One of the Election commissioners has made a statement that the campaigning in the current elections is the worst that he has seen in his career. Even as I am writing this article, small stories are appearing all over the media about who said what about whom. These are not serious statements about some major political, social or economic issues or thoughts that should be the subject of discussions during election time. For example, if Mr Chidambaram had said that Mr Modi’s economic ideas are passé’ or plain wrong, and laid out reasons why they are wrong , one would feel compelled to do some serious thinking before casting the vote for Congress or BJP. Many will argue that India is not UK or USA and the electorate here is not that sophisticated as to understand the fine points of Economics. The same argument is repeated when we say that the people here are too simple to understand the real issues in an election. This holds true for other programs like health, education or social engineering. The experience from the ground is very different and surprising though.
The TV channels are trying to reach the people even in the interiors and are getting their views about the promises that the candidates are making and whether they, as the electorate, believe them. It is very clear that people are totally disillusioned about the electoral process and the poll candidates. There is almost a unanimous view that all politicians are out there to gain a position of power and money. People do not resent that; what they feel cheated about is that the politicians, of whichever hue, seem to forget their constituencies and the voters once they get elected. Those few who cultivate their constituencies, whichever party they represent, seem to be sure to be sent back again. People, however, do not like their representatives to take them for granted. That is why we see that Smt. Mayawati is not welcome in her village and constituency but Mr. Modi, Mr. Chouhan and Mr. Navin Patnaik get re-elected term after term. People are not really fools and they cast their votes quite intelligently.
The interesting thing about General Elections 2014 is the way one state leader has virtually organized a coup de’ tat and taken over the leadership by literally pushing aside not only the senior leaders of the party but everyone who dared to speak against him. This has been a blatant pursuit of power – reminiscent of the steps taken by Frank Underwood in the TV serial House of Cards. This has been a meticulous plan that has been executed with ruthless precision. This is also an ambitious display of personal agenda masquerading as a national one. One leader, who shakes up his own party, to take up a national role for himself – is not the kind of politics that Indians are used to. From the time Mr. Nehru installed her daughter Indira Gandhi as the President of the Congress Party, we have taken for granted that only politicians’ children can become the next generation of leaders. In state after state and party after party, the so called sons and nephews have risen. In this election, senior politicians are giving up their own ‘seats’ for their children. It is an irony that of all leaders the one that speaks against “Dynastic Politics” is Mr. Rahul Gandhi. In such a setting, the rise and rise of Mr. Modi from being an RSS pracharak to become the saviour of the nation – at least to his supporters, is a message of miracle – almost like the Indian dream on the lines of the American Dream. In this new India, anybody can do it.
The worry is that the national politics is evolving in a manner which was not foreseen in the Constitution. Given the realities of the day it is the provincial leaders who will call the shots post E 14. It will be a messy affair if the single largest party does not get hold of a substantial number of seats in the range of 210 to 220 because the three major provincial parties – the TMC, the BJD and the AIDMK will form a block of their own. They are each led by a clever politician who does not owe anything to national parties or leaders. They actually thrive by being belligerent and appearing to fight the central government on every issue. They can single-handedly block any major national agenda and they do it whenever they get a chance. Both TMC and AIDMK have interfered in foreign policy issues in recent times. Whoever forms the next government in New Delhi will not have an easy time from this group. All these parties, particularly TMC, seem to be campaigning for the next assembly election rather than one which sends MPs to the next national Parliament. If the states exert themselves, it is good for the country; unfortunately in our kind of Constitution, which is based on an Act framed by an island nation to run their biggest colony , does not envisage that kind of a centre-state relationship. May be we should have followed the American model when we framed our Constitution. Who knows our politics is playing out the way it is on the national scene because we are moving to a better scheme of things. Indian philosophy teaches us that destruction is the beginning of creation.
Finally, this has been a bitter but subdued campaigning all around. In the large metros there have hardly been any major political rallies. But most candidates have used bad language, distorted facts and generally behaved badly. The Congress party, although, stalled many reforms, divided a state and provided huge subsidies and dole-outs for the benefit of the poor people of India, has surprisingly failed to communicate with the people. They have not shown their score cards to anyone and surely these are not worse than the ones in a single state that have been paraded all over.
Let us all wait for May 16, 2014 for the results to be out for the General Elections 2014.