It is a strange coincidence that the very day Rahul Gandhi, for the first time, agreed to becoming Prime Minister, that very day the worst news for the Congress grabbed media headlines. On 23 January this year, Rahul Gandhi was in Amethi. Talking to the media, he acknowledged for the first time that if the Congress Party Government comes to power and forms a Government in Delhi, he was ready to become the Prime Minister. It was evening time. There was a flurry of breaking news on TV channels that Rahul was ready to become Prime Minister. But exactly an hour later, on four or five major news channels, the findings of election surveys began to be aired. The results of all the surveys were the same : a wipe-out of the Congress.
According to these surveys, this time in the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress Party would not be able to win even a 100 seats. Of course, survey findings and reports are often proved wrong, but when the results of all the surveys are the same, the mood of the country can be understood. The results of the recent assembly elections are an indicator there is certainly a wave in the country against the Congress. Even otherwise, the way people are hassled and fed up with the UPA Government’s policies, corruption, scams and most important, inflation, it would perhaps not be incorrect to say that by the time the elections come, the anti-Congress wave could take the form of a Tsunami and the Congress Party may remain limited to 60- 70 seats.
According to these survey reports, the most preferred candidate in the country for Prime Minister is Narendra Modi. There is no doubt either that Narendra Modi himself has established his position in the country as the strongest leader. The plea of anti-Modi elements and the Congress party that Narendra Modi is the leader only of Gujarat and outside Gujarat there is no Modi ‘miracle’ has been proved wrong. Every election survey in every State of the country, except Delhi, has said that Narendra Modi is the first choice as Prime Minister. The Congress party should learn a lesson that by playing politics by initiating a court case has proved to be costly for them. By playing politics through an NGO, the Congress Party was neither able to stop Modi’s Vijay Rath (Victory Chariot) in Gujarat, nor does the Congress Party have any capability and capacity left to stop him from coming to power in Delhi.
So should we then assume or accept that after the 2014 elections a Bharatiya Janata Party Government will be formed? That Narendra Modi will easily, without any challenge, become the Prime Minister? If politics were a simple process, this could have been believed, but in Indian politics even one week is enough time to change a trump hand. So the question remains, who will challenge Modi? Or who has the capacity, the capability to challenge Modi?
In the last two-three years there has been tremendous change in the politics of India. There are many reasons for this change. The series of mind blowing scams by the UPA Government, insensitivity towards the problems of the people, the loot water-forests-land with the help of the Government and private companies, unemployment born out of the failures of the Government’s economic policies, record breaking inflation, and because of Government system failures in every sphere, not only was the trust of the people in politics shattered, a revulsion developed amongst people against politics, leaders, and political parties.
It is an old Congress Party habit to create a Bhasmasur (demon or monster). In many States, taking the support of small parties to defeat its main opponent has proved to be expensive for the Congress. In Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and other States where the Congress Party was once the largest party it does not have the standing today in these States to form a Government on its own strength.
On the other side, when Baba Ram Dev’s public awareness campaigns on black money and then Anna Hazare’s movement against corruption began, energy was communicated to and aroused in the people. Taking up the issues of water-forests-land, farmers, labourers and forest dwellers organised andolons or movements in every corner of India. The Supreme Court also played a vital role in saving democracy. Whether it be a Minister or a Prime Minister, the court took a tough stand in corruption cases and maintained the confidence of the people. With big leaders going to jail, people felt that now, leaders will not be spared as they were before. At the same time, newspaper and television channels too portrayed the anger of the people and by making one revelation after another, awakened in people a desire for basic changes in the country. There is no doubt that arguments and dialogues in Indian politics have changed considerably. There is in the country today, an ambient feeling that perhaps now those who are corrupt, criminals or tainted will not be able to stay in politics.
The days of winning elections with money power and muscle power are over. First time young voters have proved in the last three to four years that their vote is not for those who base their politics on caste, religion and similar sentiments. This is the reason why now, a role for a clear, transparent image, integrity and character has been created again in politics. So now the question is, whether in this changed atmosphere, there is anybody who can challenge Narendra Modi?
Ever since Narendra Modi’s name has been in the running in the media for the Prime Minister, a debate has been on that the 2014 elections will be Rahul versus Modi. Going by procedures, there is a lot of difference between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress Party because
the two have separate characteristics. The BJP has a practice of showing degrading of its own leaders and it is replete with internal feuding. Then, on top of all this there is interference from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) too. This is the reason why Modi began preparations beforehand for the declaration of his name as the Prime Ministerial candidate. Before dealing with conspirators from other political parties he had perforce to deal first with big conspirators in his own party. The benefit of this was that Modi was able not only to attract the party workers but also succeeded in making his place amongst the youth of the country.
