From moral sermons to national logjam

Election season is round the corner and expectedly, several election surveys have been commissioned. All that these surveys say is not Gospel truth though, since we are not going to have the general elections in the immediate future.

As we have seen in recent years, even a few months in power can attract anti-incumbency. It is, therefore, difficult to forecast at this stage which party will go how far. With almost every party exploring alliance options, this may change the numbers game in crucial states. Take the state of Andhra Pradesh, for example. The Congress got 33 out of 42 seats in the last Lok Sabha elections and, looking at all the three regions in Andhra Pradesh, it may lose close to 25 seats to Jagan Mohan Reddy and his YSR Congress, and some to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in the Telangana region. My estimate is that the Congress will drop from 33 to eight seats, the YSR Congress can win 18-20 seats and the TRS can win six to eight while the Telugu Desam Party may be restricted to the six seats they hold currently. The Congress in theory loses 25 seats but the right alliances can reduce this figure to a loss of five seats!
The minority vote is critical in the region and the BJP will struggle both with numbers and alliance partners. I can foresee the YSR Congress and the TRS keeping their independent image but drifting towards the Congress to share power at the Centre with the TDP gravitating towards the Samajwadi Party and the Left parties. The Congress will lose seats but gain alliance partners in Andhra Pradesh.
In the Big Battle of 2014, of the two national parties, the Congress and the BJP, one will get between 120 and 125 seats while the other may bag more than 150 seats. Now which of the two that will be only an astrologer can tell at this stage. The Congress will drop from the 206 seats it got in 2009, but its future is not as bleak as is being projected by the surveys.
As for the BJP, besides the consolidation of the Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi brand for 2014, we can see a steady progress of Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj to the top rung. They both provide an effective Opposition team in the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha respectively.
The test for the BJP will be Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections due at the year-end, and while the first looks bright for the BJP, in Himachal Pradesh the Congress is ahead just by a whisker. The BJP will make big gains in Rajasthan but will lose much of its current holding in Karnataka. So where will it get the additional 30 seats to take its tally to 150 seats? The BJP needs to increase its share in Uttar Pradesh if it wants to get 150 Lok Sabha seats.
I see both the Congress and the BJP taking some positive steps towards the future. Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi has taken charge of “events management” and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi has taken additional responsibility, with mid-term surgery likely in this month itself.

We are in the grip of a persecution complex as it were. Over the last two years the ruling coalition as well as the Opposition has yielded space to forces that do not believe in electoral politics and would rather cause chaos and anarchy to seize power. These forces have little respect for “the other viewpoint”. It is well worth remembering that Anna Hazare and his team of anti-graft crusaders may have prevailed over the political parties for a while but were defeated by the aam aadmi, who has no stomach for strong-arm tactics even if these are laced with moral sermons. The system has suffered heavy damage already. I sincerely hope that political leaders, both at the Centre and in the states, will not encourage disruptive forces.
Chaos will destroy everything we have built over the last 65 years, and in fact chaos has already spread into many spheres.
It’s time for everyone to wake up to this reality; corrective action must follow. I am tired of hearing about how decisions are stalling, how policy decisions are being questioned by the court of law, and how everyone in power is expanding their sphere of authority as there is no accountability. Almost every action taken by the government in the past can be subjected to scrutiny and the political and bureaucratic executives concerned can be persecuted. The pity is even the media hurries over to the next headline, and has no time to distinguish between right and wrong. Under these circumstances, the best thing to do is to sit tight and avoid doing anything that involves a decision. Today India is static, and it is not the politicians alone who are responsible for this state of affairs.

We have a rising star in Unmukt Chand — the captain of the Under-19 cricket team that has just won the World Cup for the country — and soon he will play for India. We also have many comments on Sachin Tendulkar, particularly his three recent failures. With age comes change and Sachin is no exception. But he still has a lot of cricket left in him and with his class he will adapt his technique to the challenges his body might pose. The batting genius is still very much the magician he used to be, and we wish him well. Virat Kohli is settling down nicely, while Suresh Raina has to convert his 50s into centuries. And it is good to see Yuvraj Singh return. The batting line-up seems satisfactory and the talent pool developed by the BCCI is deep — they have done a good job.

The writer is a former Union minister

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