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Is India on the way to Modi-fication?

  • Published at 06:12 pm March 20th, 2014

With the first phase of the elections to the lower house of the Indian Parliament— the Lok Sabha just a few weeks away, the political arena in the country is getting heated by the day, more so after and because the chief minister of Gujarat state — Narendra Modi — was declared as the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP-led alliance NDA in July last year.

The development projects undertaken by the Modi-government in his home state have proved to be highly successful. There is a general feeling that Modi’s success as an administrator in the state could be replicated at the centre despite his controversial and much criticised role in Godra carnage.

There has been a surge in support for the BJP-led alliance since July, 2013 and wherever one goes, the political discussion centres around the electoral prospects of this alliance in the face of various corruption scandals seen during the incumbent government under Congress-led alliance UPA.

However, given the political scenario of India and its diverse political agenda, the result is far from being a foregone conclusion. Although the popularity of the Congress-led UPA government is on the wane, and it seems certain that their share of seats in the 543-seat Lok Sabha would plummet, a recent poll, held after Modi was declared as the PM candidate of the opposition alliance, shows that this alliance, if an election were to be held today, would not be able to muster enough seats to form a government on its own; nor would the present ruling alliance UPA. Both these alliances would have to woo the support of regional parties to come to power.

In Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister Jayalalitha’s AIADMK is riding on a great popularity after the state government took some positive steps to help the poor. M Karunanidhi’s DMK which is an ally of Congress in UPA is in a sorry state of affairs with wrangling within the party, and also there is a power struggle as to who will eventually succeed the aging Karunanidhi.

It is thought that Jayalalitha’s AIADMK will sweep the state in the coming elections, which has nearly 40 Lok Sabha seats. The Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi, however, has been trying to rope in film idol Rajnikanth, who is hugely popular in Tamil Nadu, into her fold in her mission to dent the ever increasing popularity of Jayalalitha.

Uttar Pradesh has the largest number of seats in any state in India, numbering over 80. Although the state is now governed by Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, with his son Akhilesh in the chief minister’s seat, events in Mujaffarnagar and the way the state is being governed have resulted in a sharp decline in the party’s popularity.

This has been cashed in by former Chief Minister Mayawati and her Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP). It is thought that the minority vote in this state, would, as a result, swing to the BSP. Election observers firmly believe that BSP would emerge as the party with the largest number of seats in this populous state.

In West Bengal, although the perception is that Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress has started to lose its popularity after more than two years in power, recent local election results give a totally different impression. Of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state, Congress Party looks to be the biggest loser with its share of seats expected to be halved to 3.

Trinamul Congress is expected to increase its share of seats to more than 20 and may even bag up to 30 seats, according to some observers, mainly at the expense of Congress, with the Left Front bagging the rest.

A new scenario that is emerging is the formation of a third front where left parties are trying to forge a tie with some regional parties to form, what they describe as “an anti-fascist, anti-communal parties force.” This is another way of saying that they wish to form a front away from the Congress Party and the BJP.

If such a force could be stitched, then the political scene would take a different shape. But with so many prime ministerial candidates there and with parties supporting so different ideologies and thoughts, it is becoming difficult, even at this late stage, to get such a front off the ground.

Who would be the next prime minister of India after the elections is a question that is becoming extremely difficult to answer. The election campaign is being spearheaded by the highly successful regional administrator Narendra Modi for the NDA and the young, charismatic leader Rahul Gandhi for the UPA. With oratory skills still regarded a yardstick in crowd-pulling, Narendra Modi finds himself miles ahead of Rahul Gandhi in drawing crowds to their election rallies.

Can Narendra Modi turn his popularity into votes and seats, and become the next prime minister of India?

Would India see yet another hung parliament and strong horse-trading after the elections for the UPA to cling on to power?

Would it be possible for Mamata Banerjee, Jayalalitha, and Mayawati to emerge as the kingmakers and have a prime minister of their choice by bending the elbows of the bigger parties?

In the meantime, the focus is squarely on Narendra Modi who is travelling the length and breadth of the country, addressing huge public meetings in an effort to, as one analyst observed, bring about a Modi-fication in India.