It was as if election activities were just waiting for the BJP and Narendra Modi to throw their hats into the ring. That appears to be the signal for the process of political realignments to begin in right earnest. No sooner had Modi been appointed the chief of his party’s poll campaign for 2014, the chips are starting to fall in place. That the JD (U) is on its way out of the NDA coalition is clear. Non-Congress and non-BJP leaders are suddenly holding conclaves – witness the current bonhomie between Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee and Navin Patnaik.
By the looks of it, coverage of Narendra Modi’s elevation in Goa and the subsequent developments would have us believe that the Gujarat strongman has already begun the process of polarization. It could well be that he is on his way to becoming the central figure in an election campaign which is not just going to go down to the wires but be colourful and possibly filthy as well.
Be that as it may, India’s political chess board is beginning to look incredibly complex and at the moment provides no answers as to who could form the next government in 2014.
Followers of the Third Front or Federal Front theory are certainly exited at the prospect of an alternative vision for India; the only question is numbers. Can they reach the 272 mark in the Lok Sabha without outside support of the Congress or the BJP? The formation of such a front itself is fraught with contradictions. Will Mamata team up with the Left, even for a cause as honourable as protecting secularism? What about Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav? Can they be in the same government, no matter how noble the cause? These are imponderables at the moment and most political pundits are grappling with utter confusion.
The Congress-led UPA’s track record is far from impressive and recent electoral results in various bye-elections hold no joy for India’s oldest political party. A year before the polls, the party which has been painted into a tight corner, is going to all out to woo it’s most basic constituency – the poor – through a slew of food and employment generation plans. But so stark is the political scenario that even they are in no position to announce a name for prime minister less it boomerangs on them.
As for the BJP, their activities are set to get a leg up when Modi, their star campaigner,begins his `cow belt' public meetings in UP in the first week of July. Expect the campaign to be colourful from all sides – one statement will be countered with another, with TV reporters acting as the go-betweens. Modi’s key aide Amit Shah is BJP’s party incharge. By all accounts, India’s most politically crucial state is also its most complex. Outside observers have found it a tough state to do business in: witness the plight of Digvijay Singh who as a Congress observer for UP for more than two years has yet to muster the courage to hold a state executive meeting! Soon, Shah may realize, UP is not Gujarat. In addition, will Modi have the backing of his own party with several men who enjoy the confidence of LK Advani, in the ranks?
The fact of the matter though is that Modi is betting heavy on UP. BJP’s rise to national power came in the early 1990s after a string of impressive performances in the largest Indian state at the back of the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation. After its virtual decimation in UP, BJP has been forced to sit out on the side lines. There is also speculation that the Gujarat strongman is keen to contest from the state, either Lucknow or Varanasi, underlining his all India status. All in all, the stage is set for a fight to a finish; only the fireworks are just beginning.