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08 April, 2014

Change is inevitable

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

The process of choosing a new government has begun. On Monday, voters in six constituencies in the eastern states of Assam and Tripura, marched to polling booths to pick their parliamentary representatives. India has an electorate of 814 million spread over 543 constituencies. During the next five weeks, voters in the remaining constituencies will make their choice.

The electoral exercise is conducted in several phases to ensure security during polling. Counting of votes will begin only after polling concludes all over the country. The people’s verdict will not, therefore, be known until May 17.

The current general election is one of the most hotly contested, with the Congress, which headed two successive United Progressive Alliance governments during the past 10 years, facing tough challenges from the Bharatiya Janata Party, the main opposition in the last two parliaments, and a host of smaller parties whose support base does not extend beyond a single state.

Under Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who has been named its prime ministerial candidate, the BJP is making an all-out bid to wrest power. It did not have an election manifesto when polling began. A committee headed by former party president Murli Manohar Joshi had drafted a manifesto but its release was delayed as Modi wanted it to be shortened.

In Modi’s scheme, the manifesto is not important. In his long and vigorous campaign — he began electioneering long before anyone else — he has relied on catchy slogans designed to hold the BJP’s traditional Hindutva followers and to reach out to young, middle class voters rather than on well-articulated ideas on policy matters.

Money matter

India Inc. has endorsed Modi. Its enthusiasm for him generated strong bullish tendencies in the stock market as the campaign progressed.

Modi’s campaign may be the costliest in the country’s electoral history. He arranged special trains to transport people to rallies he held in the northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which send 120 members to the Lok Sabha.

Aam Admi Party President Arvind Kejriwal asked the BJP to reveal the source of its campaign funds. The party ignored the demand.

Large sections of the electronic media have made no secret of their preference for Modi. When Kejriwal accused them of bias, the broadcasters’ organisation held out a veiled threat to black him out. 

When the BJP named Modi its prime ministerial candidate, its largest ally in the National Democratic Alliance, the Janata Dal (United), pulled out invoking memories of the anti-Muslim riots that swept Gujarat soon after he became chief minister of the state. That left the party with only the sectarian Shiv Sena of Maharashtra and Akali Dal of Punjab as its allies.

As pollsters identified Modi as the front-runner in the prime ministerial stakes, the NDA was able to attract new allies in Bihar and the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

Expert opinion
Most opinion polls put the BJP and the NDA way ahead of the Congress and the UPA, but short of the 272 seats needed for a simple majority in the Lok Sabha. Their forecasts need to be accepted with a measure of caution. For one, they were off the mark on the last two occasions. For another, a recent sting operation showed that many pollsters are willing to doctor the findings to suit the needs of clients.

Early in the campaign, Rahul Gandhi, who heads the Congress campaign, conceded his party is the underdog in this election. However, he and other Congress leaders later made conscious efforts to exude optimism.

The Congress derives satisfaction from the reports that the NDA will not secure a majority. In such a situation, the small national parties and the regional parties will have a say on the shape of the next government.

In 2004 and 2009, many of these parties backed the Congress. If the BJP emerges as the largest single party and the NDA as the largest pre-poll alliance, many of these parties may be inclined to go with them instead of the Congress and the UPA.

If the NDA’s shortfall is small, the BJP will be able to attract enough small parties to raise the strength of the alliance to 272 or more. If the shortfall is large, it may face demands from them to choose a more acceptable leader than Modi as the prime minister.

This general election is the 16th since Independence. The voters who chose rather wisely on the earlier occasions will hopefully do so again. -- Gulf Today, Sharjah, April 8, 2014.

1 comment:

മുസാഫിര്‍ said...

Hope Modi will rope in enough support to form a strong , clean government for the next five years or more