India's political parties across the entire political spectrum seem to be confused and perplexed in judging the mood of the Indian voter in the run-up to India's General Elections scheduled for April-May 2009. Totally absent from the Indian political scene is the absence of any political wave in favor of either of the two main parties, namely, the Congress Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Totally absent too is a marked lack of political passion or conviction in the political parties to enthuse the Indian voters on political issues with just two months left for the General Elections to take place. Absent some sensational political occurrence the General Elections 2009 seem to be headed towards ending up as the most politically listless elections ever.
Mumbai 26/11 brought home to the Indian political class as a whole the realization of the utter contempt that they were being held in by the people of India. Politicians across the board were held in utter contempt because they had failed in protecting India's national security and defend India against repeated terrorism attacks from Islamic Jihadi outfits operating from Pakistan under patronage of the Pakistani official establishment.
Currently both the Congress Party and the BJP are at a loss as to how to exploit the issue of terrorism as an electoral issue in the General Elections.
The Congress Party had in the last five years followed flawed counter-terrorism policies to safeguard its Indian Muslim vote-banks. The Government stood paralyzed in the wake of 9/11 in terms of prompt crisis-management and effective retaliation against Pakistan despite clear evidence of Pakistani involvement. The Congress Government also has to live down its overly appeasement policies towards the Pakistani military regime under external pressure.
The BJP has no cogent explanations as to how during its last tenure in power it reversed its policies of no dialogue with Pakistan until Pakistan gave up its proxy war and terrorism against India and proceeded to invite General Musharraf for the Agra Summit. The BJP also has to live down its not prosecuting Op. Prakaram to its logical conclusion against Pakistan. This again was under external pressure.
While the political parties have yet to firm-in their political line-ups or cobble possible political coalitions for the coming General Elections there has already emerged a whole herd of Prime Ministerial aspirants from parties other than the two main parties, declaring their ambitions directly or through their party mouthpieces. The Prime Ministerial aspirants include Mayavati, Laloo Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan, and Sharad Pawar and not forgetting former Prime Minister Deva Gowda.
Such a long list of Prime Ministerial aspirants clearly indicates that the minor political parties are well aware that neither the Congress Party nor the BJP can hope to win clear majorities in the coming Elections and in the political horse trading that follows they should position themselves as compromise choices for the post of Prime Minister.
The Congress Party has only yesterday declared that Dr Manmohan Singh would continue to be its choice for the Prime Minister. Before this announcement there was speculation that Rahul Gandhi was headed in that direction with senior Congress Ministers including Pranab Mukherjee publicly airing and seconding that choice. This speculation was reinforced by the fact that Pranab Mukherjee in has capacity as the senior most Congress Minister was not allowed to officiate as Prime Minister when Dr Manmohan Singh was hospitalized and would be out of active circulation for a few weeks. The Congress seems to have changed its mind after witnessing the widespread outpouring of sympathy and good wishes from all across the country for Dr Manmohan Singh following his long drawn-out heart surgery. This was an eye-opener for the Congress President as this sympathy wave was not generated in favor of the Congress but in favor of Dr Manmohan Singh for his personal honesty and integrity.
The BJP had declared Shri L K Advani as its Prime Ministerial candidate last year much in advance of the General Elections, possibly as at that times there was a possibility of early elections. However, in a reflection of the mood of the country following Mumbai 9/11, leading Indian industrialists at a recent conclave publicly declared that India needed a Prime Minister like Shri Natendra Modi, the BJP Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Regular readers of my Column would recall that after Sri Modi's win in the last Gujarat Assembly Elections I had observed in this Column that the major lesson that needs to be drawn from his third victory despite a concerted media campaign against him is that India yearns for strong nationalistic, bold and decisive leaders like Shri Narendra Modi. That this has been echoed by India's leading industrialists is a sign of the times.
All in all, India's General Elections 2009 do not promise a clear victory for the Congress Party or the BJP. The electoral scene is devoid of any political wave in favor of either party.
But one thing that may prevail in the minds of the urban voters after Mumbai 9/11, at least, is the question of national security more than economics Also there is a likelihood of more of the middle-class professionals especially the youth, turning out to vote and which may upset traditional electoral arithmetic of the political parties.