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Op-Ed

Run up to 2014 elections promises to be as gripping as any box-office blockbuster

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By EMN Updated: Jan 07, 2014 11:50 pm
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[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e have entered the New Year witnessing much drama in politics. The electoral rout of the Congress in four northern states has jolted the party’s hopes of scoring a hat-trick victory in Lok Sabha polls.
The landslide BJP win in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh has boosted the Narendra Modi-led party’s zeal for wresting power. And, then, the stunning Delhi show of the budding Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) seems to have fired up the imagination of a whole range of urban youth, the middle class and others, forcing our established parties and netas to review the grammar and tools of power politics.Watching yet another Congress acolyte urging Rahul Gandhi’s nomination as the prime ministerial candidate, a friend said, “So, the ride seems to be, finally, over for the Congress and Gandhis. Can anyone now stop Modi from becoming the PM?” The question was still hanging in the air when news channel shifted, with ease, to an AAP leaderdeclaring his dream for 2014: “to see Arvind as PM”. The screen was then abruptly taken over by a resourceful yoga guru who wants to see “Modi as PM”.
So, there are many colourful dreams, hopes and 24×7 plots brewing all around us in the run up to the April-May Lok Sabha polls. But, then, three months can be really a very long, long time in politics as unexpected twists can rewrite the prepared scripts.
Those enriching and cautionary political lessons of the 15 years make one wary of giving an instant answer to an instant question. In December 1998, the opposition Congress had, under the fragile leadership of Sonia Gandhi, routed the BJP in MP, Rajasthan and Delhi polls.
That cast a shadow over the oneyear-old Vajpayee regime, emboldened its troublesome ally Jayalalithaa to reach out to Congress, and inspired the likes of Arjun Singh, H S Surjeet, et al to engineer the downfall of the 13-month-old Vajpayee regime.
Not many in Delhi then gave BJP even a 10% chance to win the next polls, before one dramatic event, Kargil, changed the script, totally.
Expect the Unexpected
Cut to December 2003. The Congress suffered serial defeats in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, adding to the shine of the well-placed NDA regime.
Overnight, BJP hoardings in Delhi declared, “Abhi teen pradesh, aage sara desh.” BJP president M Venkaiah Naidu held press conferences morning, afternoon and evening. Pramod Mahajan spoke to TV from his treadmill. Vajpayee’s peace mission to Pakistan made BJP friends whisper, “We won with war last time, will win with peace this time.” NDA even opted for early polls.
But, just then, Sonia Gandhi walked Delhi’s streets, citing Gujarat riots and Pota and mobilised many traditional anti-Congress parties to line up the first-ever Congress-led national coalition to make it a secular-versus communal fight, knocking the NDA down in its own “Shining India”.
December of 2008. Indoor guerrilla Prakash Karat had already breached the UPA-Left strategic line over the nuclear deal to cement his legacy as the “last Mughal” of the crumbling Marxist empire. Lalu and Paswan were about to walk out on Congress.
The 26/11 had further shaken the UPA, battling surging inflation and terror strikes and “popular anger”. Aconfident NDA recycled its original hardliner Advani as the “decisive PM candidate” against “the weak Manmohan”. But voters danced to another multiple beat: of Singh’s Npunch, Sonia’s social sector bouquet and UPA’s stability plank. Again, realpolitik trumped reality shows.
Seeing isn’t Believing
As we move from December 2013 to battlefield 2014, politics remains enigmatic. As usual, the Congress looks battered, very much the underdog.
But the past cautions us about the GOP’s penchant for beginning the poll dance only in the final rounds by throwing up new tunes, planks and teams. There will be more to Congress plans than merely hoisting Rahul Gandhi as its face.
The BJP, rightly, looks upbeat. But even after winning three states, worthy regional parties are not quite hugging Modi. Wooing back the “rejected” Yeddyurappa and Chautala or dating political Lilliputians like Vaiko or Ramadoss advertises more the limits of Modi’s reach even at the BJP’s high point.
Four months is a Long Time
Statistics shows the BJP, on its own, is in the race as winner, runner-up or in the third place only in around 270 LS seats. Since there is no Vajpayee to rally over 20 regional parties to make up for the party’s barrenness in the south and north-east, Modi needs a 90%, if not 100%, strike rate to be in reach of Raisina Hill.
The Indian middle class’ new craze Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP’s plans to contest over 250 LS seats, mostly in urban centres, where Modi has been banking on anti-Congress feelings, make for an interesting twist.
Kejriwal has already knocked Modi off the TRP highs and the BJP/RSS brass now protests a Congress’ divideand-rule plot behind the AAP surge, even seeking out Ramdev to shield Modi from Kejriwal’s turf-raid! So, we’ll be better off watching out for more political twists and turns before the April-May war rather than jumping the gun.
Courtesy: Economic Times

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By EMN Updated: Jan 07, 2014 11:50:32 pm