General Elections: India won’t change after polls!

Foregone conclusion?

Foregone conclusion?

The general elections are about to start in India over the next few days. The opinion poll surveys have done their intensive and exhaustive exercises and come up with their findings. This is probably the only election where the results seem to be a foregone conclusion. Except probably the first three General elections in India, the people of India never knew the name of the person who was going to be the Prime minister. The campaign by a major party – the BJP and its Prime Ministerial candidate Mr. Narendra Modi has changed the rules of the game. Mr.Modi’s has been arrogant campaign that has put every other party and the candidates in a defensive mode. It is as if the politicians of all hues, including those in BJP who are not blessed by Mr. Modi, are running for cover. Why? It is a good question to ponder over before we ourselves rush to the polling booths to cast our precious votes.

The Indian elections have generated a kind of international buzz that has not been seen before. All the major papers in the US, UK, Germany and Italy are carrying daily stories about the campaign. BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera have placed more staff on the ground than even some major Indian TV channels. The venerable Economist has editorially advised the Indian electorate to vote for a certain other party saying that Mr. Modi, who will win and be the next Prime Minister, will not be a good thing for India.  We have seen that the US Ambassador to India has been asked to pack up because she has been slow in reaching up to Mr. Modi in time like the Ambassadors of the major European countries. It is as if the whole world has already come to know the results of these elections.

What about India? The urban electorate , who reads, rattles and gossips about the elections the most but do not have a good voting record (“ too hot, long queues, long weekend and need to get out”  – in short too many obstacles on way to the polling booths ) has already given its findings. Even though Mr. Modi is not going to be the buddy good enough to share a drink with, he still is a doer and can be the leader that India needs to get going. Somehow Mr. Modi has convinced the upwardly mobile Indian urban and semi-urban electorates that he is the man that history has produced at this right moment to lead this depressing country from darkness to light. The concerns of these groups are many: they are worried about corruption and yet do not mind cutting corners if no one is noticing , they want more jobs, better housing and health care and most important a safe and stable country. Interestingly, a very large number of people in this group is also concerned that a certain minority community is expanding in numbers exponentially – so much so that India will very soon lose its Hindu majority. However, this group also explains to  whosoever listens to them, that what they are saying is based on demographic data and not a part of the RSS canard. As a matter of fact, this group has very low opinion about the RSS. This group believes that Mr. Modi is the answer to India’s prayers and if they find time they will vote for Mr. Modi. There seems to be a very clear communication link between this group and Mr. Modi ; the latter does and says things which he instinctively knows will impress this group. Today Mr. Modi has said “vote for me”. The party does not matter anymore; the local candidates do not matter anymore. That is what a decisive leader should do. Good luck, urban India!

What about the rural voter? This is where the crux lies. It is these people whose minds the NDA leaders failed to read in 2004 when their “India shining” campaign miserably failed to touch their heart. The battle ground states for this election are UP and Bihar. The last time BJP rode to power because they were able to move the rural folks in these states by promising to build the Ram temple at Ajodhya and by generally playing the Hindu card. This time there are no special promises for the rural folks. In all fairness, Mr. Modi has not played the Hindu card in his campaign.  Till the time of writing, the BJP manifesto is not out. Clearly, some thinking is going on in Mr. Modi’s mind that the document should not contain any suggestion that may put off a potential ally, who will be needed after the results are out. That is why FDI in retail is suddenly an Anathema. Remember, Mamata Banerjee?  We may get to hear some interesting views on the Tamils in Sri Lanka too. We have not seen anything yet in the opinion polls which indicates the mind of the rural voters. What we are seeing, of course, are some interesting personal confessions from known people who have been on the fringes of the broader political space. Mr. M.J.Akbar has overnight become the spokesperson of the BJP – with no promises given by Mr. Modi or anyone around him. Mr. Kumar Vishwas, a high-profile AAP candidate at Amethi, of all places, has suddenly discovered virtue in the BJP and its leader. The only conclusion we can draw is this. Once in power and in the zone of influence, be there till you die and ideology be damned.  We know who these people in these zones will vote for in the next elections but do we know how the rest will think on the election days?

Rest assured, India will not change after the 2014 elections.

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Dr. Mukhopadhyay formerly served as the Additional Chief Secretary of Maharashtra, former Chairman of MEIP and prepared the environment management strategy for the Mumbai metro region with the assistance of the World Bank and the UNIDO. He also served as a Project Director for World Bank.

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