Monday, May 6, 2013

Pointers for 2014

Pointers for 2014
As the air gets hotter to signal a scorching midsummer across India, one can smell the scent of elections that will happen this year in some states, beginning with Karnataka and on to Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. And collectively, the ambience makes the summer 2014 Lok Sabha polls look that much closer. Political 'accidents' like withdrawal of support by more

UPA partners can bring them actually closer. Already pointers are palpable about which way the Lok Sabha elections may go. Senior journalist and research scholar Shesh Narain Singh takes a long look at the scene
Lok Sabha elections in 2014 are going to be a great test for our maturing democracy. Although the whole of India will decide the shape of the government after the elections, the so called BIMARU (a delightful acronym coined by demographer Ashis Bose for Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) states will have significant political sway in shaping the next government.

Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan are likely to be the swing states and a winner here is likely to rule at the Centre. More than 200 Lok Sabha seats in these states are going to be the real pointers to the future Indian government.
BJP's dream
Actually the dream of the BJP to rule the country is dependent on the performance of these states. Other states where the BJP is likely to get support are Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab and Haryana. Out of 88 seats in these states the BJP might win over 50 seats. And if they are able to do well in the BIMARU states, any worker of the BJP could be the prime minister come 2014. For this dream to become a reality it is important to note that the BJP will have to crosses the 200-seat mark on its own. Therefore if they are able to win in at least 100 seats from the BIMARU states they will be able to reach the 200 mark easily.
Numerically Uttar Pradesh is a very important state. When Atal Bihari Vajpayee formed the government at the centre UP played a very important role. But now, UP is not a very significant contributor to the Lok Sabha numbers for the BJP. The party is trying to polarise the electorate in the state by putting Narendra Modi as a possible prime minister. If that happens the BJP might gain a significant number of seats in the state. The party is hoping to garner the support of the Hindus.
Narendra Modi
Rahul-Modi projection
However, uncertainty still persists about the future of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Its second biggest partner JD-U has made it clear that it will not accept Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as the PM candidate of the alliance. Of course, BJP has not made Modi its man for the honour yet and harps that JD-U is a trusted ally that will not leave the alliance. Back channel efforts are on to sort out the matter even as JD-U is insisting that the NDA declare its PM candidate. The war of attrition is likely to stretch till close to the Lok Sabha polls.
Rahul Gandhi
The Congress led UPA alliance is not on solid ground either as far as its future is concerned. It has already lost two major allies -Trinamool Congress and DMK. Recent developments like the hanging of Afzal Guru suggest that its minor partner National Conference of Jammu and Kashmir may not be with UPA to fight the next elections. The Congress-NCP relations are not free from friction either. It is not clear how the UPA is going to make up for the loss of Trinamool and DMK.

JD-U, unhappy may be in NDA at the moment, will not find the scamtainted UPA as an alternative as Nitish Kumar's main flank is fighting corruption. AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and
Biju Janata Dal in Orissa may well be wooed by the Congress but how far the two are willing is a million dollar question. If at all, they may be willing only after the polls.

The Congress is also not certain about its PM candidate though family loyalists like Digvijaya Singh insist that Rahul Gandhi has not said a definite 'No' to the honour in case Congress is able to manage a simple majority on its own or with trusted allies. Such a scenario looks rather too dreamy at the moment. As things stand today, the Modi-Rahul rivalry and the duo's projection to the electorate as PM candidates will continue to occupy the national consciousness.
Muslim votes
In UP, the Muslims pay a very significant role in results of the elections. Ever since 1952 they have voted for the Congress, but just before the 1977 elections when the Congress under the influence of Sanjay Gandhi experimented with soft Hindutva, they lost the Muslim vote bank only to regain it in the 1980s. They remained loyal to the Congress till 1992 but after that when the Congress under the leadership of P V Narsimha Rao was seen as a collaborator of the RSS; the Muslims started looking for non-Congress political options. In UP this translated into support for Mualayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party to the extent that today Muslims along with the OBCs are the main vote base of the Samajwadi Party. But
Mualayam Singh Yadav
the Muslims have learnt from their mistakes with the Congress, they do not give full and unconditional support to the Samajwadi Party on all the seats. Now, they vote strategically and support the Congress candidates on many seats as well. The main concern of the Muslim voter in UP, like in any other state, is to keep the BJP out of power. If the BJP projects Narendra Modi as a possible prime ministerial candidate, then the Muslims will in all likelihood vote for the party that is the largest political force able to stop BJP from coming to power. This was also the consideration in UP during the Lok Sabha elections of 2009. The Congress party which was not able to even win 30 seats in the 2007 and 2008 Vidhan sabha elections was able to win 22 seats in Lok Sabha elections of 2009, thanks to the Muslim vote. In case Narendra Modi takes the center stage, we should expect a repeat of the 2009 performance. But Narendra Modi might be able draw the support of more Hindus than just the traditional voters of the BJP. In that case, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party will lose to the BJP and the Congress.
OBC identification
Nitish Kumar
In the age of identity politics, how the OBCs identify themselves will also be an important factor. Whether the OBCs see themselves as Hindus first or the beneficiaries of the Mandal commission will decide whom they vote for. In case the OBCs decide to go with their Hindu sentiments the BJP will come out as the winners. As a reaction to this the Muslims plus the anti-Modi voters will ensure that the Congress also has a honourable presence in UP. If that happens Samajwadi Party and Bhaujan Samaj Party will suffer significant losses. Everybody knows that without the support of Muslims neither Mualayam Singh Yadav nor Mayawati will be able to win many seats. No one caste in Uttar Pradesh can ensure a victory for a candidate on any seat in UP!
Bihar is a different story from UP. The BJP is the smaller partner of the ruling party- JD (U). No doubt, Nitish Kumar is the Chief Minister of Bihar with the support of the BJP, but it is an open secret that he has been trying to distance himself from the BJP for quite sometime now. After his Adhikar Rally at the Ramlila maidan in New Delhi, the analysts have predicted on several TV channels that Nitish Kumar will not add to the numbers that might make Narendra Modi or any other BJP worker prime minister.

