Watch Gujarat, the game changer

François Hollande taking oath as the President of France is just the beginning of major changes Europe is gearing up for. In the United Kingdom, change is already quite visible, and has been since the local body elections where as the ruling coalition of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats lost to the Labour Party. Apparently, the aam aadmi is not looking for cuts and austerity and but for growth and employment — it’s a very difficult situation for those in governance as there are no magic solutions.
Mr Hollande met German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday to discuss the European fiscal treaty. Much will depend on their thinking for the future of Europe. The “austerity” programme, Ms Merkel’s pet, may not hold as people’s verdict is against this in France, Germany and the UK.
The global markets will take some time to settle to the new reality, but meanwhile we can expect turmoil, beginning with Greece which now appears doomed to hold second election in two months because no proposed coalition government seems viable.

The President’s election in India started on a chaotic note. The Congress and the BJP indicated their preferences, floundered and then retreated to consult with the regional parties who have an upper hand in the numbers game. It is clear from the electoral results in the last two years (10 state Assembly results), that both the Congress and the BJP have lost ground to the regional forces. After winning close to 320 Lok Sabha seats between the two of them in 2009, it looks like they will drop to 250-260 in 2014.
The political battle for the selection of the President will resume next week, as will the preparations for Assembly elections in five states due later this year. Things may be quiet on the surface right now but I would not be surprised if we witness a series of surprises.
We already have a very tight situation in Andhra Pradesh where the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, the Telugu Desam Party and the YSR Congress seem set to dent the Congress’ numbers in the Assembly elections. In Karnataka, there is good news for the Congress as the Supreme Court has ordered a CBI inquiry into accusations against former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa of illegalities in mining activities. Mr Yeddyurappa is alleged to have used his public office to grant undue favours to mining companies. The Congress stands to win in Karnataka but the gains will be marginal compared to its losses in Andhra Pradesh.
Recently in Rajasthan, former chief minister Vasundhara Raje threatened to quit the party in protest against a political campaign proposed by senior party leader Gulabchand Kataria. This dramatic development reflected intense feud in the BJP. I think the conflict will be resolved in Ms Raje’s favour with, of course, the usual balancing act. If this happens, there are difficult times ahead for chief minister Ashok Gehlot and the Congress.
The game changer, though, for the Congress and the BJP will be Gujarat. The outcome of this state election will trigger alliance patterns for the Lok Sabha elections depending on how each party fares. In fact, Gujarat Assembly results may even bring forward the parliamentary elections to 2013.
The BJP has lost an important municipal election in Gandhinagar and though most attribute this to a one-off situation and a change in the complexion of the seat, the fact is that it happened. Narendra Modi will be fighting for a record fourth term in Gujarat and, over a period of time, anti-incumbency trends can be very strong. Though I don’t think that NGOs, loyal media outlets, civil activists with their own agendas, defectors and disgruntled politicians or officials can really influence election results, public opinion cannot be taken for granted.
Electoral victory or defeat is eventually determined on the political battlefield and the Congress seems set to ensure that Gujarat is not a one-sided fight.
Parliamentary elections in 2013 instead of 2014 will suit the regional parties, including the allies of the UPA-2. The BJP, if they win Gujarat, will also be ready for early polls. But the Congress, the BSP, the DMK and the Left would like the polls to be held on schedule.
No doubt inflation will be a major issue in the general elections, but it is the quality of local leadership in the states that will be the deciding factor. Recent election results in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Goa show how regional leaders like Akhilesh Yadav, Sukhbir Singh Badal and Manohar Parrikar are overtaking national leaders. If you look at the bigger picture, can you think of any election since 1952 when the people of this country have voted incorrectly?
We suffer from a lack of effective governance, and to live in denial is a serious error. In this situation, the government is vulnerable to all forms of pressure. This was visible as a 63-year-old cartoon disrupted Parliament and human resource development minister Kapil Sibal had to tender an apology. There was no need for this; the blame, if any, doesn’t rest with any individual minister. The Congress must decide whether it can afford to exhibit such weakness every time a “sensitive” issue is raised. This level of insecurity in our political system is shocking.
Censorship is a retrograde step and while many things may be objectionable, we must leave it to the people to determine what is right and wrong. How can we do without cartoons or humour in our daily life? This is a serious issue.

Aamir Khan, in the 13 episodes of his new show Satyamev Jayate, will raise issues like female foeticide and sexual abuse of children, which troubles us all. The impact of the first two episodes has been so strong that Rajasthan chief minister was compelled to call a meeting with Mr Khan to formalise a plan to tackle the deteriorating sex ratio in Rajasthan. I wonder if Mr Gehlot would have responded in a similar manner had it been the Leader of the Opposition, his own party members or the aam aadmi raising the same issue. Mr Khan, who has no political ambitions, is doing what politicians should be doing. What does all this mean for the future?

The writer is a former
Union minister

Comments

it will be god for shri ARUN

it will be god for shri ARUN NEHRU t o be close to his parivar in DELHI& leave gujarat alone. GOD KNOWS WHEN HE LAST VISITED GUJARAT.,& INTERACTED WITH THE PEOPLE & SAW WITH HIS OWN EYES ' 'BEFORE PUTTING PEN TO PAPER'"

PERHAPS LIVING TOO LONG IN U.P & SOMEWHAT IN DELHI , PERHAPS FORBIDS ELDERLY FROM ACCEPTING REALITIES.

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