Far and Near: Political uncertainties

Emergence of AAP phenomenon did partly neutralise the rise of Mr Modi’s leadership

With the Lok Sabha poll result only days away, there appears no certainty about what set of parties might form the next government. There also appears no less uncertainty about who the next leader of government might be, although dominant media speculation is strongly in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party prime ministerial nominee, Narendra Modi.

Possibly, this is because the Congress has been in power for 10 long years, time enough for any party to become thoroughly jaded. All the same, the lack of clarity about results persists. There is said to be some wariness in financial circles as well. Until recently they were upbeat about Mr Modi.

Evidently, the BJP, the only national platform in a position to offer the Congress any meaningful challenge, is not quite sure whether it has been able to make serious inroads in the territories of the important state parties even if it can convincingly get the better of the Congress in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat where there is a straight fight and the Congress challenge decidedly weaker than before.

Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have strong state parties. Modi backers believe their talisman has created enough buzz through the media to be in a position to improve his party’s standing in several of these states. But that is unlikely to amount to much unless the BJP scores a near cent per cent result in states where it faces the Congress one on one, and can take about two-thirds of the seats in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

If this were to happen, it may prove hard for anyone to block Mr Modi’s path to the PM’s chair. If not, the opposite case might be a near certainty no matter how unfocused the Congress may look on account of anti-incumbency woes and leadership-related travails.

Other than the state parties, some of whose leaders are keen to play the leadership role at the Centre, there is also the Aam Aadmi Party to consider. The party began life as an anti-Congress forum, and the social strata it seeks to attract are ones that have generally been with the Congress, seen countrywide. To that extent, the AAP essentially hurts the Congress in the latter’s fight against the BJP (though it may negatively affect the BJP in certain situations). Mr Modi should count that as a plus even if AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal is said to be challenging him energetically in Varanasi.

As far as the Congress is concerned, the emergence of the AAP phenomenon does partly help neutralise the resistance to the rise of Mr Modi’s leadership by several state satraps and their parties. Especially on seats where the contest is close, Congress might rue the arrival of AAP on the stage.

Given Mr Kejriwal’s clearly stated pro-business ideology, the AAP is by no means a Left substitute, but like the Left it works on the insecurities of the relatively marginalised sections. However, unlike the Left, the AAP is not in co-operation with any state party.

This means that when the stakes for forming the government at the Centre are discussed, the AAP will decline to be in the non-BJP line-up in all likelihood, for it wouldn’t want to be seen going with the Congress even indirectly as the Delhi state Assembly election — in which it will again fight the Congress — could soon become due.

A key difference between Mr Kejriwal and Mr Modi, both of whom are opposing the Congress (although they seriously also oppose one another on some seats) is that the former has lost some of his political capital since he abandoned the state government in Delhi, but not his moral capital. He has proved to be master of dramatising a political situation to his advantage.

Mr Modi too is that, but he has by now forfeited the “almost-moral” standing his PR men and supportive elements of the media had helped him gain through his so-called Gujarat model of development, which underlines a strongly pro-big business paradigm. Mr Modi’s billing of being a demi-god of development couldn’t be sustained even in development-starved Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

In these Ganga-Jamuna states the Gujarat chief minister began with “development” all right, but no sooner did he come up against a political obstacle than he invoked the asuras or demons of Hindu communalism and backward strata casteism one by one. (In states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Haryana, Punjab or Himachal Pradesh, which are streets ahead of Gujarat on most counts of “development”, Mr Modi’s campaign pitch lacked bite; it had little to offer except anti-Congress negativity and bombast.)

The BJP PM nominee’s carefully crafted halo has also suffered grievously on account of his sustained, and well-plotted, attack on the Election Commission of India, which is held in high esteem by the people of this country because its sturdy sense of independence has been noted over a long period of time. This attempted ambushing of the EC has raised the question if Mr Modi is capable of according respect to other institutions of democracy.

Mr Modi drawing up this deficit in the last phase of the election campaign is apt to raise the sights of the anti-Modi cabal within the BJP in case the needed numbers are not notched up. More, the dynamics of the state parties in government formation is also likely to come into its own on account of the BJP leader’s perceived deficiencies.

Next Story