Note: This is a guest article written by IndiaFacts supporter and contributor, Shwetank Bhushan.
It is time to take a rational look at the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, coming up in about 100 days. It is indeed a different election than all those fought in the last six-plus decades. Without a doubt it is going to be a fight between the Narendra Modi-led BJP versus the others. The “others” comprises a long list– a faceless Congress, the Communist Party, other regional parties like, SP, BSP, DMK, AIDMK, TMC, JD(U), BJD, RJD, JD(S), TDP, MNS, Shiv Sena and last but not the least the AAP. The big change has been the coming of the Aam Aadmi Party to the forefront.
Has Manmohan Singh been judged a little too harshly? You have heard him say “history will judge me better than the contemporary media”.
What comes to your mind? Do you also feel furious with this man?
I am furious with this man. Everybody hoped so much from him. He has given good men a bad name. People will say get a crook let him do something. This man’s core competence is to deflect blame on others, on Raja, some secretary of coal, on the world economic situation. He has destroyed the basic pillar of governance in India and that is the Chair of Prime Minister.
These were the stinging words of Arun Shourie in a recent interview.
What do I say about this party? Even Google knows about it! If you have doubts, search “the Most Corrupt Party of the world” and see the result yourself.
After four and half years, or rather nine and a half years (UPA-I & UPA-II) in office, the scam tainted Congress government is reeling under several setbacks over corruption. There is no point even naming those scams. All of them are out in the public domain. The best part is that the most likely face of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi, is projected as the latest anti-corruption crusader. He keeps buying media space and tries all the (limited) gimmicks to take credit for anti-corruption stances. Be it reversing the ordinance to save tainted ministers or passing the toothless Lokpal. The very next day his party refuses to take action on the report pertaining to the Adarsh Housing Scam, where the ex-Maharashtra Chief Minister and present union home minister may themselves get indicted.
Anyway, the assumption is that there is a very negative mood against Congress across India (the results of the recent elections in four state is a solid proof), and at the same time, the mood is also severely against some regional parties like Samajwadi Party or Janata Dal (United). Reasons are aplenty, but primarily they are seen to be hand in glove with Congress, inefficient, anti-people, and party to the crime of corruption as well as appeasement.
By now you must have realized that my appeal to voters who want positive change is directed towards those who are aiming primarily that the corrupt, criminal, and inefficient UPA government should be annihilated with immediate effect, and to replace it with a progressive, decisive, non-corrupt government, connected with people and to those who intend to take India forward.
Let me start with the most obvious alternative, a Narendra Modi-led BJP government. Narendra Modi has given a corruption-free, development-focused and efficient rule in Gujarat. Even an extreme left ideologue such as Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer recognizes this and confirms that Modi “is an incorruptible leader.” This was seconded by a U S ambassador in his official note, that came to our notice through Wikileaks.
I would like to see Modi become the prime minister in 2014 (this is not an endorsement of the BJP though) for two reasons. First, if he replicates the corruption-free and development-oriented administration that he gave Gujarat all over India, all Indians would benefit. Second, there is no alternative.
In 2014, we know that he is talking of having delivered on almost all parameters of governance, be it electricity or water or security or jobs or education or malnutrition, and using it as the pitch for national leadership. None of these could have been achieved in a single day or a week or even a year. Work on most of these started in 2003-04, and it has taken a decade of effort for these to fructify. In 2004, Modi could not have known that he will be the CM for another decade. He couldn’t have known he would be able to deliver on all these governance issues, and would use his delivery record as the pitch for the Prime Minister’s post. Even if he knew this, he could not have known that his measures would work given that they had never worked before. In 2004, what would have looked easier for Modi? To compromise on the principles he believed in and have a relatively easy life in the short-term or to go for the hard grind, the outcome of which was highly unpredictable? Now we know that Modi did not choose to compromise.
However, is Modi the ideal choice for prime minister? If yes, on what basis?
1. Modi provides practical solutions to complex sounding issues, and people heave a sigh of relief. They feel secure that there is someone out there for them who has solutions for their difficulties and promises good governance, without corruption and with constant a march towards development.
