and he is bound to call it a day. On top of all this even his own seat may be in jeopardy this time and Congress knows that they cannot take Amethi win for granted. It is well known that he is a reluctant leader whose only qualification as on date is the Gandhi name. He is where he is today because of two main reasons. First is the insistence of his mother who perhaps sees in him some special talent to lead the nation that most others do not and second the trait of political sycophancy that is practiced by most Congress leaders when it comes to Gandhi family. In such a bleak scenario, one would be surprised if the Congressmen do not cry out in unison for Priyanka Gandhi to come and run the party and become their leader. There have been enough indicators for such a move in the last few months in the run up to the current elections. When it comes to projecting a Gandhi heir, experience, qualifications and credentials are of no consequence as far as the Congress party is concerned. The chances of Congress forming a coalition government with such weak numbers too are very remote since some of the regional stalwarts from other political parties, and there are many of them, would then be in the fray for the coveted post of the Prime Minister. The Congress may have no option but to support such a move and wait for an opportunity in the near future for fresh elections since any such government is not likely to last long.

For most regional parties, Mr. Modi has caused enough scare since today they do not seem to be as secure within their regional fiefdoms as they were about a year back. The fact that most of these parties have failed to do anything substantial within their regions, in terms of development and addressing the aspirations of the youth, is likely to go against them. For most youthful voters Mr. Modi brings some hope for a better tomorrow and that may reduce the share of votes for many regional parties. The AAP too is likely to play a spoil sport for many in this election as it will divide the youth vote. In all likelihood most regional parties stand to lose some seats within their region and parties like Smajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh, DMK and AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal, Janta Dal (United) (JDU) in Bihar and even National Congress Party (NCP) in Maharashtra are all likely to fare worse than before. The only party that may improve its tally is the Bahujan Smajwadi Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh with Biju Janta Dal in Orissa likely to retain its share of seats to the national parliament. BSP possibly could emerge as one of the larger regional parties in the Lok Sabha in 2014 followed by TMC which does have an outside chance to do the same if Modi magic fails to work in Bengal in totality. The option of a third front will gain momentum in case BJP secures less than 200 seats since in that case it is unlikely to have the required numbers for a coalition too. The idea of a third front forming the government is essentially built on the premise that the Congress Party may offer it support from the outside. If this happens, chaos, confusion and Tughlaquisms would rule the country and we may have to invent a new term for the Indian state since ‘Banana Republic’ may not fit the description – we may possibly be worse off.

This discussion would not be complete without talking about the AAP and its leader Mr. Arvind Kejriwal. After a phenomenal debut in Delhi state elections, the party lost speed after they resigned from Delhi. Mr. Kejriwal’s national ambition and the overconfidence after the Delhi elections possibly hurt them immensely after they exited from Delhi state government offering frivolous excuses. This move dented their credentials and left a huge question mark on their seriousness and capabilities to govern. However, over the last few weeks they seem to have regained some ground in a few places particularly in view of the high profile battles in Amethi and Varanasi. In Varanasi, AAP seems to be the only serious opposition to the BJP since all others seem to be relying on Mr. Kejriwal to achieve a miracle by beating Mr. Modi. Most other political parties, including Congress, seem to be roosting for the AAP in unison in Varanasi. If this happens Mr. Kejriwal would enhance his personal reputation as a ‘giant killer’ to no end. However, the same cannot be said about his party at the national level where one would be surprised even if it wins a total of 15 seats. What the AAP will do with this small number is another question since it does believe that the only party fit to rule is their own. Of course one cannot rule out last minute opportunism in their case and they may support the third front if at all it comes into being. Other than that AAP is unlikely to make any appreciable impact on the election results in the final analysis.

The nation will await the outcome of the elections on 16 May 2014 with a lot of anxiety since the results of this election could decide a new course that the country may take after the disastrous last five years under the UPA government led by the Congress party. The ills of corruption, scams, lack of governance, uncontrolled price rise and inflation, hastily implemented half baked welfare schemes, appeasement of selected sections of the society, sidelining of the so called majority community, policy paralysis and lack of accountability at all levels have done immense harm to the nation as a whole. The next government has an arduous and unenviable task ahead to rebuild citizen confidence and put the nation on the right track once again. Will 16 May 2014 be a new dawn for the nation or will it plunge the nation in another uncertain future and take it to another low? The first and most important need of the hour is a stable government since the imperative need of the nation today is good and effective governance after the dismal last five years under Dr. Manmohan Singh. With Congress more or less out of reckoning, the mantle is likely to fall on BJP. One does hope it rises to the occasion under Mr. Narendra Modi and forges ahead full steam on the path of development and progress, leaving past prejudices behind.

Finally if BJP’s numbers are below par, the President of India, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, will have a major role to play. No one doubts his political acumen and astuteness. The question is will he be neutral, unbiased and act in a fair manner? Or will the politician in him surface once again to overcome objectivity and neutrality? There is no doubt that his heart must bleed as he watches Congress, a party with which he has been associated for all his life, being decimated in the polls. It is also a known fact that the President is no admirer of Smt. Sonia Gandhi or her son Rahul Gandhi who have been far from being fair to him and his talent.  As things stand today, there is hardly any doubt that BJP will emerge as the leading party once the results are out.  Therefore Mr. Mukherjee may have no choice but to see that a reasonably stable government is formed under Mr. Modi and BJP (with its allies). Ones sympathies go out to Mr. Mukherjee since he does have an unenviable task ahead. But knowing his capabilities as a man for crisis, chances are that he will find a way out of this situation too.  All that the nation desires is that the outcome must be based on best principles of democracy and within the framework of the Constitution of India so that no fingers are pointed at the highest office of the President of India.

Author: Saroj Chadha

[Saroj Chadha is an engineering professional who served in the Indian Army for over 23 years till 1991.  Since then he has worked in the Indian corporate sector and specializes in Marketing & Project Management. He worked with a leading electrical switchgear company and as a Consultant with a US MNC as their representative in India to facilitate their entry in Indian market. He has worked as a Marketing and Project management consultant with various electrical companies in India subsequently. Today he successfully runs a joint venture company in partnership with the French principals. Apart from his professional work, he has a deep interest in current affairs and other subjects of national interest. He occasionally writes as a free lance writer on some of these subjects. ]