2014, as seen from UP acid test

In politics everything is possible. I think a coalition government of the SP and the Congress both in the state & at Centre is likely.

Election campaigns and forecasts are not new to me. I remember going as an eight-year-old on my first election campaign to Sitapur, from where my grandmother, Uma Nehru, was an MP in 1952. But I recollect little except the “cold water” breaks in a gruelling schedule on dusty roads and was fascinated by the Electrolux refrigerators, which worked on kerosene burners. Things today are very different.

While there is no such thing as an easy election there is little doubt in my mind that politics today is far more complicated than what I have seen and experienced over the last few decades. A few days from now, and the battle for Uttar Pradesh will start. It’s time to reflect on issues connected with the elections.
The media coverage in these elections is fantastic. I must admit that, writing in several regional papers, I find my three cellphones and all three email accounts flooded by field reports and seat surveys. There are dozens of these as every political party, every media organisation — and other agencies — is doing quality work in the field; even the details in the regional press made available through their e-papers are of a high level. However, there is little coverage of Manipur. Knowing the area well, I tried to do my homework but was flooded with information and was simply unable to keep track of events. There is a high level of interest shown in the Uttarakhand and Punjab elections, but the level of coverage of Goa and Manipur elections is low.
Now of course all attention will be on Uttar Pradesh and this electoral battle will determine the politics for 2012-2014 and afford us a peep into the future.
I respect every survey report but the recent report showing the NDA ahead of the UPA does not make political sense. While 2011 has not been a good year for UPA-2, it has been much worse for the NDA, which is sure to be reflected in the five-state Assembly elections.
The battle for Uttar Pradesh will now start in real earnest. While the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) may fight for the first two spots, the performances of the Congress and the BJP will be critical for their future. I have mentioned before that the Congress already holds 16 out of 20 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa but a victory here will give a psychological boost to the Congress as the UPA government completes the remaining part of its term in 2014. The BJP may lose out in Goa, Punjab and Uttarakhand and end up a poor fourth in Uttar Pradesh, indicating that the NDA may well be led by regional parties instead of the BJP. Uttar Pradesh will also be an acid test for the Congress but I think it will do well. An “impressive” third position is very much on the cards for the party.
Politics is about hard realities and the Congress needs stability at the Centre for the next two years. Given the erratic behaviour of the Trinamul Congress it is essential to have either the SP or the BSP alongside and this will not happen unless the BSP and the SP arrive at a power-sharing agreement. In politics everything is possible as we have seen over the years. There could be many options, many scenarios; but I think a coalition government of the SP and the Congress both in the state and at the Centre is very likely. There are many different combinations that are possible.
The most significant trend noticed in the elections has been the emergence of new leadership in political parties. Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, in my opinion, has already earned his political spurs and is very much the future for the Congress. SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav has made way for his 38-year-old son, Akhilesh Yadav, and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar has indicated that he has fought his last election already and will resolve the leadership issue between his daughter and his nephew. In the interim he has the high-profile and competent Praful Patel to manage the affairs of the NCP. Mr Pawar and Mulayam Singh have done what Farooq Abdullah and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed have already done in Jammu and Kashmir. Other ageing regional leaders may well become a liability for their parties unless they have succession plans ready for the future. All succession plans are fraught with conflicts if not implemented in time. We have a prime example in the DMK where K. Karunanidhi is bogged down by two wives, two sons, a daughter and two nephews. The AIADMK, by contrast, has very little to do for the future.

I believe 2012 will be a good year for India. We must think in positive terms even when negative events swamp us. A good example of this is cricket. The year 2011 was a disaster and 2012 was even worse, but this gives us an opportunity to shake out both the BCCI and the cricket team. The signs were visible in 2011 but sadly the game is no longer considered a sport; it is being treated as a business.
The PMO has a worthy induction in Pulok Chatterji. The new principal secretary in the PMO is exceptionally bright and has high levels of integrity. Moreover, I am happy to see a change in the media management in the PMO. Life has changed over the years and instead of getting into conflict with the social media we must embrace it. I am glad that the PMO will use Twitter and Facebook.
The blame game — the latest one being over the censorship of social media — is something I do not believe in but there was no reason why the UPA should have had such a poor image in 2011. Clearly, communication at all levels was very poor and this must change for the better. Mid-term blues can affect any government but I think this phase is over for the UPA-2.
I am loath to make predictions about the polity for 2014. But Rahul Gandhi will lead the charge for the Congress in 2014 while the BJP will have little option but to support Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate. Much will depend, though, on the number of seats won by either party. Cricket is very much on my mind and in 2014 the following will be the 11 players of our political squad who will determine the future — Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi, Prakash Karat, Nitish Kumar, J. Jayalalithaa, Sharad Pawar, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik. The 12th man could come from Andhra Pradesh.

The writer is a former Union minister

Comments

That's excellent analysis

That's excellent analysis from a man I knew in 1988-89 while a young student in Delhi's JNU.Regards, Ashutosh

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