2. Narendra Modi is down to earth, a tough taskmaster and an able and inspiring leader. Modi is also a great administrator and an equally great orator. He is a man with a vision and innovation. He is able to recognize merit and talent. He is not narrow-minded and is selfless.
3. He inspires his team to respect the cardinal principles of governance so that the people feel that they are an integral part of the system. He is honest and works round-the-clock for his State and devises and implements policies which suit the citizens best. He inspires people, including the talented but left-to-lurch youth across the country.
4. He doesn’t believe in the caste system. He considers himself first an Indian. He believes in the principles of justice and equality and doesn’t discriminate between communities. He is an ardent believer in the concept of justice to all and appeasement of none. The Muslims, like all other communities and all castes, admire him. That’s the reason they voted overwhelmingly for his party in the recently concluded Assembly election. Muslims created a history of sorts in 2012 by swinging solidly behind him and his party.
5. He hails India as his motherland & preaches nationalism and patriotism. He is an ardent believer in the concept of Indian unity and integrity. He is indebted to the motherland because he believes, and very rightly, that it has given him a rare and god-sent opportunity to serve the people and the country to the best of his ability and capacity and without fear and favor.
6. He is a champion of Indian culture and Indian civilization. He invokes Swami Dayananda Sarswati, Swami Vivekananda and other saints, who did their best to regenerate and reform the Indian society from time to time and instill pride and confidence of India having a glorious past and therefore the possibility of a future that is also destined to be glorious.
7. He doesn’t indulge in the kind of politics Mayawati, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav are indulging in UP and Bihar for decades. He even despises the kind of politics the Indian Left and the divisive, communal, backward-looking, fundamentalist, reactionary and opportunist parties like DMK, NCP, RLD and JD(U) have been shamelessly using to destroy Indian society and break the country. He honestly practices politics that unites the people of India.
Given all the above, one may conclude that Modi is the inevitable choice as the prime minister in 2014 not only because of the lack of an alternative but also because of his proven abilities in all areas of governance. There is no doubt that if he were to replicate his Gujarat model of a corruption-free, efficient administration all over India, all Indians would benefit. Also, despite the controversy that has been kept alive around him due to the unfortunate communal riots of 2002 at the beginning of his tenure as head of state, Modi is impeccably secular, honest, visionary and fully qualified to become the Prime Minister of India.
Let’s explore the other alternative.
What about the prospect of a Third Front government at the center led by any of these – Mulayam Singh, Mamata Banerjee, Nitish Kumar, Mayawati, Sharad Pawar, Prakash Karat, Jayalalita or Naveen Patnaik with support of Congress? If this sounds like a joke then we will get back to discussing more serious possibilities.
The big change has been the coming to power of the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi, with outside support from the Congress. This has altered the prism through which AAP is being viewed. From a spoiler, even a dramatic second-finisher in the Delhi election, where it won 28 of 70 seats, just behind the Bharatiya Janata Party’s 31, it is now seen as a serious contender. It is also undeniable there is a certain buzz about Arvind Kejriwal in the national capital region of Delhi and other cities that had been locations of the Jan Lokpal activism in 2011 under the India Against Corruption banner. Urban India is looking at BJP and AAP as two options for those looking for change at the center.
Despite some serious questions on the merit and feasibility of their announced policies, it is a fact that in the short run the AAP has much going for it. It has captured media attention, and of those who have been Congress enthusiasts but have given up on its chances to and yet want to stop the Narendra Modi’s juggernaut.
Let’s enumerate only a few of–but seriously questionable–the AAP’s policies:
1. The price cuts the AAP has engineered, whatever their feasibility, will have some appeal. Let alone the long term, even in the medium term its economic model is not workable. Neither can it take the Congress support for granted, especially if it investigates acts of alleged corruption by the previous government. If it chooses to expediently ignore the alleged corruption by its predecessor, it will lose some of its sheen and the ability to exploit anti-Congress sentiment.
