Opinion

Going to be an interesting election

B.L. Vohra IPS (Retd.)

The election season has arrived. And politicians, like birds in winter, are flocking to warmer places. They are present everywhere, moving crisscross many in the sky, and there is lot of activity all over the country. There is a race among them to be visible all the time and thanks to the TV which is helping them. Of course each channel has its own agenda. And then there is social media adding to the excitement of elections. The scene is unlike earlier elections and keeping the common man also busy with the talk of elections everywhere. The pack, at the national level, is mainly led by Modi of BJP and Rahul of Congress. There is also a little bird flying behind them, by the name of Kejriwal, leading AAP. Of course there are regional flocks also like SP, BSP, JD (U), TMC, AIADMK, BJD, TRS, YRS Congress flying in their own territories. But the real star is the common man and woman of the country whose time for getting seasonal importance and freebies has come.

Those who never even looked at them during the past five years are at their door and they can afford to be nasty till he or she casts his/her ballot. The voter has also become smarter. In Delhi Assembly elections many did not leave money or liquor given by some parties but yet voted for AAP. Youth are the flavor of the season as they are an important factor due to their sheer numbers and being wooed by all. Bets are on as who would form the next government at the centre. Most of the people are putting their money on Modi. We wish him success.
But there are ifs and buts for Modi. How would others perform? And how the third front or by whatever name you can call such attempts will have enough numbers to make a King among themselves or be king makers? One thing however is certain. It is going to be a hung Parliament. Of course if the NDA led by BJP reaches about 240 mark, as some poll surveys are projecting, it should cross the finishing line with little help from some other power seekers. Modi is working hard – even Karunanidhi of DMK has acknowledged. LJP of Ram Bilas Paswan has joined NDA apart from few other smaller groups. Former Army Chief V.K.Singh has also joined swelling its ranks.

Congress is going to get less than 100 seats – thanks to many self goals managed by it over the years. Non-governance, corruption, bowing to Rahul always – the king in waiting – has dented its creditability. The worst sufferer is the Prime Minister who believed in the golden principle of three monkeys who would neither see, nor speak nor even listen evil. Populism, criticizing Modi as main agenda, in fighting- latest being between Rahul brigade and the old timers and sycophants would doom the Congress to its lowest depth in its history. The beauty is that the most corrupt are projecting themselves as the champions of anti-corruption in their last moments still hoping that they may get some oxygen by bills and ordinances against corruption. ‘Sau chuhe kha ke billi Haj ko chali’ i.e. after eating 100 rats the cat is going to the holiest of mosques!

U.P. is going to be the key state. If BJP can get more than 40 seats here, it will stand a good chance at the central level. But there are spoilers for it like SP and BSP. And AAP now, the new start on the horizon, whose leader Kejriwal has recently started his road show from Ghaziabad to Kanpur. Many feel that with its recent ‘fiascos’ AAP’s support has dwindled. But that is a misconception. Though some middle class has stepped back, the others below it are supporting it in big numbers and many more have come forward. This crowd doesn’t understand the nuances of law, constitution, rules and procedures. They know that Kejriwal had the physical and mental courage to sleep on the road side in the cold winter of Delhi within the seat of the central government. Besides he did fulfill many of his promises. They acknowledge his inexperience but do not consider this as a big minus point. I was in Mumbai and Pune recently and everybody I met said unequivocally that he/she will vote for AAP. He is shrewd person and works a lot on symbolism – see his election symbol of broom, his wearing of clothes of common man, his speaking in Hindi always even though he can speak good English having been an officer, and all this endears him to the common man. The presence of large number of people wearing AAP caps during his road show in Mordabad on way to Kanpur shows that his support has not dwindled rather increased. And it is certainly hugely popular in the urban areas.