On the other side, Rahul Gandhi too tried very hard, tried to infuse strength into the organisation. The Congress aim was that Rahul Gandhi should be made to stand as the only leader of the youth and it also got success in doing this at the beginning. But because of incompetent, novice advisors, he had to suffer resounding defeats in the elections in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Except for Karnataka and Himachal, the Congress Party lost the elections everywhere. Not only did the Congress become weak but the confidence of leaders and workers was also broken. The workers wanted that Rahul Gandhi should be made the Prime Ministerial candidate but here too they were disappointed. To the people of the country and Congress workers the message went out that Rahul Gandhi had laid his arms before Modi. The Congress Party does not want a direct face-off between Rahul and Modi. Whether in war or in politics, if the commander of the Army remains at the back and fights, the morale of the Army is sapped. Therefore, when the Congress Party has accepted that Rahul is not an alternative for Modi, what more needs to be said?
Nitish Kumar’s name is next. Nitish Kumar’s image is that of a good Chief Minister along with being the biggest anti-Modi leader in the country. It is due to this reason that without caring for the political outcomes, he broke off the relationship with the BJP and put his Government at stake. Nitish Kumar is a veteran, a very experienced leader. He was connected with Jai Prakash Narayan’s movement and has always remained a follower of socialism. He has good experience of administration and governance. To end the corruption in Bihar, he not only enacted the Lokayukt law but Bihar is also the first State where schools have been opened in the houses of corrupt officials. The law and order situation in Bihar was maintained and in the role of Rail Minister he did a very good job. It was on policies and plans adopted by him that UPA 1 lasted its full term and Laloo Yadav staunchly claimed that it was his work and patted himself on his back.
As the Chief Minister he brought Bihar on the path of development. It is also essential to understand that Laloo Yadav’s misrule had made Bihar lag behind most other States. The Government machinery here had rotted entirely. Law and order had ended completely. Looting in broad daylight, murders, kidnappings and killings had become common. To bring such a State to maintain law and order and make it stand on the path of development surely reflects Nitish Kumar’s leadership capabilities. This is the reason that many people see in Nitish Kumar a successful Prime Minister. But at the moment there is a mountain of challenges before Nitish Kumar.
After separating from the BJP, his situation is not the same as it was earlier. He has to fight the election of 2014 alone. In the politics of Bihar, many kinds of social and political factors play a role. Elections in Bihar are always a complex test or examination. There are separate concerns about an alliance. This is the reason that Nitish Kumar’s priority is to win a maximum number of seats in Bihar. If there are not enough seats, a danger could loom not only of being out from the politics at the Centre, but a danger could also loom over the Government of Bihar. Amongst all these political conundrums, that Nitish Kumar should bring himself forward as a possible Prime Minister and challenge Modi seems unlikely at the moment. However anything is possible in politics. In the days to come if politics takes a turn and Nitish Kumar’s position in Bihar is strengthened, there is no doubt that he will be a strong contender against Modi.
Amongst those who can challenge Modi there is the name of Arvind Kejriwal too. Actually, by forming a Government in Delhi with the help of the Congress and sitting on a dharna and the way the leaders of his party came before the cameras and the media in less than a month in power, confusion about the Aam Aadmi Party in the minds of people has been dispelled. What is Arvind Kejriwals’ politics, what is his ideology, his agenda and plan for the future of India, that only Arvind Kejriwal knows and no one else knows. The Aam Aadmi Party showed its haste in wanting to contest elections throughout the country, but prepared no blueprint for running the Government in Delhi. And the amusing thing is that when asked he still says his party is new, therefore the policies are being prepared.
The fact is the Congress Party, by giving Arvind Kejriwal a chance in Delhi has given an incentive for chaos. Even otherwise, it is an old Congress Party habit to create a Bhasmasur (demon or monster). In many States, taking the support of small parties to defeat its main opponent has proved to be expensive for the Congress. In Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and other States where the Congress Party was once the largest party it does not have the standing today in these States to form a Government on its own strength. In some States, it has been transformed into a vote cutting party. Giving Arvind Kejriwal a chance to form a Government in Delhi has placed the Congress Party as the number three party.
Delhi is the central hub of the media, therefore even ‘small news’ from here becomes ‘national news’ and this is the reason why the Aam Aadmi Party is dominating the media. A survey report had come which led to the start of the debate whether Arvind Kejriwal would be able to stop Modi’s Vijay Rath (Victory Chariot). The thing to understand here is that even according to this survey, Arvind Kejriwal is currently not in a position to challenge Modi but in urban areas the Aam Aadmi Party can harm the BJP.
