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India’s Political Landscape Changes
with Assembly Elections Results
|by Dr. Subhash Kapila|
The Assembly Elections results from the five States of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttaranchal, Goa and Manipur can be said to have changed India’s political landscape in many different ways with the major impact likely to be on the election of the next President of India in July 2012 and the next General Elections in 2014, just two years away. Even before the results came out, the Chief Ministers of virtually all the Non-Congress States accusing the Congress Government of violating the federal principle by not discussing or taking into confidence the views of States Chief Ministers on vital issues like the National Terrorism Coordination Centre and changes in the Railway Protection Force structures. With the Congress Party performing miserably in Uttar Pradesh elections ‘Brand Rahul’ took a big beating. The Congress could only win the small State of Manipur and that is no big consolation.
Political parties in opposition to the Congress Party have captured power in Uttar Pradesh and Goa. In Punjab, history was created when the incumbent Government of Akali Dal-BJP coalition was returned to power breaking the incumbency factor. The Uttar Pradesh results with the Samajwadi Party coming into power with a sweeping majority can turn into a game changer at the national level. The irony was that in Congress President’s own parliamentary constituency of Rai Bareilly, the Congress lost all ten Assembly seats despite high-power campaigning by the entire Gandhi family.
The first major impact would be on the forthcoming elections of President of India in July 2012. The Congress Party would now have a difficult time to have its own nominee as President of India with the changed arithmetic of the presidential election electoral college. The Congress Party would have a very tough time of hard bargaining to get support of even its own UPA partners like the Trinamool Congress, leave alone the powerful new political actor on the political scene—the Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh. With Non-Congress Non-BJP Chief Ministers banding together in some semblance of a Third Front the political scene has all the potential of heating up.
One would not be surprised if a combined Opposition manages to push in its own nominee as President of India. In public debates some have recommended that a combined Opposition should agree to bring back former President APJ Abdul Kalam. Who the next President is very crucial in the context of General Elections 2014. A Congress nominee as President in 2014 is perceived by Opposition Parties as unlikely to be impartial in view of the fact that fractured mandates are expected and large scale horse-trading may take place for the Congress Party to launch Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Minister.
Another school of thought is of the opinion that with the Congress Party besieged on all fronts and in a state of denial on its actual potential strengths may topple by 2013 itself forcing mid-term General Elections. The economy is virtually on a downslide in terms of economic growth and the tap running out in terms of FDI. Add to this the inflationary pressures likely to increase due to further rise in prices due to oil hikes –all of which would significantly affect the common man’s perception of the Congress Government and the UPA. Such a likelihood is likely to produce a re-think in UPAs own coalition partners whether it is worthwhile for them to continue as members of a losing political combination on the eve of General Elections 2014. This may induce the phenomenon of deserting a sinking ship and thereby forcing mid-term General Elections.
It is curious as to how the Congress Government in power heading a shady coalition on which it banks for its political survival can act in a politically arrogant manner as it did in the announcement of the setting up of the NCTC without even the courtesy of a political discussion with States Chief Ministers especially when law an order is a State subject. The Congress Party Government has a misplaced perception of its own political strengths and hence the political arrogance of its Ministers and that has vitiated the political scene in India.
While surveying India’s political landscape it would also be pertinent to examine the state of affairs in India’s political party which claims to be the oldest political party of India, namely the Congress Party. The Congress Party is today not India’s leading political party but “one of the two leading political parties” of India and it needs to get used to this reality. Then it cannot be forgotten that its political fortunes are dependent on the fading magic and charisma of the Gandhi family and how long that lasts itself is debatable. The Congress Party minus the Gandhi family has no political strengths of its own.
India today is well aware that the Congress Party is totally disunited at the top level where in the last two years senior Ministers have tended even to ignore the Prime Minister besides squabbling with one another, more on egoistic impulses, rather than on matters of principle. That speaks poorly of the internal cohesion of the Congress Party and an ineffective leadership unable to impose party discipline.
However the most significant and notable fact that struck me during the UP Assembly elections, and I do not find this noted in the analysis of prominent Indian political analysts, was that the Congress Party’s senior leaders like Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister Chidambaram, more voluble Ministers like Kapil Sibal, to name a few, were totally absent from the UP elections campaigning. Why they were not there to stand side by side with the Gandhi family in what was heralded as a crucial election for Rahul Gandhi, and the Gandhi family was left all alone to fend for themselves.
The BJP as the second leading political party of India too has to pull up its socks and eliminate the divisiveness in its hierarchy which is now publicly visible. The BJP cannot hope and expect to capture political power in New Delhi by default. And by default I mean that as a result of the Congress Party foibles.
The chances of a Third Front merging on the Indian political scene in time for the General Elections 2014 cannot be ruled out and this should put both of India’s leading political parties on notice.
Concluding, India’s political landscape also throws up new factors which no Indian political party can ignore is the powerful vote-bank of the 18-30 year olds of the Indian voting public who would want more exacting political standards from India’s political parties and more effective governance.
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Comments on this Article
Dinesh Kumar Bohre
03/12/2012 04:26 AM