They say Muslims and Dalits have suddenly turned away from the Bharatiya Janata Party and Narendra Modi, en masse. They say the polls are all wrong and distorted. They say the numbers do not ‘cut’ in favour of either national party. They say a new kind of camera shows more people than there are at a rally. They say a dark horse will emerge to rule a beleaguered India. We say the imagination and oral tradition, story-telling and the creation of myths and legends, are all alive and kicking. Anything can happen and it is anyone’s guess what the ballot boxes would reveal. The only reality is a palpable, deep-seated anger with the United Progressive Alliance for having let down an India that was rising. The view is that the BJP will get 220 seats or thereabouts and the Congress will be somewhere in the 90s. Then the horse-trading will happen and parties will come together to form unworkable coalitions. However, if the BJP reaches a figure of 250, the National Democratic Alliance would be strengthened with regional parties extending outside support to the dispensation.
Ideally, India needs two national parties to compete for power in Delhi as well as effective regional leaders who would make the states productive and competitive. This can only happen when politics matures and committed leaders walk the talk. India needs to study the possible need for an alteration in the ‘type’ of democratic electoral politics. A move from the ‘first to the post’ system to proportional representation can be explored. Large voteshares fail to get converted into seats and a strong support base often gets diluted, thereby presenting a strange reality of ‘victory’ in spite of near even percentages of the two major contenders.
Restructuring across the board, ranging from laws, legislations, political processes, administrative overhauls to the op erating systems that deliver transparent governance, is the first and crucial priority for any government that takes charge in May 2014 if India is to crawl out of the quagmire it has been forced into. However, all of this will have to be done within the parameters of a democratic infrastructure that is directed and operated with the requisite forcefulness that brings about efficient, accountable and time-bound delivery of services.
It is always disappointing when the percentage and weight of the support for the major parties remain imbalanced. This necessitates the institutionalization of checks and balances that foster a culture of consensus by encouraging diversity of opinion and judgments. That is the true hallmark of governance. Overwhelming ‘leads’ in election results invariably nurture dictatorial, majoritarian stances and suppress the view of the numerical minority. This kind of ‘rule’ is an anathema to the human spirit. Sooner than later, the demand for ‘liberation’ begins to grow louder by the day till it reaches a crescendo that shatters the glass ceiling of authoritarianism. History has shown how the middle-classes always opted for short-term alternatives and supported authoritarian leaders. The process to disengage from that type of leadership when it starts becoming repressive is painful and infused with fear of the authority.
Watching Priyanka Gandhi in the fray proved to be a refreshing experience in a predictable, interminably long, and dull election season. She was combative, charismatic and confident. If only Priyanka had walked the talk for the Congress two years ago and if the party had forced the hand of its government in Delhi to do what needed to be done desperately, India would have had two major political platforms to choose from and vote for.