2.The appeasement politics of AAP, be it Nishan-e-Imtiaz Prashant Bhushan’s tomtoming about Azad Kashmir or Arvind’s own mistake of sharing stage with controversial Muslim fatwa cleric Tauqeer Raza Khan or calling Batla House encounter fake is worrisome. What makes it dangerous is its support for the communal violence bill which envisions the differential treatment of citizens during riots on the basis of religion.
3. While Education Minister Manish Sisodia’s first move was to include 90% reservation for Delhi Residents in DU Colleges, Yogendra Yadav asks for more reservations in jobs for backward classes. So it is back to reservation politics and creating divides between people instead of looking at enlarging the size of the pie.
4. The promised action on corrupt politicians is glaringly missing. Waiting for the Lokpal bill to get passed for setting up an inquiry against the erstwhile Sheila Dixit government is postponement strategy, and the AAP knows that the Lokpal bill needs the sanction of the Union government. It is buying time to protect its alliance partner. Even more shocking was asking Dr Harshvardhan the proofs against previous government in full media glare.
5. The very reason of the movement of which Arvind Kejriwal was a part, and the political party which he formed, was to fight corruption. Then an opportunity arose to form a government in alliance with the party which, without any debate, has run the most corrupt government in Indian history and he used a dubious opinion poll as an excuse to do this.
Mr Kejriwal deliberately chose a compromise. However, even giving him the benefit of doubt, unless there is a big crisis or challenge in Delhi in the next few weeks, it is likely the AAP government may not be tested before the Lok Sabha elections or at least before the model code of conduct comes into operation. The AAP has been a phenomenon as far as contesting the Delhi Assembly elections and succeeding too, to some extent. They have been successful in creating a buzz in the country with their urban centric approach. Mainstream media, without doubt has been very generous in furthering this buzz. At the same time, looking at the questions above, now people are slowly showing anxiety.
The most important question with reference to this alternative is, shall we be able to deal with China and cross border terrorism emanating from Afghanistan after US’ pullout with AAP’s vision and experience? The spontaneous answer to that question seems to be a resounding “No”.
The way forward : Target 2014
Despite its success in Delhi, it is still too much of a stretch to expect that the AAP will win a large number of seats nationally. If the party indeed contests 300 seats in the Lok Sabha election, it is a safe bet that the AAP candidates will lose their deposits in a majority of the constituencies. Fervid media speculation about a prime ministerial race between Mr Kejriwal and Mr Modi, is seductive but more than a little exaggerated.
The AAP has raised people’s expectation but it is not a national party. It is inexperienced in governance, a fact that has started manifesting itself through so many flip-flops and ill-thought statements concerning the safety and security of our nation. Its all-India footprint is far smaller than that of the Congress and the BJP. However, its footprint overlaps with that of the two national parties in a crucial urban geography that voted for the Congress in 2009 and where the BJP is hoping to make big gains in 2014. This will hurt the Congress and deprive that party of the votes it had won in 2009. Yet, it will also damage the BJP, which would otherwise have been the natural repository of that vote this time around.
This could ensure the BJP finishes as the single-largest party, rather than as the single-largest party that also has a comfortable majority. For Mr. Modi that difference would be crucial. What is the solution? How can our country get rid of this anxiety disorder?
There is a cure available for any problem but only if we recognize a problem in advance and prevent it before it strikes. The first preventive strategy is to adopt the motto of Congress Mukt Bharat and an action-oriented plan to ensure that Narendra Modi gets the top job with as much a comfortable majority or near majority as possible. Modi’s ability to rally public opinion and support is the one which is the most likely to get mass support as he offers goal-oriented and systematic procedures to solve the most vexing problems in India. He has shown this ability in his last three terms as CM. His approach towards winning 272+ seats in General Elections of 2014 must include the participation of and input from each and every constituency and appropriate candidate selection. Raw newcomers with no history and no baggage would be preferred to those who had baggage or were tainted by association with scams or criminal charges.
For 2014 it is Narendra Modi.
Sandeep Balakrishna is a columnist and author of Tipu Sultan: the Tyrant of Mysore. He has translated S.L. Bhyrappa’s “Aavarana: the Veil” from Kannada to English.