Just try to understand this survey. It was conducted only in 8 big cities. In this survey only 2015 people’s opinions have been taken. These cities are Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune and Ahmedabad. These cities have about 33 Lok Sabha seats combined. This means that only 61 person’s opinion was taken for every Lok Sabha seat, while in these seats on an average there are 20 lakh voters. Even otherwise this sample size is too small. Therefore, a question arise on its credibility. The thing to understand is that out of these 33 seats, only 3 seats are with the BJP. In addition, all the remaining 30 seats are with other parties which are not even a part of the NDA.
In this survey, even the 100 seats being ascribed to the Aam Aadmi Party is specious. This is not the conclusion of a survey but the opinion of 2015 people on how many seats the Aam Aadmi Party will win throughout the country. Ever since the Aam Aadmi Party has jumped into politics, surveys have emerged as particular weapons of election propaganda. It is very difficult to find out who is doing what where in what manner and with what objective in a survey. The ground reality is that outside Delhi the Aam Aadmi Party will be able to win one or two seats. And with the kind of language Arvind Kejriwal uses for other parties, it is clear that several other parties will find it difficult to give or take support from the Aam Aadmi Party. Therefore, he is in no position to challenge Modi. So the question remains : who will challenge Modi?
On the criteria of the changing politics of the country coupled with new ideals, the name of a leader shows up clearly. That of Mamata Banerjee. A blue bordered sari on her figure and hawwai chappals on her feet. In three decades of Bengal’s Kurukshetra of Left politics, Mamata’s face has been present everywhere. The honesty and simplicity that is being talked about today, that simplicity, restraint and hard work Mamata Banerjee has not only accepted but has lived by it. She is not running a minority Government with the help of somebody, but is running a majority Government thanks to her struggle and brand of politics amongst the people. She showed her first feat in politics in the Lok Sabha elections of 1984 when Mamata Banerjee won the Jadavpur seat defeating the CPI(M)’s leader Somnath Chatterjee. Mamata’s political life has been one of constant struggle.
She comes from a poor family but from the start she became the voice of the downtrodden in society and kept fighting with the Leftist Government. Today, with a lot of fanfare there is talk of purity in politics. A bugle is being blown about not giving a party ticket to any corrupt or criminal element. It is being described as a revolutionary step in the media. But in the 1996 assembly elections Mamata Banerjee had raised her voice against giving tickets to those leaders or politicians with a criminal image. When the party set aside her protests, Mamata tried to commit suicide by tying her shawl round her neck as a noose. After separating from the Congress, Mamata prepared her party herself, going from place to place. She developed a cadre. Wrote a new chapter on values in politics. She made disclosures about many scams and when on the death of Bhikari Paswan, a worker and trade union activist of Victoria Jute Mill, Mamata carried out an andolan, for the first time the echo of Mamata’s movement was heard throughout the country.
From the beginning of her involvement in politics, Mamata raised issues connected with the common man, the aam aadmi. The speciality of Mamata’s politics is that by leveling allegations against her opponents she does not allow issues to be forgotten. Mamata Banerjee is among the very few leaders who not only carried out movements but also made those movements successful. In Singur, when Mamata raised farmers issues against Tata’s small car Nano factory, Mamata spread the movement all over south Bengal and did not end the movement till the Tata factory was closed down. After the formation of Trinamool in 1998, she steadied the reins of the NDA, but she broke her ties with the NDA over increase in fuel prices.
Mamata Banerjee’s politics is the politics of values. It is the politics of struggle. The popularity of Mamata Banerjee is at a peak in Bengal. All the surveys are saying that Mamata Banerjee will comfortably win more than 30 seats in Bengal alone. Therefore, she is in a better position than other regional parties. If she goes outside Bengal with the Trinamool Congress and fights the elections together with those who have a clean image, then in the entire country she can record a win on 20 seats. The reason for this is that whether it is by the yardstick of struggle, integrity, economic agenda, and purity in politics, Mamata Banerjee is in a better position on all these parameters than Modi, Rahul and Kejriwal.
Many people are talking of the Third Front but the Third Front will not be acceptable to the people of the country if it will be an alliance only for the elections. The real issue is options or alternatives. The meaning of options or an alternative is not just a separate party or a separate face. A real option or alternative is that which provides an alternative agenda. This means that if Modi providing an alternative denotes economic policy, policies to tackle unemployment, measures to stop inflation in the country with schemes for the exploited classes, how is this different from the BJP. It needs to be understood here is that there is no difference between economic policies of the BJP and the Congress and all of the other parties have no policies. So the biggest question is whether in Indian politics, a star will rise in the East, a star who has struggled so far for issues connected with the people on stormy, flooded roads, in the hot burning afternoons on dusty paths and who has practiced political ‘tapasya’ (penace and devotion) for 30 years. Is Mamata Banerjee’s slogan of ‘Maa Maati Manush’ (Mother, Motherland and People) set to bring about a miracle in the entire country?