The scale of national elections in India is vaster than that of United States and Europe combined, the evidence of which is in the humungous numbers. Over 814.5 million eligible voters will cast their ballot through Electronic Voting Machines that would be set up in 9,30,000 polling stations across the country.
These elections would not just be the longest, but also the costliest with an estimated spend of Rs 3500 crore, and this excludes the expenditure on security and campaigning by candidates.
Clearly, despite all its faults, India’s democracy also remains its best success.
With the poll bugle sounding for 2014, candidates have hit the hustings with vengeance. The battle looks likely to be one that will be hotly contested and the claptrap at rallies is already turning crude. Few elections in the past have seen such malice laced repartee becoming common place; from 10 numbari to accusations of impotency, loads of invectives have flown thick and fast.
Possibly, these are symbolic of insecurities and raw ambitions hemmed in politicians and the prize that is at stake. As two successive terms of United Progressive Alliance come to an end, the field looks open for anyone.
Congress – On the Wane
The Congress which is facing a double anti-incumbency is, arguably, looking at its weakest since 1996-98. With spiralling prices and numerous corruption charges marking its second tenure, UPA is undoubtedly on the back foot. Its flock seems to have gone asunder with reports of its MPs crossing over to the BJP. Not just have former ministers like D Purandeshwari migrated, more embarrassing still have been cases like Jagadambika Pal, Raju Srivastava, or somone like Bhagirath Prasad, who quit despite being allotted a ticket from Bhind (Madhya Pradesh). There are now reports that some of its prominent MPs and cabinet ministers may not be very keen to contest at all this time, clearly showing the party may have accepted defeat even before the ballots have been cast.
BJP – Sensing Opportunity
The Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP), on the other hand, seems more energised than ever in the recent past. Modi has galvanised the rank and file of the party and his backroom boys are working overtime to turn him into Brand Modi. Industrialists, common people and those at the margins but with aspirations to fly are giving him thumbs up. Who, they question, would not want to replicate the success he has brought to Gujarat at the Centre.
Each of rallies is hugely well attended and all the paraphernalia – Modi cups, T-shirts, masks and pens are being freely distributed to generate hype and recall. Undoubtedly, Modi has good administrative abilities and he is a man who can turn adversity into an opportunity. When scoffed at by senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar about his humble background of helping at his father’s tea stall in growing up years, Team Modi came upon the idea of holding ‘charcha’ (dialogue) over steaming cups of hot tea.
Aam Aadmi Party – Looking for a Place under the Sun
In midst of the battle between the two big national parties is the din created by the new kid on the block – the Aam Aadmi Party, which has expressed its supreme confidence in hitting at least a century in its inaugural match.
The party packs a novelty factor and is perceived as a fresh break from run-of-the-mill old guard politicians. But its 49-day shoot and scoot tenure in Delhi exposed its lack of administrative tenacity. The party looks more of an activism and anarchist variety than a serious alternative. It may have succeeded at the assembly level, but it is unlikely that people would want to take a risk with them at the national level. Moreover, most of their faces are from the cities and have gained appeal amongst urban electorate only. The underclass and corruption weary middle class might still throw its weight behind the headline grabbing Arvind Kejriwal, but India at large will remain unimpressed.
Social activist Anna Hazare’s open rebuke of AAP may also be factor that would go against AAP, especially as the former was the mentor of most of the popular faces in the party.
The stars look propitious, Modi wave is sweeping across the country, the Congress is down and nearly out and people are looking for change… if ever there was a time for him to sit in the PM’s saddle, it is now.
And Narendra Modi knows it.