AAP may not field more than 200 candidates at best. For a first timer and only one year old, this is an audacious beginning. And people no longer underestimate it as they did in Delhi Assembly elections. After all he did form the government there and worked at break neck speed. Most of the people are willing to give him about 50 Lok Sabha seats and some say that it may even equal Congress or even surpass it by becoming the main opposition party. That may be too optimistic. My take is about 30 seats which will still be a spectacular performance. But this assessment is as of today. It is attracting big names now like Raj Mohan Gandhi and others from different fields and many more will follow. This seems to be the only chance for many well meaning persons who want to serve the country through politics. They could not get entry into well established parties as these are being lorded by dynasties and others for ages.

Kejriwal’s connect directly with the people has sent across an emotional chord and his support is increasing though that may not result in many seats. Many countries of the world are studying this phenomenon. Some doomsayers have already buried it but they are making a mistake. Politics is a long race. Who could imagine that the BJP which had just two MPs in 1984 elections would one day be the ruling party in about 14 years from that point? And today it has established itself as the largest second party in the country. Same could happen with AAP. It may even cross the 30 seat mark this time and become a formidable force in the times to come. Of course these are early days yet and anything can happen. The remaining days up to the election will hold the key.

Incidentally AAP also had a great effect on other parties who are now trying to come closer to the people. Some other state governments led by Congress and BJP have taken steps like reduction in power tariff, providing buses for night shelters, improving conditions of schools, shedding of red beacons on the cars, reducing personal security etc. This has proved one thing at least. The government was always far away from the people and once elected the politicians never bothered for them behaving like Kings with no concern for the masses. AAP has changed this. It has also broken many unwritten rules, even taking on the likes of Mukesh Ambani, Robert Vadra, Moily the Union Petroleum Minister and former CM Delhi Sheila Dixit and this is being lapped up by the common man. The aspirations of the common man have gone up tremendously consequently. AAP has also demonstrated that even without money power elections can be won. Thus it has drastically changed the course of politics in the country. Though symbolic BJP workers have started wearing caps now following the example of AAP workers! If AAP remains in contention, this discourse will change further and if not, politics will go back to its older ways which will be a tragedy. My take is that AAP and its effect will grow.

The emergence of AAP is leading to the emergence of many more AAPs in India. Slowly and steadily we will know their names. Some who were already there like in Andhra Pradesh and U.P. but not doing well may do better this time. I think even Shri Anna Hazare has committed a mistake by not full backing Kejriwal. His supporting TMC is going to be a non-starter as he has no following in West Bengal and Didi has no following anywhere else in the country.

Congress will also get a beating in the northeast due to the racial attacks in Delhi on the youth of the northeast. There is quite a bit of anger which will manifest itself in the lesser number of votes being cast for the Congress in this region. With each seat being important in any hung Parliament for the formation of a government at the centre, this factor will reduce the strength of Congress and brighten the chances of Modi. The guess that AGP from Assam may join the NDA may come true.

However let us not underestimate the power of the Congress which is the ruling party. It bowed to Anna Hazare as a tactics and then finished him. Then it bowed to Baba Ram Dev and finished him. They know this art. Even BJP will do the same once in power. Same with the power of media. It can build and demolish people, reputations and parties. It was a big support to Kejriwal in building a big support for AAP. Of late due to the criticism of media by Kejriwal his space in the media is already diminishing. This trend will harm AAP and so it has to be careful while dealing with the media. Besides it should soon finalise and announce its policies in other important areas like economy, foreign affairs, security apart from its well known agenda of anti-corruption that gave it the platform for politics and success. It will be the tenacity and hard work for a very long time of AAP which will keep it in the game. And it should be good for all of us in the country if that happens.

The BJP will emerge stronger after the elections. The Congress will be weakened. The Left parties will not perform better. Of course some of the regional parties will do very well.

All said and done it is going to be an interesting election. The youth, the social media, AAP, the greater expectations of people, the reduction though marginally of the caste and creed influence on elections, the emphasis on development, the anxiety of the corrupt and the big are going to make a big block buster of elections with new actors and situations. How many stars rating it gets will be known a few months down the lane for which we are all eagerly waiting. But there is no doubt that it is going to be a big entertainer. 2014
The author has served as DGP Manipur and Tripura
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