What does 2014 hold for us?

Last Updated: Sun, May 12, 2013 12:31 hrs

The idea of ‘early elections’ has been toyed with across the media for years now. Profiles have been prepared, guest lists made, and interviewees sought, as journalists prepared for the prospect. But it appears no party in India is ready for elections, leave alone early elections. If the Congress and BJP are to be believed, they don’t even know who their Prime Ministerial candidates are yet.

Last time round, the country voted for stability, keeping the Congress in power. However, the UPA-II regime’s rule reads like a list of scams – 2G, coal, Commonwealth Games, and IPL. With Coalgate having caused a spate of resignations now, right after the Congress screamed itself hoarse about corruption doing in the BJP in Karnataka, it appears unlikely that there will be a UPA-III.

Not only has the UPA-II helmed one of the most corrupt periods the country has seen, but it has also been almost dictatorial in terms of its policies. Inflation has spiralled, taxes have been imposed, and states have been disgruntled by the high-handed behaviour of the centre on multiple occasions.

Worse, it hasn’t been able to tighten laws that govern safety for women. Rapes and sexual assaults on children continue to dominate newspaper headlines, with little change in litigation.

Despite gunning for the dubious record of executing the most hangings of death row inmates in the shortest span of time, the Congress may have cancelled out that act by standing behind men who are alleged to have led the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 – Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler. While the BJP has, in the past, used the Hindutva tag to come to power, the NDA coalition has taken a moderate stance while actually in government.

The prospect of Modi as Prime Minister has been toyed with across the media and political circles. However, especially with the infighting in the BJP, one wonders whether the saffron party can project him as their Prime Ministerial candidate.

Of course, the recent handling of the anti-Sikh riots cases against members of the Congress forms a counterpoint to the Godhra riots. It doesn’t make much sense for Sonia Gandhi or anyone else to use the ‘maut ka saudagar’ or ‘yamraj’ tag after Sajjan Kumar was given a clean chit.

Besides, Modi’s efficiency in Gujarat can’t be taken as evidence of his ability to rule a country. He has never been a major player in national politics, and has never held any portfolio at the centre. Does he have it in him to unite the fractured wings of the BJP across states, and to force his way in states where the BJP and its allies are not in power?

His election to the post of Prime Minister would pose diplomatic challenges for several countries, including the US, which has twice denied him a visa to visit. At the moment, though, this elevation doesn’t seem likely.

A far more likely scenario would be a trussed-up coalition, hastily formed after negotiations. How long would such a government last, and how safe will we be under it? A put-together coalition will doesn’t have to think about the long-term impact of its decisions on any particular party. The personal interests of each party, and its key members, are likely to dominate.

Without a majority in Parliament, any change in policy, or Bill, would be difficult to push through. But, more worryingly, a collapse of the government itself could lead to a reshuffling that will not appeal to the public. We will continue to have no say in whom we would like as Prime Minister.

The last few years have been a bitter disappointment, with Manmohan Singh, who was responsible for the rejuvenation of the economy as Finance Minister, doing no justice to his position as Prime Minister. It is embarrassing for a country that prides itself on being the largest democracy in the world to be run out of drawing rooms, for the decisions that affect 1.2 billion people to be made by a woman who doesn’t hold a portfolio, and who didn’t even hold Indian citizenship until 1983.

We’re prepared for change, but can we vote in change without knowing what it will mean for us? Perhaps we would have had better options if our leaders hadn’t inherited their constituencies, if each party had a credible structure, where its leaders were groomed from the grassroots level, and inducted into national politics from student politics.

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