As we come to the end of 2014, it is that time of the year when people start looking back at the highlights of the year. For India, the undoubted highlight of the year were the General Elections in May. For starters, the whole process of conducting the biggest general elections ever was massive and the manner in which Election Commission on India went about conducting the election in an efficient and largely peaceful manner is probably the biggest feather in India’s democratic credentials. Secondly, after nearly three decades we finally have a majority government which has won the elections and there is a renewed hope that the era of coalition politics which was plagued with compromises and appeasement politics might be coming to an end.
For the first time in the six decades of Indian Independence, a party other than the Congress Party has got the absolute majority. This miracle has been achieved by Narendra Modi led BJP. What makes this remarkable is that none of the pre-poll surveys gave BJP anything more than 220 odd seats. To add to that the potrayal of Mr. Modi as a perpetrator in chief of the 2002 riots and high voltage attempt by various parties to create a huge fear factor of this issue. But, the Indian electorate decided to be swayed by Mr. Modi’s developmental persona and finally decided to bridge the gaps of caste, religion and region and go for a more inclusive development them. To add to that the raw energy of Mr. Modi’s high voltage election campaign where in he blitzed the whole country with his election speeches and his hard selling of the vision of India caught the imagination of India and he ended up with 282 seats which meant that BJP had a majority of their own.
One fascinating aspect of BJP’s win is that the current leadership is actually BJP 2.0. BJP 1.0 was led by Advani, Vajpayee and by Murali Manohar Joshi. These three leaders have now either retired or have been moved to an advisory role and the BJP 2.0 led by the likes of Modi, Amit Shah, Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj is in place. The important thing to note is that none of these are related to the leaders of BJP 1.0. This in itself gives BJP a democratic appeal that other parties which run as family businesses seem to lack at this moment. Since the elections, BJP seems to be consolidating its position as the pre-eminent party of Indian politics by winning state elections in Haryana and Maharashtra. But there is an old saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Already there seems to be the emergence of a bit of arrogance in the way BJP is handling its allies. While this might not have an immediate effect, but given the pace at which things change in politics, these could have longer term impact.
But, as citizens, what is probably a more disturbing state of affairs is the complete obliteration of the opposition. One of the cornerstones of a vibrant democracy is an effective opposition, but at this stage it is unclear who that opposition is to Mr. Modi’s government. The party that came second in the election was the Congress party with 44 seats, you heard it right 44 seats. So when the difference between the ruling party and the biggest opposition is around 240 seats, how effective is the opposition really going to be? More importantly, the question is now about the leadership of the Congress party. It has become pretty apparent even to the sycophants within the Congress Party that Rahul Gandhi is not really leadership material. Reading scripted speeches without any real connect to the masses and real understanding of the public sentiments is not really leadership. Leadership requires vision, inspiration and an ability to articulate and win support from others and these qualities seem to be really missing in Raul’s leadership. But the state of Congress today is such that there are no leaders left in the party who have an independent view which is diametrically different from the High Command which basically consists of a family. So now that the party figures that Rahul may not be able to lead the party to success anytime soon, they are shifting their attention to the next scion of the family, Priyanka. So what is Priyanka’s leadership credentials? For starters, she belongs to THE FAMILY, she has 100% success in campaigning as Congress won both the seats she campaigned for in UP i.e. Amethi and Rae Bareilly and finally her father had told somebody in Congress that he thinks she understands Indian politics better than her brother. It does look like remarkable credentials for somebody who is going to be charged with turning around the fortunes of party in decline and disintegration. I am sorry, as a citizen of this country, it really does not give me any hope that Congress party is serious about reviving itself. What is funny is that its so called leaders have no qualms in saying that it is only the first family that really holds the party together and it is not ideology or thought process that binds them together. A party wanting to rule the biggest democracy in the world, when the party itself does not have a democratic way to elect its top leader!!
Moving on to the regional players, after 3 decades of prominence, this election probably signals the first indication that the people of this country are frustrated of the coalition and blackmail politics of these regional leaders which has meant that the country has been ineffective in implementing real reforms over these period and the cost has been bore by the common man while the pockets of these regional players started to balloon. The only three to emerge really strong from these elections were AIADMK, TMC and BJD. All three parties won remarkable victories in their respective states almost sweeping each of them. But the problem for these parties have been post the elections, with the patriarch of AIADMK, Selvi Jayalalitha now convicted and ruled out of direct electoral politics for 10 years. In Bengal, TMC is reeling under allegations of misrule, Sharda ponzi scam and the terror links of its ministers. Each of these charges are very serious and to be tangled in all three at the same time really compromises the wins achieved by TMC. Similarly, ponzi scam links of BJD ministers is starting to hurt their credentials.
The big revolution of 2013, AAP over-estimated the support in their favor based on the Delhi elections. Their amateurish approach to capture power in the General Elections by resigning from power in Delhi, really boomeranged and they were roundly decimated in the General Elections. The upcoming Delhi Assembly elections might as well be an existential challenge for AAP. If they do well, then they would have got a second chance in Indian politics, but if they do not do well, it could well be curtains to the party. The concerns I had about their ability to deliver in my previous article on AAP (The AAP Effect) still remains unanswered.
In a nutshell, at this moment, there seems to be one party that is one the way up and all the other parties are headed in the other direction. This does not augur well for the overall health of democracy as it requires both a strong government and a credible opposition. But, it would be too premature to write off these political parties. Survival instincts tend to bring about strange bedfellows and on occasions also tends to throw up leaders from nowhere. For e.g. in Bihar we saw Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav burying decades of hatchet and teaming up for survival. Similar realignments would start to happen elsewhere sooner rather than later to take on the BJP. But there is no denying 2014 has seen a massive rejig of the Indian political scenario, the question is will it become a seminal moment in the way politics is done in this country.