General Election-2014: Indian Democracy at Cross-roads - Part 1

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By Special Correspondant
Bellevision Media Network

India is due to face one of the greatest challenges within few weeks when 81.45 crores of voters will cast their votes in the general election to elect 543 members of the sixteenth Lok Sabha. The general election will be held in nine phases, the longest election in the country’s history, from 7 April to 12 May 2014. Voting will take place in all 543 parliamentary constituencies of India. The result of this election will be declared on 16 May 2014, before the 15th Lok Sabha completes its constitutional mandate on 31 May 2014.


There is a lot of speculation all-around regarding the possible outcome of the general election. It seems that the wind is clearly blowing in the direction of the Narendra Modi led BJP and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which is predicted to sweep the polls whereas the Congress led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is being written off as the party and alliance that is doomed to utter failure.


In spite of these predictions, one cannot underestimate the regional parties who collectively can topple the applecart of the NDA by coming together on a common platform in the form of a Third Front. But one cannot forget the previous experiments with such a possibility as each of the regional leaders entertain an ambition of becoming Prime Minister. Hence, their efforts would be to win the maximum number of seats so that they could have bargaining power to put forward their own claim for the Prime Ministerial Chair.


A lot of churning is going on in the political ocean as alliances are being formed and disgruntled ticket-losers in one party jumping the bandwagon of other parties. As winning is the prime ‘mantra’ of all political parties, they are in the process of fielding candidates with criminal background and corrupt practices. The general election of 2014 has been generating a lot of heat and dust. As such it would be interesting to be a witness to the historical event by understanding the forces and personalities that shape the future of this great country. would bring out analytical articles by experts on the forthcoming elections that would provide insight into the historical general election of 2014.


- Team



Modi-led BJP Ahead, Regional Satraps Crucial


When the Election Commission of India announced the calendar of events for holding the general elections for the 16th Lok Sabha, which has to be constituted by June 1, there were hardly any surprises.  Almost all the political parties, both national as well as regional, as also the country were getting ready for the world’s biggest democratic electoral battle.


The 9-phase poll schedule spread over 73 days was announced on March 5  with polling dates starting from April 7 to May 12 as well as assembly elections for Andhra Pradesh, including the newly created State of Telangana, Odisha and Sikkim and by-elections in assembly constituencies in 8 different States.


A total of 81.45 voters out of the country’s total population of over 120 crore are set to elect their 543 representatives to the Lok Sabha with the mandate to rule the country (2 seats reserved for the Anglo-Indian community, which will be filled by the next government through nomination) and the results will be known on May 16. 



With the term of the present Lok Sabha set to end by May 31, the new Lok Sabha has to be constituted on June 1.
Electioneering has formally commenced with the announcement of the calendar of events, even though almost all national as well as regional parties have been busy with their preparations for well over a year.  The incumbent Prime Minister of the Congress-led UPA regime, Dr Manmohan Singh, who created a record of sorts by being the first person outside the Nehru-Gandhi family to complete full 10 years in office, had already declared that he would not be seeking a third term making the way clear for Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi to stake his claims if he so wished.


However, the Congress heir-apparent and the second most powerful person in the party after mother Sonia Gandhi, who was the uncrowned queen behind the UPA rule, chose not to get himself officially named as the prime ministerial candidate and merely offered to don the mantle of being the campaign panel chief after previously declaring that he was prepared to accept any role or responsibility thrust on him.



The mother-son duo of Sonia-Rahul as well as the other Congress mandarins may have certainly felt unnerved in accepting the gauntlet thrown at them and other UPA bosses by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who edged out the saffron brigade’s veteran L K Advani, and got himself anointed as the BJP prime ministerial candidate almost a year ago. Modi, who got himself elected for the third time as chief minister undaunted by the ghost of the 2002 Godhra carnage against Muslims, however, is yet to get the endorsement from the BJP-led NDA. The latter, probably felt a bit nervous after the revolt by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar when he broke off his 17-year-old ties with BJP over the Hindu Hriday Samrat, and preferred to wait until after the outcome of the poll battle.


Both the Congress and the UPA, despite its various populist schemes and pro-poor or middle class centric programmes and several legislations aimed at empowering the people, are at their weakest due to their inability to control the spiraling prices of foodgrains and other essential commodities, mounting inflation, ballooning unemployment and precarious economic conditions. The government’s failure to check the downslide and boost the economy along with instilling confidence in the industry and investors besides constant dithering and delays in taking decisions on crucial issues had rendered the Singh rule as a veritable nightmare.


Above all, the series of scams and corruption scandals that rocked the UPA regime, especially during the second term, and electoral reverses in the State assembly polls, had emboldened Modi to launch a nation-wide campaign against Congress and UPA for its maladministration and lack-luster performance coupled with the stink of scams and corruption charges by offering decisive good governance. It was not just the Congress and UPA rule at the Centre but even in States ruled by the Congress like Haryana and Maharashtra that the party’s imaged was tarnished.



