Saturday, March 28, 2009

The greatest festival of Indian Democracy - General Elections '09

I haven't blogged in like what, 3 months! And now there is this irresistible topic which has compelled me to drop a few words here on this platform. The Great Indian Elections of '09.

The greatest event in Indian Democracy, the General Elections are approaching the people of India. I can not say that I am hopeful of an upshot that is favorable to the country's future but at least I am curious.

I am curious to see the fate of the veteran leader L K Advani and what becomes of his final wish in his career - the most coveted position of Prime Minister of India. He has come so close to his dream being materialized and yet it has slipped from his hands. I am curious to see the fate of Manmohan Singh who is only the face of Congress Government and also of Sonia Gandhi who is the brain and brawl behind the government. I am curious to see the role that Mayawati, Lalu Yadav and Mulayam Singh will play in making the king at the center. What will become of the Left front this time which seems to have weakened over the last few years? How will the Third and even the Fourth Front shape the future Government? In the event that these fronts have a say in forming the Government, which is more likely than not, who will defeat the competition and come out a winner as the PM candidate? Will it be the ever manipulative Mayawati, Congress's old headache Mulayam Singh, or the good old Lalu Yadav or some compromise we had in the past like Deve Gowda.

I have been a BJP's staunch supporter all my life. And my belief in BJP being the best party to rule the country is unshakable. It was the biggest shock in last election when despite being everyone's favorite and running the seemingly successful 'Feel Good' campaign, BJP performed miserably and gave way to UPA. Congress was ready to pounce upon the opportunity and it had a bunch of allies waiting. The only common agenda that these parties had was Anti-Saffron and Anti-BJP. Instead of naming themselves UPA, they might have named themselves UABA (United Anti-BJP Alliance). Since then, BJP has strengthened its dominance across the political map of the country. They have won state after state in last few years barring two major debacles of Rajasthan and Delhi. Their one of the biggest victories came in Karnataka when they entered the Southern India which was an alien and distant dream for BJP. The most serious problem BJP is facing again is of alliance. It has failed once again to establish partnerships with influential parties across the states in which it does not have much dominance. The unfortunate break up with Navin Patnaik is certainly going to cost them a major chunk of votes in Orrisa. Shiv Sena has been losing its hold on Maharashtra and BJP is stuck with them. There is virtually no strong alliance for them in Tamilnadu and Andhra.

BJP is facing a severe identity crisis this time. They are reluctant to go back to their raw bare-knuckle Hindutva agenda because they know that they will need allies if they want to form the Government and the allies come from the states in which they can not afford to put a brave Hindu face for the fear of losing minority vote. In last elections they at least had their good governance to talk about. Here, the only thing they can talk about is UPA government's failures which are in plenty. But even then, it is only a negative publicity. They can certainly talk about their good state governance if there is any. I can vouch for Gujarat but not other BJP ruled states. And the last thing they needed this time was a brewing rivalry between their two of the best leaders Jately and Rajnath Singh. Though it seems to have been resolved, it surely sent the shock wave through various layers of the party leadership. BJP's stand for the newly found saffron hero Varun Gandhi has been somewhat unclear. Here again their reluctance to support Hindutva is clearly visible. BJP needs all the help they can get from RSS. There have been news about the new leadership in RSS being favorable to BJP and especially Advani but it is to be seen how RSS and its progeny institutes like VHP and ABVP mobilize their troops during the poll campaign for BJP.

Even though I would love to see BJP at the center, forming the government with absolute majority, it is in most likelihood going to remain an impossibility.

Congress has its own problems. The obvious inclination of Sonia Gandhi is to hand over the reign to the Congress's blue eyed boy - Rahul Gandhi. But she is not sure about the general public's reaction towards such a step. Therefore she is sticking with the old war horse Manmohan Singh. Nobody can say that the calm and gentle Singh is popular with masses, but at the same time, nobody can say that he is unpopular among any faction of the society. That's his biggest strength. He does not have any opposition among the party or the allies. His image is too clean for that. His track record of leadership has been a little too clean. Almost like a clean slate in which the only handwriting you can find are of Sonia Gandhi. Frequently called a puppet in the hands of the high command, Mr. Singh does not have many achievements to boast. Scores of people have died during last five years in terrorist attacks. The Mumbai attacks are the blackest spots on his Government. The government's diplomatic pressure and warnings fell to the deaf ears of Pakistani Government. Failing world economy and India's vulnerability added to his woes. And Arjun Singh's gimmick will be fresh in the minds of the youth. It might have a considerable impact only if the youth cares to vote.

Alliance worries are haunting Congress as well. They have been deserted by most of their allies. Even the old allies like Lalu Yadav have dumped Congress to nurture their ambition for the top position.

However, Congress is in not as bad a position as BJP when it comes to allies. In my opinion, all these pre-poll break-ups are meaningless. Eventually, just like the last time, their hatred for BJP will unite them at the center. But this time around I can see Congress government providing the support to the King maker, whoever it might be. Congress will not be in a position to have their say in PM candidate. They will have to support someone to keep BJP out of position. And in such a situation, BJP is going to be at a major disadvantage. Despite name calling and fighting, I can easily see SP or Left or BSP joining hands with Congress but not with BJP. Thus BJP is most likely on its own here. Like a lone soldier. And it remains to be seen if this lone soldier can turn the tide and finish off the mighty foes.

Next five years are going to be extremely important for India. We have to balance the economic interests with the more important national security concerns. India needs to work hard towards clamping terrorism within her borders and develop more intimate relations with US and other international community. But that is not going to be enough. We ourselves have to be proactive in securing our borders and our nation from falling prey to the terrorism rather than relying on International Diplomacy which has never worked. Next five years are also going to be very important from economy's point of view. When the US and the whole world will be recovering from the mayhem, we do not want to be left behind in the process. Indian economy must continue to grow aggressively.

So once again, the common man is skeptical yet hopeful. There are expectations. Whichever party comes to the power will have to work hard to lead the nation into the new beginning. An era of rising economic and political might of India on the international fronts.

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