It was the year of political change. It has set the template for 2014 Has 2013 secretly been the year of change we had pegged 2014 to be? Politically, it was not supposed to add up to much â€” it was to be a mere prelude to 2014, the year of the general elections. But the big change might have come a year early. This year saw several inflection points, which have already set the template for the next phase of politics and alignments in India. The BJP has pitched Narendra Modi as the embodiment of a new idea of India. Meanwhile, the Congress is going through a period of transition and, after many decades, it is not a transition forced by an unforeseen event. The new middle classes, though numerically small, constitute a shrill and significant voice now. They appear to have embraced a political system they loved to deride even last year. In the still feudal Hindi heartland, the political shifts and alignments of 2013 promise to have a deep impact on politics in 2014. The first signs of change came from the BJP-RSS combine this year. It started with the dramatic ouster of then BJP president, Nitin Gadkari. But more crucially, the country's main opposition party chose to push the idea of Hindu nationalism, symbolised by its choice of Modi as prime ministerial candidate. The Jan Sangh of 1977 and the BJP of the NDA years had been more reluctant to show their colours. But this year, the RSS flaunted its most successful pracharak and chief minister, Modi, who is meant to be shorthand for "infrastructure" and "development", showcased in his home state, Gujarat. It is a bold positioning. This signalling by the BJP set off changes in the Hindi heartland. The JD(U), an ally for 17 years, decided to jump ship. A party of the much fragmented Janata parivar, representing an important colour in India's political rainbow, the JD(U)'s presence in the NDA had long bolstered the BJP's claim of leading the "anti-Congress" team. In neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, meanwhile, another chain of events was set in motion with the eruption of communal violence between Jats and Muslims in the western region of the state. Significantly, the violence happened on the watch of the Samajwadi Party, which has reaped the political benefits of providing a riot-free environment for the state's more influential Muslims. The plight of those in Muzaffarnagar's relief camps, just two hours from Delhi, the SP's growing impatience with the situation and the reckless remarks made by party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav are beginning to work changes in the state's politics. The Central government of 2014 will depend, in large part, on seats and events in the cow-belt. The BJP, the lone ranger in both UP and Bihar, might have gained significantly from these developments. But it has lost a key ally in the JD(U), and renewed alliances like the Congress-RJD in Bihar or an "understanding" between the Congress and the BSP in UP could regroup voters and throw up surprising results. Another turnaround this year was the dramatic defeat of the hinterland's oldest state government, the Congress in Delhi, at the hands of the Aam Aadmi Party. Rank outsiders, who had formed a party just last year and who built their reputation on berating the political system, appear to have gamed it and formed a government. The very system they dismissed has placed them in power â€” it is a great tribute to the capaciousness of Indian democracy. Battling "Nota", another big change which demonstrates how far you can stretch the idea of Indian democracy, this fledgling party is now the consummate insider. This seems to have caused a radical change in the political environment and humbled political parties. Another surprise moment of the outsider embracing those on the inside was when Anna Hazare, who once held Parliament to be the den of thieves, managed to pressure the government into passing the bill for an anti-graft oversight body, 46 years after it was first thought of. Letters of praise between Hazare and Rahul Gandhi, as well as Hazare and Arun Jaitley, would have been unimaginable a year ago. Parliament may have seen more acrimony than work per day, but landmark bills, such as the food security bill, the land acquisition bill, the pensions bill and the criminal law amendment bill (specifically to tackle sexual crimes), were passed. The expectations that these new laws have raised will be a challenge for any future government. The "political class is the only villain" chorus, which had swelled over the past few decades, grew quieter this year. This denoted a big shift as the anti-neta chorus had been growing exponentially for several years, especially since the blossoming of TV news, which aired the disdain and hopelessness felt by various sections of society. That Arvind Kejriwal and Anna Hazare, symbols of this "anti-establishment" sentiment, embraced the system in their own ways was one reason. But there were more. As 2013 progressed, a record number of sports greats took on political roles. Sachin Tendulkar had set the trend in 2012 by accepting a Rajya Sabha nomination. This year, shooter Rajyavardhan Rathore joined the BJP, discus thrower Krishna Poonia joined the Congress, and the last word has not been had on the possibility of Sourav Ganguly joining the fray. Politics is getting back some of its old sheen and a certain respectability. The war rooms of the Congress, the BJP and other parties are being filled by young professionals, several of whom have given up several months' salaries and sometimes even jobs. The process of appointing judges that is being debated now, the allegations against Justice A.K. Ganguly and the arrest of Tarun Tejpal added to the sense that it was not only neta-dom that needed fixing. The jailing of prominent figures, the naming of bureaucrats and corporate houses in controversies like the one on coal allocations suggest that the public mood is tilted towards greater scrutiny generally. It is not just a pursuit of those holding elected office. The Congress is still in the throes of a significant power shift within the the party. After much internal strife and talk of old guard-versus-the new, a fresh combination seems to be emerging, as part of a survival strategy. The arrogant stance of seeing power as "poison" seems to have faded. With a dawning respect for power as a responsibility and a duty, things seem to have improved, if only slightly. So 2013 has provided a very colourful and an already changed backdrop for 2014 â€” a threatened Congress, a BJP unsure of how to gather the spoils, a moody heartland, ascendant chief ministers of large states like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Odisha who are not part of any alliance but are set to win a large number of seats, a new party which now wants to stop being an outsider and operate within the system. The system itself, with new legislations, expectations, players, more than 725 million voters and a chance to choose "none of the above", is changing faster than you can say "elections". From here, 2014 can only get better. [email protected] Transitions, 2013 - Indian Express ****************************************************** An interesting analysis. How far is this analysis true to reality and how much is speculation and wishful thinking? There is no doubt that the political mooring of India has been cast adrift and rudderless. What will be the actual outcome in the elections of 2014? Will the Congress be humble d or witll they return triumphant? Will the BJP roar in or be scuttled to the post by the new kid in the neighbourhood, the AAP. AAP is hard at it to get a national image with freverish recruitment of voters across the country. Will they be able to muster the strength in those States to emerge as a national alternative backed by the Congress or will they peter off? What about the Third or the Fourth Front? What will be the fate of the Communists?