Cong shows its cards, will BJP up the ante?

Unlike the Congress, the BJP has issues at the top and a step-by-step approach is needed to contain the damage. It’s necessary to know who runs the BJP.

With Rahul Gandhi elevated to the post of the vice-president of the Congress Party, after being in charge of the 2014 elections, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has triggered changes for the next generation to take over the party’s reins. This is the right thing to do and it shows that the Congress has started its election work.

On January 20, the Congress vice-president spoke from the heart, and his reflections, well received by the cadre, indicated how he thinks. The appointment and his speech were reassuring signs for the future of the party and the country.
Though the BJP will soon decide its next president, it is sad that the whole process is once again marred by controversy. In the decision for the party president, the RSS will prevail. Nitin Gadkari, despite charges of alleged financial irregularities, was almost certain to get a second term till Tuesday evening. The BJP is also getting ready for 2014, with Narendra Modi initially touring the country and then probably leading the party in 2014. The BJP lost Jharkhand and will soon lose Karnataka and the road ahead is not easy and, unlike the Congress, they have issues at the top and a step-by-step approach will be necessary to contain the damage. For a start it’s necessary to determine who runs the BJP.
No one can predict the shape and size of the next political accident. As we saw during the two recent tragedies — the brutal gangrape and the beheading of a soldier on the LoC — the reaction of the government and the main Opposition has been swift. Part of the reason for this promptitude was the clamour of the aam aadmi for action. The system of governance in all the three wings is running behind the clock, but as pressure builds up change seems inevitable.
Changes are afoot on laws applicable to juveniles. But considering the inhuman way the 17-year-old behaved in the December 16 gangrape in Delhi, will the aam aadmi settle for anything less than death penalty? Statistics may indicate that the accused in thousands of rape case have been “juveniles”, but neither the legislature nor the judiciary thought of a review of relevant laws. We are now talking of fast-track courts and instant justice. But since it makes little sense to impose quick-fix solutions, we will have to start the process of judicial reforms pending for decades. Must we always wait for tragedies to force changes in our governance?
Miracle men and women have appeared in the civil society much like spiritual leaders. In all three wings of governance there will be many who will offer instant solutions, which will send us hurtling towards anarchy and chaos. There is no alternative to the rule of law, and it’s the higher courts that have to assist the system in gaining some stability.

It is premature to talk about who will be the Prime Minister after the 2014 polls, as every party has to secure the numbers first. On current indications, both the Congress and the BJP are under pressure. Along with the two front-runners, Mr Gandhi and Mr Modi, one can’t rule out the possibility of J. Jayalalithaa, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati, Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee or Sharad Pawar (whose political clout is many times more than the seats he wins in Maharashtra) becoming the Prime Minister. This is the period for posturing and every contender from every party has to say the right thing so as to not spoil their prospect.
We are slowly but surely getting ready for 2014 and things will take shape rapidly in both the Congress, and the BJP, and the regional parties. No one can take anyone else for granted. No one is above the scrutiny of the aam aadmi, and with the social media humming non-stop no longer will sermons, speeches and rulebook pacify the aam aadmi. Look at how things have changed in the past one month alone, and we still have 18 months to elections.
I wrote last week that 2013 will be the year of alliances or near-alliances and I think this is a good time to revise my electoral calculations. I now see a small change from three months ago and the advantage is with the regional parties with two or three formations within the regional structure.
In 2014, Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa will lead one group and will lean towards the BJP, while Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav may lead another group and may tilt towards the Congress.
Both groups are likely to have 70-80 seats each. Another 70-100 seats could go to the BSP, JD(U) and the Trinamul Congress and a few small units. These parties could swing in either direction, putting both the Congress and the BJP on their best behaviour vis-à-vis them. I am not sure if the secular and non-secular poles will exist the way they did before. Unless there is a major gain or reversal in the Congress and BJP’s electoral wars in 2013, this trend in numbers may well persist into the next general elections.

The writer is a former Union minister

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