21 May 2014

An open letter from an ordinary citizen

The general elections have been concluded in India. It is a foregone conclusion that her next Prime Minister will be the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) Mr Narendra MODI. Much has been said and there are two broad possibilities that one foresees. The best-case scenario is the 'Making Of Democratic Institutions', an euphemism that I use for development, governance and all that the supporters are enthused about. As against this, the worst-case scenario is that it would 'Mar (nay, M...) Our Democracy Inevitably', an euphemism that I use for crony capitalism and divisiveness among others that many others fear. For both these scenarios, the acronyms match with the last name of our Prime Minister.

In this MODI vs MODI diatribe, the development vis-a-vis crony capitalism discussion will continue to remain a matter of interpretation and ideological moorings and the debate will be difficult to conclude. There will also be differences of opinion from withing the ruling party and its affiliates and one has to see which direction it takes. The so-called Gujarat-model or the trumpeted Kerala-model. Well, one has to take the best of both worlds and make Jagdish Bhagwati and Amartya Sen come to an agreement.

The contentious part will be juxtaposing governance and divisiveness. Ideally speaking, any polarization leading to divisiveness anywhere should be considered as a failure of governance. However, from a practical consideration it is possible that the government reaches out to a larger section while ignoring a smaller section. What is more, the principle of exclusion could be based on caste, class, gender, religion and other such identities. If these fears are addressed they will definitely not exorcise the ghosts of the past, but they will bode well for the country's future. Where will we head to? Only time will tell.

In reality, the actual path will be somewhere in between. Politically, if extreme adversities do not come in the way, the future looks like advantage BJP. It is hear that I am concerned as an ordinary citizen because for an effective democracy we need a credible and responsible opposition, which is missing. True, the drubbing of 2014 will lead to soul-searching by all parties, but it is difficult to know what would emerge.

The Congress still seems to have a proportion of population voting for them. Perhaps they identify them with the freedom movement or because of their loyalty to the family. However, if the party has to come-back then it has to go beyond these loyal voters and for that it needs to get out of dynastic politics and develop its grassroots organisation - a tall order indeed.

This is also true for the multitude of regional parties that have lost. They need to get back to their drawing board and re-invent themselves. Those who have withstood the change will end up supporting the ruling alliance because of the dynamics of centre-state relationships, but also because of their personal vested interests. 

Today, the only party that seems to be articulating against vested interest in word and deed is the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). But then some of their elected representatives from Delhi seem to have developed cold-feet with the prospect of loosing a fresh election and are clamouring for a fresh go at government-formation. If hastily resigning was a sign of immaturity then their trying to get back to power again when they do not have the strength and after the recent drubbing will be identified with opportunism. This is a catch-22 situation for them.

AAP may try their old style referendum to know what people in Delhi want, but even if people want they cannot form a government because either BJP or Congress has to agree to that arrangement. In any case, BJP fresh with a victory may now like to go for a fresh election and this time AAP will have a tough time.

Yes, AAP did increase its vote share in Delhi, but it has also lost some supporters and the BJP has increased its share by a larger proportion. Will AAP be able to get back those votes that moved away from it if there is a fresh election? Will it be able to add votes from those who did not vote for them or BJP? Will it be able to counter the new BJP campaign that will also have their government at the centre? Will it have resources and volunteers to campaign for it if there is a fresh election? 

At the national level, obtaining resources and volunteers will be essential for building up a strong organisational structure. Where are they going to get this from in the next five years? How does it plan to address vested interests within their organisational structure? Does it plan to build alliances or at least seat sharing or not putting up candidates if another party seems to have a reasonable candidate who may have disagreements with them but subscribes to some people-centric principles and is not corrupt?

What are the plans that they have for the four constituencies that they have won in Punjab. In principle they are against use of MP and MLA funds. This will be an ideal set-up if the government is also theirs. However, with the conventional governance structure it would be better if the candidates for these four constituencies use the funds in a meaningful way. 

As an outside lay citizen, the advantage of AAP is that it has taken into its fold people with different views and ideologies. This would give space for internal deliberations and space for multiple views. This itself makes it like the Congress party of yore and it should take advantage of this.

Idealism is good and people respect AAP for that. However, practical considerations are also important. For instance, emphasis need not be on legislation always and that too when one does not have a majority, but rather focusing on governance and achieving many other things that could be possible without legislation.

To sum up, the future seems to be advantage BJP. Congress and the multitude of regional satraps need soul-searching. AAP that once provided hope and aspirations to some will have a lot of questions to answer. It is a churning between the Congress, the regional satraps and AAP that could perhaps give a reasonable opposition. Let us wait and see.

My other recent election related musings are:

No comments:

Post a Comment