Confident of his oratorical skills and the organizational strength of the Sangh Parivar outfits throughout the country, notwithstanding BJP’s lack of presence in many States, especially in the South and North-East, Modi went on hammer and tongs against Congress and UPA regime and avowed to fight for ridding the country of Congress with the slogan, `Congress Mukht Bharat.’


While it common knowledge that majority of the youth, educated and urban people and even women, who account for a sizeable chunk of voters, are inclined to support BJP and are known to be partial to Modi, the Congress and UPA are seen to be facing the wrath of voters not just in urban constituencies but even in rural areas. Even the minorities, especially the Muslims and Dalits, who used to be dubbed as Congress vote-banks, are seen to be veering round to support Modi cheesed off as they are of Congress and UPA’s brazen ways.


Whether one believes in the findings of the opinion polls, which show that BJP and Modi are dominating the electorate’s preferences, or not, it is clear that they enjoy a clear edge in the run-up to the elections. Of course, it is not entirely correct to rely on the pro-BJP and pro-Modi tilt of opinion polls, especially after the recent expose through sting operations suggesting that they too can be rigged or brought off by the highest bidder.



Still, the mood of the voters against Congress and UPA and in favour of BJP and Modi can be gauged from the fact that except Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD, no other parties including its allies until recently like TMC or DMK are willing to do business with them. The maverick TRS hero Chandrashekar, who had promised to merge his party with Congress if Telangana is created, has now gone back on his word. Even the wily Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar and his NCP have chosen to stay with UPA after toying the idea of jumping to the NDA bandwagon. But sworn Modi-baiters like Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP, who resigned from NDA after the 2002 Gujarat riots, has walked back into NDA embracing Modi. Even Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party is likely to be part of NDA soon. Prafulla Kumar Mohanta’s AGP could also follow suit.


To make it worse, many of the Congress stalwarts like Manish Tiwari, P Chidambaram, Jayanti Natarajan, A K Antony and others have openly expressed their reluctance to enter the electoral fray fearing defeat and sought to justify their decision as a desire to work for the party.



The Congress party’s calculations of backing the citizen activist and anti-corruption hero, Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP, in Delhi has backfired and the latter is now gunning both Congress and BJP as part of the larger strategy to make political inroads at the national level. Whatever bets that Congress placed on Kejriwal to cut into BJP’s young and urban voters may not work and whatever gains that AAP makes could come at Congress expense and marginally at the cost of BJP, which explains why Modi has so far chosen not to entangle himself with Kejriwal leaving the task to smaller leaders.


Though the efforts of Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and H D Deve Gowda’s JD(S) to cobble a third front with the support of Left parties or the Federal Front involving Left parties, Mamata Banerjee’s TMC, Navin Patnaik’s BJD or Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK and Mayawati’s BSP have not really taken off except for some preliminary meetings, the prospects of the regional parties playing a dominant role cannot be entirely ruled out. The non-Congress and non-BJP regional parties would definitely be in the driver’s seat if the Congress fails to cross the double-digit mark and the BJP falls below the 200-seat level with 273 being the minimum required for a simple majority in the Lok Sabha. In such an event, regional parties may be king-makers and any one of its leaders could become king or queen!


As the stage for the electoral battle is set to formally begin with the issue of official notifications, even though the model code of conduct for elections has already come into force from the day of the announcement of poll schedule, the permutations and combinations of alliances and parties can be expected to gain momentum. The Congress, BJP and most of the regional parties have already announced candidates of many of the seats and the process would only accelerate in the coming days. It is only after clear battlelines are drawn in each State, it would be possible to make an assessment.


For the time being, however, the dice seems to be loaded heavily against Congress and UPA and tilted in favour of BJP and NDA. The non-Congress and non-BJP parties will come into the play if both the fronts fail to make the cut.



Comments on this Article
Benedict Noronha, Udupi / India Sat, March-15-2014, 4:51
This is a timely awareness news to make Modi s plans flop. Indian Democracy is a matured one and it will never fail. it had several experiments and ultimately it has come to the conclusion that without Indian national congress leadership Indian Democracy cannot function. Take it from me, but no bet!
byomakesh bhattacharya, puri,odisha Sat, March-15-2014, 3:07
Modi is a dangerous candiates for India. A youth leader Rahul is suitable for priminister for India.
Philip Mudartha, on Gujarat prowl Sat, March-15-2014, 1:53
This is timely and need of the hour for voter awareness and opinion making. I am no political expert, but an contribute an article or two to the series. I run a series on another site based in Udupi, but the topics here could be different. It is very important to clinically examine local MP candidacies and bring out areas they must discuss with voters candidly instead of party rhetoric. I offer my help and waive my professional fees...:P
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