Monday, April 7, 2014

Lok Sabha Elections in India 2014

I have been closely following the extensive election coverage in electronic media -- I must say I find Indian Express's style of "Track your Leader/Heavyweights" very convenient (even though limited) as that makes it way easier to sift through the news pertaining to a particular political figure. This has become especially important because I personally believe that Indian elections are, for the first time, evolving into a  US-like Presidential contest where people identify with and would possibly vote for personalities and not political parties. The counter point of this view being true only in the cities and disregarding the India far and beyond the confines of city's intellectual elite does not seem to hold much water given the opinion polls done by news agencies (the largest was done by NDTV recently) which show consolidated mandates largely driven by the charismatic heavyweights of different parties. Sure, the feudal structure of Indian polity necessarily factors and fosters the role of state governments; nonetheless, I believe (and hope!) that this election highlights the issues relevant at the  federal level such as defence, foreign policy and economic policy. Not only are local issues such as roads, electricity, water, better addressed in state-wide legislative assembly elections, I think digressing or diluting the federal issues by warping them with state politics can be detrimental.

The three major players, who have emerged in 2014 presidential-like parliamentary contest, are:
1. BJP's Narendra Modi 
2. Congress's Rahul Gandhi
3. AAP's Arvind Kejriwal

Narendra Modi has the maximum political experience out of all three, with 12 years as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, preceded by years as a junior BJP worker and RSS member. The infamous 2002 Gujarat riots, that happened within months of his assuming office, have been a stubborn dent in his ability to project an inclusive image. Plus his hard-hitting style has contributed to this image of his being an aloof authoritarian. He can harness this image to his advantage, if he is voted in power, by pushing for administrative and economic reforms which have been stalled under the outgoing weak government of Dr. Manmohan Singh.

Rahul Gandhi's inexperience and lack of political acumen are a butt of constant jokes. It seems, however, this would not have been much of an issue if it were not for the severe anti-incumbency against the Congress-led UPA government. I base this opinion on the thumping 2/3rd majority his father Rajiv Gandhi won in the 1980s while he was still a reluctant novice pushed into the political world at the behest of his mother Indira.

Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party have been quite some phenomena. He has covered the road from being a political activist to a political leader in no time and with no elan (unfortunately)! In addition to the debacle of AAP government in Delhi, formed with the support of the almost rooted Congress, he and his co-workers have served to make the electoral politics murkier (if that was possible) by their high-pitched little-substantiated shouting match with all and sundry. Kejriwal himself displays a constant disdain for politics and its practitioners without really offering a viable alternative --- not very surprising coming from a self-proclaimed anarchist. However, India has come a long way from being under colonial rule and Indians in 21st century should have little patience with being denied their due of a stable, able and honest government. A silver lining of the AAP phenomenon, however, is how it has catalyzed an unprecedented mobilization of usually disenchanted and cynical voters of India and nudged them into initiating a political dialogue outside the portals of power.

The hope is that the sanest voice prevails!

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