From Gujarat model to fourth term of Tripura CM
[dropcap]N[/dropcap]arendra Modi has not just yearned for India’s prime ministership, he has willed it. It has happened – well, almost. Alas, the spectacular variety of India may obstruct his path. This has caused deep consternation among those who keep a steady gaze on the world’s markets. The rating agency Moody’s has rung alarm bells.
Friends from the Left (radical Left, I mean) see the emergence of two forces: a national party (BJP plus Congress) surrounded by a necklace of regional parties whose vote share increases with every election. Trust them to highlight such a disruptive reality.
Mere conventional minds would see a more straightforward pattern emerging: BJP as the largest single party, followed by the Congress and regional parties, among whom they list the Left and AAP.The Left of all shades is as irritated with AAP as the Right is. Youth wings of the CPI-M and CPI have dispatched volunteers to help Ajai Rai of the Congress defeat Narendra Modi in Varanasi. Why would these volunteers not throw their lot behind Arvind Kejriwal who is a more charismatic figure in the fray? The official reason is that Ajai Rai, being a local Bhumihar, has a better chance of defeating Modi. But what happens to the Left’s avowed opposition to the BJP and the Congress? That may be the case but the Left’s real fear is AAP, which may upstage it as the growing anti Congress, anti-BJP force.
There is a political angle to the seemingly negligible move. In case Modi or even the NDA fall substantially short of the magic figure of 272, the Congress as the second largest party would come into play. The Left will then find some oxygen for the next round of manoeuvres.
The radical Left, of course, places the conventional Left and AAP in the same category: players in the parliamentary arena who are, like others, marionettes in the hand of Corporate India. By their reckoning, “booth capturing” was organized by big landlords and Kulaks in earlier days. Now it is sought to be affected by a Corporate takeover of the media. Note the cunning compact between the Kulaks and the Corporates.
This punishing appraisal notwithstanding, AAP may well be poised for a promising future. For a first time campaigner against all entrenched interests, including the two main parties, AAP will deserve applause even if it ends up with half a dozen seats.
Should the election outcome not follow the script delineated by the authors of the Modi candidature, will it be curtains on the Gujarat model? BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad introduced variety in the discourse at a public function by describing CPI-M’s Manik Sarkar as a chief minister he admires.
It was probably a casual, patronizing remark by Prasad about a model he knew would not be taken seriously. Ironically, since 1957, populations ranging from 33 million in Kerala to 130 million if you include West Bengal and Tripura have been almost continuously under Marxist governments democratically elected. The total population of United Kingdom and France is 130 million.
For variety, let us pursue Prasada’s remark. Manik Sarkar, now in his fourth continuous term as chief minister, has been the “cleanest, most efficient administrator” according to the testimony of one of the most thinking police officers, B.L. Vohra, who was Tripura’s director general of police for long years. Vohra has worked closely with Sarkar.
Andrew Buncombe, correspondent of the Independent in New Delhi, who was in Agartala on polling day, describes Tripura as “an orderly, neat, clean state with a no-nonsense administration” and where the chief minister “walks to office”. He was surprised that there had been no serious examination of this extraordinary state recently in the Indian media.
Buncombe was equally struck by the “anachronistic” photographs of Marx and Lenin and their mention in local political discourse.
One of the great puzzles of this election will remain the singular absence of any Congress leader in the campaign other than the Gandhi trio. It is common knowledge Sonia Gandhi is not in the pink of health. Why then did she burden herself with so many public meetings? Did she really believe that Rahul Gandhi was lighting up the party’s electoral fortunes?
Technology has amplified the Priyanka magic. Even though she has confined herself to Rae Bareli and Amethi, her campaigning style, ability to connect, the overall attractiveness of her presence may give the party some mileage in eastern UP and Varanasi, even Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. She has brazened out the Vadra allegation, but it will return to plague the family once the dust settles.
The mystery remains why Priyanka was not given a bigger role in this bitterly fought election. Equally surprising is the absence of any other Congress leader at any of the road shows. It is a sad commentary on the party.
It is possible that Priyanka does not have the stamina for extended electioneering, that she ìs good in short bursts. Who knows, this may have contrasted favourably with the Modi campaign which has gone on and on, aggressive but monotonous, ever since he flummoxed his own party by zooming ahead despite senior leaders throwing a ginger fit at his elevation in Goa last June. Why the senior leaders fell in line, is the stuff of mystery novels.
(A senior commentator on diplomatic and political affairs, Saeed Naqvi can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed are personal.)