The fourth alternative

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by parijataka, Jan 6, 2014.

  1. parijataka

    parijataka Senior Member Senior Member

    Oct 15, 2011
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    The fourth alternative
    Meghnad Desai

    The political uncertainty surrounding the Indian economy took its toll through much of 2013. One hope was that when the state election results come out in December 2013, there would be some clarity about the election outcome during 2014. But with the fractured mandate in Delhi, there seems even more uncertainty now than was thinkable six months ago.

    Arvind Kejriwal has upset the apple cart. Principally, the Congress party paid the price of its incumbency and arrogance. What mattered was the door-to-door contact and listening to voters by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which the Congress has forgotten about for decades. The BJP is still a cadre party, thanks to RSS. Congress is just one family and chamchas.

    The AAP has transformed the possibilities in Indian politics. As a modern, member-based party, it has attracted support both at the bottom-end where the ignored masses are and the middle-classes which had contempt for the traditional political parties. The AAP is not caste- or religion-based. It does not have to worry about secularism even as its leaders visit temples. They are clean (thus far) and approachable.

    The spectre haunting the Congress is how to stop Modi from becoming PM. Rahul Gandhi has proved to be a dud. Sonia Gandhi’s health may not allow her to repeat the campaigns of 2004 and 2009. The Congress party has been desperately hoping for a third-party alternative which it could support from the outside. At first, Nitish Kumar was enticed with the come-hither smiles. He was told he could be PM in a multi-party coalition which the Congress would back. On that promise, he broke with the BJP.

    Now, the Congress has forsaken him and embraced Lalu Prasad Yadav who is extra-loyal and has nowhere else to go. Lalu’s conviction will not matter as he is anti-Modi and that is all that counts. Nitish has a past association with BJP and is far too independent to kowtow to you-know-who. In UP, it will be Mayawati for the Congress to woo as Mulayam has delved to new depths in his cynicism about the victims of Muzaffarnagar riots. The Congress party is unlikely to do well in Bihar or UP.

    But now, there is a whole new scenario. Suddenly, the anti-Modi forces are dreaming about Kejriwal being the Galahad to rescue the maiden of Congress-secularism. Hence, the outside support in Delhi and the enthusiastic endorsement of his achievement by Rahul Gandhi. The dream scenario is that the sixty-odd seats which Manmohan Singh brought to Congress in 2009 will now split three ways between the BJP, the Congress and the AAP. The BJP should have won 45 to 50 of them—now, it is an open question how many seats each party will get.

    The issue is whether the AAP is capable of being scaled up to be an all-India party. Let us draw some scenarios to assess the probabilities.
    Before the December results ,the Congress was expected to get 100-120 in 2014 and the BJP somewhere around 160-180. Secularists (and even some BJP members) were hoping that the BJP would not get enough to attract coalition partners with Modi at the head. This meant some chance for a third-party alternative comprising SP, BSP, TMC, DMK, JD(U), JD(S), etc, with Congress support from the outside.

    Now, we have a new player in town. It will be mainly an urban party to begin with. How will that change the arithmetic? The Congress will lose some more seats and will be lucky to get 80-90 seats. The AAP can, at the most generous estimate, get 50 seats which will make it the third-largest party. Such a result would be an earthquake, but since the AAP did just that in Delhi, we can take that scenario as plausible. The December results involved around 70 Lok Sabha seats, where the BJP won in a majority. So, even if the AAP takes 20 seats from the BJP, we still can peg the latter's haul at 190-220.

    Those in denial about a BJP-win in 2014 would need to project the AAP to come in with 100 seats for the arithmetic to get any better. But even so, not all the extra seats will be from the BJP. Many will be from the so-called third parties. Thus, the Congress plus the AAP plus some third parties may get 240 at the most. This assumes that the AAP will welcome the third parties whose politics is against its instincts. Will just stopping Modi mean that much to Kejriwal?

    There is no reason why the AAP should compromise its principles just to serve Congress’s desire to deny Modi. As a potential national player, it is most likely to replace Congress over the years. Its economics is populist, just like that of Congress, and it has Gandhian trimmings, thanks to Anna Hazare. It is in the AAP’s interests to wait till 2019 and win big. That is what it will most likely do.

    The BJP will form the government in 2014. There will be no third or fourth alternative.

    The author is a prominent economist and Labour peer.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2014
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