Posted by HSMP Forum at 1/12/2014 4:34 PM |
General / National elections in India are due in less than four months. The Congress led United Progressive Alliance is not seen as a popular contender for the upcoming general elections. Congress has been in the forefront since democracy and has governed the country most of the time post-independence. Congress has been extremely affected by an umpteen number of scandals during its rule, which seems to have largely contributed to the party losing elections in three of the important states – Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh. Unlike the past, liberalisation and privatisation of media since 1990s paved the way to the vast number of exposures in the media about corruption.
The only other national party across India is the BJP, apart from the inexperienced party, AAP that can be a possible challenge during the upcoming elections. BJP came into prominence since early 1990s due to its right-wing Hindu nationalist propaganda.
Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi is widely argued as a divisive and communal figure. He rose from the lowest ranks of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and became the Chief Minister of Gujarat. A charismatic leader, who was voted to power in Gujarat continuously for the past three terms. However, his image was tainted after major communal riots, which broke out in Gujarat in 2002. Those killed during the riots were approximately 790 people from Muslim community and 250 from Hindu community. Around 2500 people got injured, and 250 went missing. Various rights activists, political representatives, and representatives from the Muslim community blamed him of allowing revenge against the Muslim community after a train carrying Hindu Kar Sevaks was burnt down allegedly by those belonging within the Muslim community.
A large number of allegations were made against him, and among them was that he has shown complicity and ordered the state police to not to respond to distress calls during the riots. However, Modi was cleared of any complicity in the violence by a Special Investigation Team, which was appointed by the Supreme Court of India. Irrespective of it, he is continued to be seen as a divisive and communal figure perhaps because he belongs to a party that was instrumental in giving rise to the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 during which it came to prominence in Indian politics. Modi is banned from entry in the U.S and up until October 2012 was banned from entry in the UK as well.
Modi as a chief minister of Gujarat has been hugely successful in luring foreign investors in Gujarat, UK having largest investment in Gujarat compared to the rest of India again is a tribute to his enterprising qualities. Although the BJP once stood for nationalisation and protested against globalisation move of the Congress, soon adopted and propagated globalisation. Their policies are mostly in line with those of the Congress.
The remarkable success of Gujarat in various sectors and the simultaneous promotion of Gujarat, as a state full of prosperity under his leadership started attracting a larger audience towards the BJP, to the extent that he has now been designated as the prime ministerial candidate from the party.
Kejriwal comes from a non-political background. He is a former Income Tax joint commissioner and an activist that was instrumental in bringing much-needed transparency through Right to Information in India. He was the mastermind behind the much popular anti-corruption movement, which proposed an independent body named as Lokpal to address issues concerned with corruption. An estimated Rs. 36400 crore is believed to have been lost due to corruption in India. In a country where individuals face corruption on a day-to-day basis, the issue caught widespread attention across India, which was represented in a large turnout during the movement. Anna Hazare was projected as the main face of the anti-corruption movement. Hazare has a history of fasting against issues concerned with corruption. However, he came into much prominence after the Kejriwal orchestrated movement of 2011.
Hazare fasted on various occasions and forced the government to give much consideration towards the Jan Lokpal drafts. The main parties’ image was greatly tarnished during the movement. Congress led government, BJP and some other parties did not budge to some of the demands made by the activists in the Jan Lokpal draft. As a result, Kejriwal and some of the like-minded lot decided to form a political party by the name of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP – common man’s party). Kejriwal’s decision was an outcome of provocation by senior politicians belonging to the main parties as they repeatedly ridiculed the activists and challenged them to enter politics to pass laws as they please. Kejriwal did not see hope in continued fasting, and his non-compromising approach did not leave him much room but to enter politics.
Kejriwal was later projected as a man who deserted Hazare who was believed to be his Guru / mentor. Few are aware that it was Kejriwal, who approached Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi, etc. and initiated the anti-corruption movement. The movement was Kejriwal’s brainchild, although Hazare was the main person who was fasting and was hugely symbolic to the anti-corruption movement.
Kejriwal’s political entry was well received, and the Delhi elections saw the first-time entrants win 28 of the 70 assembly seats before the first inaugural year for the party. Kejriwal himself defeated the Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit by a huge margin. Kejriwal’s mostly nihilistic approach towards politics and politicians struck a chord with people. Kejriwal led AAP is fast becoming a sensation across India due to its popular policies and simplicity of those involved and a burning desire among the electorate to see change. It is considered similar to what happened in late 1970s when for the first time a non-Congress government was voted into power. However, the current trend for AAP is a step ahead. The party is receiving massive publicity and even neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Nepal, etc. are wanting to have a political party similar to AAP in their country.
AAP offers a third alternative against the two major parties that succumbed to various scandals during their rule both centrally and state wise. Most of those contesting elections from the party are common people without a rich or popular background, who seem to identify with the electorate and seem to hold their trust. AAP is a new and inexperienced party but can be pretty much a game changer in the upcoming elections. AAP’s approach has been towards participatory democracy and ensuring involvement of the electorate in the government’s regular decision-making. AAP is still in the process of finalising its manifesto and policies for governance on a national level.
Although BJP is a national party, but its image is affected due to various corruption scandals. Its economic and foreign policies are not much different from those of the Congress, and the policies are mere extensions of the same. The party’s only notable stand is for removal of Article 370 from Indian constitution, which offers special status to Kashmir. However, it may not be practicable if they do not get enough numbers in Lok Sabha. Their NDA partners are unlikely to support any policies, which may be regarded controversial much similar to their last time in government during 1999-2004.
In addition, the party’s disapproval among most of those belonging to the minority communities in India may cause problems with the much-required numbers (MPs) to form a government at the centre that may likely leave it again at the mercy of its National Democratic Alliance coalition partners, which may not allow it to make any major changes.
Author – Amit Kapadia