In this political climate the possibility of Nitish Kumar joining hands with the Congress is a real possibility. BJP also has got an inclination of Nitish Kumar’s changed mood and so they are exploring other avenues as well. Narendra Modi has travelled to Bihar many times mostly on social occasions but , everybody knows, when a politician visits a place there is bound to be some politics. In all likelihood Bihar will see a polarization in the vote- Narendra Modi and his party will try playing the Hindu card but this may in turn solidify the anti-BJP votes. Like UP, if the Mandal commission beneficiaries decide to go with there identity as OBCs, then the BJP will be a major loser. As of now, Nitish Kumar is trying to play on these sentiments. If he is able to garner the support of OBCs and give an impression that he is the one who will ensure that Narendra Modi does not become the prime minister, he is likely to come out with maximum number of seats in Bihar.
Rajasthan, MP
In Rajasthan the Congress has created many enemies. Many communities who traditionally voted for the Congress are feeling alienated. The party is trying to win over the Jats, almost all the heads of the frontal organisations come from that community. The traditional voters of the Congress are drifting away from the party as they feel that in an attempt to woo the Jats everybody else has been marginalised. Favouring the Jats over the others the Chief Minister has successfully annoyed all the sections of people in the state! Anti incumbency is also going to play a very important role in Rajasthan. Former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje is being seen as the future chief minister of the state . She has
Vasundhara Raje
Shivraj Singh Chauhan
established good relations with the elders in her party at the state level. During the previous term of Rajnath Singh as BJP president, Vausndhara Raje had fought with the BJP high command but now that situation is much improved. Rajnath Singh thinks of Vasundhara Raje as a very capable leader . Even the Congress leadership feels that they are not going to repeat their performance in Rajasthan. Hence in all probability, Rajasthan is going to be the state where the BJP will have an upper hand .

Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have been with BJP for almost 10 years now. The chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan is deemed to be a very successful Chief Minister . His
media management is marvellous; with the help of the media he has created a perception that he is invincible. But if one were to travel into the state one would find many BPJ politicians who do not share the same view of the Chief Minister. Most of the BJP leaders of Madhya Pradesh would like to get rid of their Chief Minister but his PR management in New Delhi is such that the BJP high command thinks of him as a good political manager. However his own party members from the state are seen telling journalists that if the Congress could get its act together in Madhya Pradesh they can actually win the state. Actually what Ashok Gehlbach has done to his party in Rajasthan, Shivraj Singh Chauhan has brought to his party in Madhya Pradesh.
Smaller states
Smaller states in the BIMARU region will be playing their traditional role. Only Jharkhand is likely to go away from both the BJP and Congress because Babulal Marandi has been working there in the remote villages and he is very popular. The Congress is expecting to team up with him before the elections, but that seems unlikely to happen as he is in a comfortable position. . In Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh there are going to be no surprises for either Congress or the BJP.

These are just the early indicators. One factor that will affect the outcome in the whole of India is the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme of the central government. Almost all the
Babulal Marandi
scholarships, old age pension and other financial gains that will impress the poor and the youth will affect the population in the BIMARU states as well. When one converts the outcomes of these schemes in terms of votes the marginal seats may swing towards the Congress making 2014 a very interesting election year.

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