The election time table has been announced and the model code of conduct has come into force. The elections will be held from 7 April to 12 May in nine phases. Considering the vast electorate and difficult constituencies where law and order could pose a problem, I am sure the Election Commission has worked out what is the optimal possible time table so that the elections can be held efficiently and in time. Paramilitary forces have to be moved and they must have taken all that into the consideration. Be that as it may. Now the question comes, that the critical parties who are in the fray, what are they standing up to? The two largest parties are the Congress and the BJP. The Congress fortunes are down because of two reasons. First, they have been ruling for ten years. Second, because there is a plethora of scams which have surfaced whether they have proven against them or not. Frankly, anti incumbency is one of the main factors going against them.
The BJP on the other hand sees it as an opportunity that after a gap of ten years they can again make a bid for power. Unfortunately, the BJP has tried to convert this election into a presidential race with anointing Narendra Modi as a Prime Ministerial candidate. Elections are not held in this way in India. Unless you have a personality like Indira Gandhi which can cut across language, region, religion, caste etc. Whether Narendra Modi has that personality one does not know. From his speeches, it appears that he is very proud of what he has done in Gujarat. What has he done in Gujarat? Gujarat was never a backward State. Gujarat was always a developed State. Entrepreneurship is in the blood of Gujarati, right from the old days of textile mills to everything. So this is not as if it is that he has turned around a backward State like Bihar. But everybody has a right to blow his own trumpet. And he is doing it everywhere. He says if he becomes Prime Minister he will convert India into Gujarat. That shows his scanty knowledge of the rest of the country.
However the important point is not that. The important point is, has he really caught the imagination of the people? Why is the BJP not talking of 275 or 300 seats on its own? Why they are talking that they will be the largest party and they will need allies? Why? Indira Gandhi never talked like that. When her personality emerged, she got 350 seats. The present scenario is confused. The BJP’s own people, including the RSS people, who are the backbone of the BJP, do not estimate they are getting more than 182 seats, which they got under Atal Bihari Vajpayee. They will be happy if they touch that figure. With Shiv Sena, Akali Dal etc., they hope to reach 200, though in any conversation they will talk of 225 to 250. But, 200 is what they expect. Then the question will come who will join them, on what conditions and what cost?
The Congress on the other hand, is so demoralised that Congresspersons themselves are reducing the figure everyday. Earlier they were saying they will get 150, 120. Now they have come to double digit. It is sad. The Congress is the largest party in India, it is there in every nook and corner and they need not get so demoralised as they have become. Efforts were made to make a Third Front. Unfortunately, the ego of the Third Front leaders is so much that they could not make a combined front. Now, they have cobbled up some sort of combination, which really does not count for much because all the leaders are in their respective territories and they don’t cut into each others votes. The real front would have been if Mulayam Singh and Mayawati adjusted their seats or the Left and Mamata would have adjusted their seats. But that is not happening. So, after the election results come, the real adjustments will begin as to who can give the most credible and stable Government to the country. I think all political analysts, commentators who study the current situation must keep their ear to the ground from now to May and through social networks try to make comments to enlighten the electorate that they should not take decisions in a hurry. They should understand India is a five thousand year old country. Just like the Congress keeps on claiming secularism. Secularism is not a gift of the Congress party. Secularism existed in India for hundreds of years even before Independence, probably thousands of years. It is ingrained in your Indian ethos.
Similarly, the BJP in its enthusiasm will call the Congress names without reading history or geography. It is a tragedy that we are passing through times when the two largest parties are showing signs of illiteracy. We should understand that the Directive Principles of State Policy in the state’s Constitution are still valid. The Government — whichever Government — it is the responsibility of the Government to look after the poor, to try to provide employment. Just to talk of bridgeways and flyovers and malls, you are only helping the urban electorate. The vast majority of India is in villages. They are agro dependent. A latest study of the World Bank or IMF or whoever shows that the people dependent on agriculture in India have grown in the last ten years contrary to the claim of the Government that people are going to urban cities. People have found that agriculture and their own land is the biggest stability for an Indian. What has Modi got to offer to a farmer or a person who owns land? Have you offered him a better deal? No. You want to uproot them from their land, make them unemployed, and put up a factory. If you take land of a thousand farmers and put up a factory which employs two hundred people, what kind of development is that? That kind of development will not help India. Manufacturing is important. The large tracts of Indian land which are not fertile, those should be acquired and factories should be put up there. Of course the performance of the Congress Government in the last ten years has been very poor. Manufacturing has almost gone down. All that needs to get a fillip. But, while talking of development and the corporate sector and all you cannot lose sight of the vast masses of Indian people who need a Government which gives them hope that they can live a life of dignity and reasonable prosperity. They all don’t want to become super rich. They all don’t want to go in a Mercedes and BMW. But they want good roads, clean water, power in the village so they can carry on day to day tasks without harassment. That is what is called for. Unfortunately none of the leaders are promising that.