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Political realignments and machinations in the run up to 2014 elections

January 11, 2014

It is like setting the chess pieces to ones liking before a match. But then in politics such liberties are what political parties and personalities reckon they can get away with. What they fail to realize is that the man on the street is watching their every move. Be as it may, there is a frenetic political activity and I must say for those who are keen watchers of politics these are very interesting times. The road to Delhi is not an easy one. The ones who have captured Delhi believe they can get to the ultimate throne. Those occupying the throne believe that by refurbishing their scion’s image they can retain it. And for those who have done remarkably well and won all of four states believe that their prime ministerial candidate will get them to the throne. With a wilting Samajwad the Queen from Dravida fancies her chances and decides to fight the Lok Sabha elections though she heads the state. Cousins from Maharashtra fight it out to be the one to align with the party that they reckon will beat everyone to reach Delhi. If only to put a spanner in their plans and perhaps to arm twist the Grand Other Dame the younger firebrand cousin of the scion of the Sena questions the Dame’s prime ministerial candidate. Everyone is meeting everyone else and everyone else is scampering around to ensure a Lutyen’s Bungalow. It’s a mad race and for most it is a mad race to nowhere.

The bull in the China Shop is an upstart that has turned everything on its head. All and sundry are trying to hop on to their bandwagon. They have little idea what this fledgling Frankenstein stands for. What they know is that this is one party that came a close second in the Delhi elections and is now in government there. Technocrats and businesswomen are joining the party and all and sundry seem to know what they are doing. They have opened offices in most of the politically important states. They say they will fight more than 200 seats in the coming Lok Sabha elections. I believe that they may end up fighting more than 400 seats. They believe that the national mood is in their favour. That could well be true. But Lok Sabha elections are a different cup of tea. I am talking about the Aam Aadmi Party.

The brazenness of the AAP is what is most astounding.  That they have an unparalleled hold over the media is clear to everyone. Even the party in power, the Indian National Congress is finding it hard to check the media blitzkrieg that has been unleashed by the AAP. TV anchor, Ashutosh kicking his job and joining the AAP came as no surprise. One of their leaders, a Hindi poet and a teacher by profession Kumar Vishwas has declared that he will fight Rahul Gandhi in the Lok Sabha elections from Amethi. Their chutzpah amazing, their audacity unlike anything anyone has seen in a long, long time. The media is playing them up and there is a euphoric air in the AAP ranks. It helps when personalities like Balakrishnan of Infosys, Meera Sanyal of Royal Scottish Bank, Sameer Nair of Star TV, Captain Gopinath and Remo Fernandez decide to join their ranks. Mallika Sarabhai and Medha Patekar  joining AAP is no great news as their political leanings are well known.

RSS has declared that BJP will ignore the rise of the AAP at its own peril. At least one Congress leader has joined AAP – Alka Lamba. Others might follow. People like Mani Shankar Aiyer have publicly offered the AAP help in its quest to forming mohalla sabhas and local bodies. That they have national ambitions was clear when Prashant Bhushan went to Thiruvananthapuram and met Achyutanandan and then to Chennai and met with Uday Kumar who has been protesting against the Kudankulam nuclear plant.

Clearly, the party in power, the Indian National Congress is not in the best of shapes. Rahul Gandhi paraded all his chief ministers barring one just to announce that they will pass the Lokpal Bill and will try and bring down prices of essentials. It was more of self reassurance than a public display of strength. But it was a comical sight to see all the chief ministers trooping in and then filing out without uttering a word. The other big Congress push is a whopping Rs 30,000 cr investment plan in Congress ruled states including Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka. The message is that if the people vote for Congress they will be rewarded and if they don’t they will be the sufferers.

Congress realizes that for them the best bet is to have elections at the last minute. They want to give AAP a chance to perform. They know that the tall promises made by the AAP are difficult if not impossible to fulfil. They can then point out the lacunae. They also want to have time to implement some of the developmental projects that they have envisaged. Congress knows that they are on a sticky wicket. The media has been hijacked by the AAP. They also know that holding the elections at the last minute will give AAP time to consolidate and build in other states. Therein lie their dilemma. Their desperation can be gauged from the fact that Priyanka Gandhi had been invited to a meeting of top party functionaries.

For the BJP, the Narendra Modi factor is their trump card and they are playing it to the hilt. Courts have given the man a clean chit and that has come as a great boost to the party. BJP is still targeting the Congress and they reckon that their fight is with the Grand Old Party, which is true. But Narendra Modi speeches are interspersed with anecdotes of his humble moorings clearly to underscore his claim as a man from a modest family – an aam admi!

BJP is not relying solely on the charisma of Narendra Modi. They have persuaded BS Yeddyurappa to come back to the fold. He is supposed to be fighting from Shimoga. A Cabinet berth will be his for the asking if BJP forms the government. Chandrababu Naidu will be back in the NDA after a long hiatus. Viako too will be a part of the NDA again after Jayalalitha spurned their overtures. Jaya is banking on a Third Front forming a government and with a waning Samajwadi Party her chances become that much brighter. BJP has hitched their wagon to Shiv Sena which has irked Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and its supremo Raj Thackrey no ends. Modi and Raj had good personal equation but political compulsions made them part ways.

Congress too is looking for allies. Lalu Yadav will be their ally in Bihar and his bail means that the man can be politically active again. They may coax Telangana Rashtriya Samiti to join hands with them. TRS may want to join post elections, keeping their options open. Sharad Pawar has been edging closer to the NDA but may stick with Congress. Pawar is known to keep close to the party in power. He is a keen analyst of political situation and it will be interesting to watch where he decides to bat from.

BJP and Narendra Modi are looking for support from wherever they can find. It came as no surprise when they were guests of honour at the Patanjali Yogpeeth function. Baba Ramdev has a substantial following, besides their ideologies are similar. Kiran Bedi endorsing Narendra Modi was an unexpected gift for the BJP. BJP is also trying to rope in Saurav Ganguly to fight from Bengal and take the BJP forward there. If Dada decides to take up the challenge BJP will be in reckoning in Bengal. Virender Sehwag and General VK Singh will fight from Haryana on a BJP ticket if the grapevine has got it right.

It’s a mad house, the run up to the elections of 2014. Posturing, alignments, political deals and deals within deal – there is everything and more. Somewhere along the line slapping of cases against anti-Modi brigade of Teesta Setalvad and her husband and friends is lost in the din of the elections that are due. But then these are small addendums to a battle that will decide the future of the nation that is India.

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