Mounting Difficulties for UPA India In Election Mode

No matter what Congress leaders may say or what the Trinamool Congress may tweet, the fact is that the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (DMK’s) pullout and Mulayam Singh’s posturing – and never mind if they are resolved or not —  put the Government in a spot.  Nobody can possibly ignore the heating up of the political climate as the country heads towards the 16th Lok Sabha elections. The question is not whether the next general election is held in May 2014 or earlier. What is significant is that political parties have begun taking carefully calibrated positions keeping in mind the polls ahead…

mounting-difficulties-for-UMake no mistake about it. India has gone into election mode. Leaders of the United Progressive Alliance, or UPA, may still argue that elections are at least about a year away. But political parties across the entire spectrum have begun preparing for the battle ahead  the next general election. Whether it is held on schedule in May 2014 or earlier, in the latter half of 2013, is not the question. What appears to be significant is that political parties have begun taking carefully calibrated positions keeping in mind the general election ahead.
Take, for instance, the proposition Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar recently put forward at New Delhi’s Ramlila grounds. The purpose of Kumar’s public meeting was not just to tell the assembled people about his demand that the Centre confer on Bihar the status of a special category State, which in turn would allow his State to gain increased access to Central funds. Indeed, the demand was not new; nor was the gathering at the meeting unaware of Kumar’s specific demand for special category status forBihar. What made the meeting significant was the Chief Minister’s clear indication that the support of his party, Janata Dal-United, to whichever national party that aspired to form the next Government at the Centre would depend on its meeting Bihar’s demand to be treated as a special category State. This is nothing but political bargaining for the next general election.
Muthuvel Karunanidhi, head of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), issued a threat to the UPA that his party would withdraw its support to the UPA and ask its five ministers to resign from the Union council of ministers, if the Union Government did not take a strong position against Sri Lanka for that country’s treatment of Tamils there. The DMK then pulled out. The UPA Government was naturally shaken. Its vulnerability to pressure from its alliance partners and those supporting it from outside increased.
Questions began to surface over the Government’s stability and survival. The stock markets fell, even though leaders of both the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party extended their support to the UPA in what turned out to be its hour of crisis. It is likely that the crisis would blow over with the Congress and DMK leaders entering into an understanding on this issue. But nobody can possibly ignore the heating up of the political climate as the country heads towards the 16th Lok Sabha elections.
The two incidents  Kumar’s demand for special category State status and Karunanidhi’s demand for a Parliamentary resolution on the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils  are not entirely similar. Kumar was openly offering a pre-election deal, while Karunanidhi was putting pressure on his current alliance leader to accept his demand  a move that many of his critics would describe as blackmail.
Yet, the similarities lie in the fact that both the regional parties are jockeying for an electoral platform that might win them votes for the next general election. This becomes even more significant because there is by now little doubt that in the coming general election no single political party would be able to win a clear majority on its own strength, even though that would be the goal of both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party. By announcing in New Delhi that he would support a Government at the Centre that in effect grants more Central resources to Bihar, Kumar is killing two birds with one stone. One, he is telling the electorate in Bihar to elect as many of his party members as possible for the 16th Lok Sabha, so that it increases his bargaining power with whichever party hopes to head the next alliance at the Centre. Two, Kumar’s open offer is also a signal to the BJP that his party’s support is not unconditional.
Unless the BJP makes up its mind on Narendra Modi to Mr. Kumar’s satisfaction or endorses Bihar’s claim to make it a specialcategory State, the Janata Dal-United could well look at new political formulations. Similarly, for Karunanidhi, making such gestures to the Tamils is certain to help him in the next general election as well as strengthen his position vis-à-vis his party’s negotiations with the Congress for the formation of the UPA after the results are in. It is likely that more regional political parties will make such pitches in the coming months. The Trinamool Congress will be waiting for an opportunity to use the next available issue to make that a condition for its support to the next alliance Government that is formed at the Centre. Nor will the SP and the BSP be left far behind in playing this game.
So the tasks for the UPA Government in the coming months get even more difficult. It has a long list of economic policy actions that need to be implemented without further delay. Major economic Bills are to be passed by Parliament. Various investment hurdles have to be overcome through policy intervention and execution. But each of these moves could be a casualty if any one of these regional parties chooses to make that an election plank for offering its support at the next general election.
Given the recent trend in India’s politics, this is not unlikely. That is why what happened recently should worry the UPA Government.
Source : Business Standard

Nitish Pushes Bihar Development Model, Calls It ‘Real’ One
In a clear counter to Narendra Modi’s development plank, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar recently said his State would present the “real model” for progress which takes everyone along, while indicating that his support would be crucial for formation of next Government at the Centre. Addressing a party rally in the national capital, dubbed as a show of strength byBihar’s ruling party JD(U), Kumar said his State should be given special status as it is lagging behind in all aspects of development.
He also sought the Centre’s assistance for development of all backward States in the country, asserting that only those who feel for such States will rule the Centre after 2014 Lok Sabha elections. “We will leave everyone behind and move ahead with development. And we will present a model before the world. These days development model is being discussed. This model is what takes along everyone together. This is the real development model of India,” the Chief Minister said, in an apparent reference to the ‘Gujarat model’ being touted by Chief Minister Narendra Modi.  “All the backward States should get their rights. We are not begging, special status is our right….We won’t be quiet until we (Bihar) get special staus,” he said. Kumar’s rally was held a fortnight after the Central Government proposed to change the parameters of determining backwardness of States, an announcement immediately welcomed by the Chief Minister, who interpreted it as a positive step towards realising the goal of special status for Bihar. Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s announcement in the budget in this regard and its immediate welcome by Kumar fuelled speculation of JD-U coming closer to Congress at a time when Modi’s stocks appeared to be rising in the BJP with whom Kumar’s antipathy is well-known.  n

Modi Parries Questions On Desire To Become PM
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi recently parried questions on whether he wanted to become the Prime Minister, saying he had never even dreamt of becoming the Chief Minister. “I have never dreamt of becomming someone in life. I have always tried to do something. Mostly people dream of becomming someone and die. I have never followed this. “Till I had become Chief Minister, I had never dreamt of becoming so. I have never even met an astrologer to tell me that I will become a Chief Minister,” Modi said in answer to a question on whether he wanted to become Prime Minister and instead said one should not dream to “be” but to “do”.
“I feel if Gujarat model is good, it can be implemented in the country. I don’t need to come there,” he said at the recent IndiaToday Conclave in New Delhi. He said all people want to do was learn from examples and achieve suiccess and it was necessary for him to come to Delhi as Gujarat’s model of success can be replicated at the Centre. When asked who in the BJP was stopping him from coming to Delhi, Modi gave a humorous touch to his reply. “I am sitting inDelhi. If someone had stopped me, how could I be sitting here.” The three-time Gujarat Chief Minister, who is projected as BJP’s Prime Ministerial face ahead of the next general elections, said people should be happy to note that the party runs in a democratic way where decisions are taken democratically by its Parliamentary Board and “not on the basis of one family”, a veiled reference to the Nehru-Gandhi family.  As part of his plans for India’s resurgence, Modi said removal of corruption and good governance were his mantras that could turn the nation around and said technology can help eradicate corruption. He also said stability of tenure is the success to good governance. Modi, in his over half-an-hour speech, hit out at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his alleged inaction and for remaining silent and launched a veiled attack on Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi for rolling up his sleeves to remind the people that his party was bringing in legislations to empower them. “The nation does not need Acts, it need action,” he said.


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