I have already discussed about the elections under a veil. Now, let me open the veil a bit and discuss the ABC of Indian Elections 2014. A is for AAP (Aam Aadmi Party), B is for BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and C is for the Congress or INC (Indian National Congress).
The Congress has a national following because it is identified with the country's independence movement. It is this identity that made the Congress to be the ruling party for about 50 year's in the nation's 67 years democracy. The Congress party of yore was thought to represent all kinds of views - the left, the right, the centre, the left of centre. the right of centre and so on and so forth. Over the years, the party's leadership got identified with a single family - the Nehru-Gandhi family (they have no relationship with Mahatma Gandhi) and its current President and Vice-President are Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi respectively. They have also been the leading party of an alliance that has been ruling for the last ten years that was marred with corruption. In the current election the Congress faces serious anti-incumbency on account of corruption and dynastic politics.
Taking advantage of this, the BJP and its allies have made a head start. They have announced Narendra Modi to be their Prime Ministerial candidate. This itself charged the adrenalin of many extreme right wing party cadre and supporters while for some others it brought back the memories of divide and misrule aligned with one of the worst communal violence of India that rocked Gujarat in 2002 only a few months after he was sworn in as its Chief Minister. Today, after being in charge of the state for more than 12 years, he is being championed as a poster boy of development whose report card by Arvind Panagariya drives the punters with one feet in the share-bazaar gong-ho, but independent analysis by Maitreesh Ghatak and Sanchari Roy show that the claims of development do not add up.
The BJP is not leaving any stones unturned and has set up pre-poll alliances, taken back into its fold people who were recently distanced on account of corruption and given tickets to candidates who are turncoats from the Congress and other parties. Thereby, making it obvious that it is NOT a party with a difference. What is more, BJP's campaigning has made use of Modi's persona to such an extent that many supporters are not keen to know who the party's candidate is from their constituency. This should be an important case study in marketing, but then the basis of representative democracy is made to stand on its head.
To bolster the case for representative democracy, to be a party with a difference, to question dynastic politics and to rake up the case for corruption is a recent entrant in India's democratic polity, the AAP. For many, this party is identified with another poster boy - Arvind Kejriwal who was the Chief Minister of Delhi for 49 days as a minority government. His sudden resignation from this has become a scoring point for the other parties and a sore point that its candidates have to answer the electorate. But then those interested in these answers should keep a watch on Varanasi where Kejriwal has pitted himself against Modi and it is dubbed as the mother of all battles for elections 2014.
While many opinion polls have dismissed AAP in the current elections, my lay guestimate is that they could reach at least 10 to 15 per cent of the popular vote share. Many of my friends and colleagues with whom I discuss may not agree, but let me explain the reasons that I have.
First, AAP is beyond Arvind Kejriwal. It is a conglomerate of views. There are people who are to the left, some other with views to the right and many others that are spread between the two. While this may look like cacophony to someone at one end of the spectrum but then this is what democratic polity is all about - reasonable pluralism. It gives space to deliberations for a wide spectrum of views. It is like the Congress of yore. Different political entities, including the BJP to a very limited extent, tried to take this space that Congress lost long back, but they have not been successful. This space is being taken over by AAP.
Second, being open to a conglomerate of views has allowed AAP to connect to different kinds of movements that various groups have been independently spearheading - anti-nuclear, crisis in agriculture, displacement, slum housing, and tribal rights among others. This may not lead to an outright increase in votes for AAP by all these disgruntled groups, but it cannot be ignored that there is a consolidation happening.
Third, some people would be interested in a candidate's capability to address issues that matter for the constituency. Many candidates of AAP have done this - they have made attempts to directly engage with their voters and this will be an important motivation for some to vote for these candidates.
Fourth, AAP is contesting in 434 constituencies that is spread across the country. Given the limited resources (time, people and money) they have spread themselves thin and if voters would not like to waste their vote then they may cast it in favour of an winning candidate. While such an impression creation is possible, but this does not cut much ice because most of the winning candidates could get less than half the vote share (say, around 35-40 per cent) indicating that more than half the voters still may not cast their votes for the winning candidate. In short, those who have decided to vote for AAP because of the first three reasons could still vote for them and this would be spread across the country and this will add to their vote share.
Fifth, because of efforts by the Election Commission of India, the Association for Democratic Reforms and Satyamev Jayate there has been an increase in people coming out to vote in this elections. If this increase is by people who did not want to vote because they were disillusioned by the system then it is quite likely that many of these first time voters may cast their preferences in favour of AAP.
It is possible that my guestimates are on the higher side and even it it is correct then it may not transfer into seats. But, if my guestimate is correct then the other parties may better watch out for AAP in the next elections. And, yes the next election could happen very soon if this election gives us a hung parliament, which seems more likely.
To sum up, AAP seems to be a party that gives space to multiple views and also one that makes a difference. The former makes it like the Congress and the latter makes it like what BJP would have perhaps wanted to be. It is in this sense that AAP is a B team of Congress and a C team of BJP.