General Election 2019
By Poonam I Kaushish
As India’s greatest nautanki enters its last three phases of polling we will have stood witness to 900 million including 15 million new voters in the 18-19 age group deciding the fate of 543 Lok Sabha MPs between the BJP, Congress and the regional satraps. A toss between big leaders, small netas and two-timing jan sevaks and with bagful of promises. All in their reckless quest for power, amplified by the silly chair called India’s Raj Gaddi!
Amidst the poll cacophony various ticket seekers are hedging their bets in the hope of being declared a candidate. Those who lose are busy shopping in other Parties and shifting loyalties wherein politics today resembles a revolving door. One doesn’t know who is in and who is out. Who’s jumping into which bed, eloping with whom, tying the nuptial knot and divorcing whom.
Who is entering which door and cutting which deals — sideways and under. Who is cutting corners or double-crossing whom? Juxtaposed against this ever-changing kaleidoscope is the quest of Parties for miracle men. All means favoured. Age, caste, religion, sex no bar. So long as they can deliver power out of nothing.
Undoubtedly, Parties prefer a smart and useful defector to a dubious loyalist. Topped by a virtual stock exchange for “parachuted winnable and chamcha” politicians based on ground reports. Think. Over 50 leaders across the political spectrum including 9 sitting MPs and 39 MLAs switched loyalties. While three MPs and 10 MLAs parachuted to the BJP, three MPs and two MLA preferred the Congress. The Grand Dame lost two MPs and 21 MLAs and BJP 5 MPs and 12 MLAs to the cycle of defections.
Of 22 MLAs who left Congress 8 joined BJP while one MP each of BSP and Samajwadi in UP joined the Congress and one MP each of BSP-SP and four BSP MLAs shifted to the BJP. All glibly asserting “There is no internal democracy, it was stifling.”And all hoping for tickets which their new mai baaps readily obliged.
In UP alone which accounts for 80 Lok Sabha seats, 28 leaders from different Opposition parties including SP, RLD and Congress have joined the BJP over the last two months. Fifteen people who have defected to the BJP are from the BSP, including 11 who have contested on its symbol in state and general elections.
In Bihar, erstwhile BJP leader and now Congress’s Shatrughan Sinha is pitted against Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad from Patna. Ditto former cricketer Kirti Azad and two Dalit leaders who walked out of the Saffron Sangh on being denied tickets to the Grand Dame on the grounds the Party was anti-Dalit. In Andhra two TDP MPs and one MLA defected to Jagan’s YSR and another to Rao’s TRS.
Shocking was the exit of Sonia key aide and Congress Secretary Tom Vadikkam to the BJP as also ex NCP Maharashtra Minister Vikhe Patil along-with two MLAs in Gujarat. Mamata’s Trinamool lost two MPs and one MLA to the BJP in West Bengal and Patnaik’s BJD one MP in Orissa. In Haryana three Congress rebels and one from the INLD have joined the Hindutva Brigade.
In a milieu where elections are won by Parties and its leader rather than individuals, the candidate is judged, defeated or elected on whether he has the right caste, communal, class and criminal credentials. Win-ability not acceptance holds the key. All want the Taj or to be Kingmaker. Whatever the means: Kaam, Dham, Thand, Bhad.
Bluntly, ‘win-ability’ is an indirect admission of grassroots politics whereby Parties don’t really win on the basis of their ideals and principles but by putting their brand name on those who they think are likely to win, while keeping their trademark alive with tall talk and big spending.
However, what is worrisome is that burning national issues like poverty, rising unemployment, financial morass and farmers distress have taken a back seat to stitching the right alliance. Sadly, nobody is talking about their vision and plans to propel the country forward. Neither are they worried about selecting the right candidates on the basis of their character, integrity, honesty et al.
The BJP quotes a verse from Vikram Seth’s Suitable Boy — “Phir Ek Bar Chowkidar Modi Sarkar” and bombards the Net with NaMospeak. The Congress President Rahul Gandhi busily hums “Ab Hoga NYAY! The nascent ‘Mahagadhbandhan in UP Mayawati’s BSP and Akhilesh Samajwadi prefers playing gulli danda with everything and anything it can lay its hand on — Parties, polity and policy. All practicing individuals’ meanness for public good.
True, it is still too early to predict the outcome but incumbent BJP’s Modi is riding high on nationalism to emerge victorious in the hope that his rivals will play second fiddle to their State allies. For the BJP it will not be NaMo alone but the performance of the Party in States ruled by it alongside NDA allies JD(U), Akali Dal, Shiv Sena, LJP, AIDMK and other small outfits.
Ditto, the Congress. How it fares in Andhra, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Bihar, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu will be decided by the UPA’s States CEOs. As it stands Mamata, Mayawati, TDP’s Naidu and NCP’s Pawar have made plain their Prime Ministerial ambitions at best or kingmakers at worse. But it all hinges on how well they perform. After all, if Gowda and Gujral could become Prime Ministers with their Janata Dal strength of 44 and 27 MPs respectively (neither enjoying a popular mandate), why can’t they? Yet one cannot discount a free-for-all.
Sadly with changing fidelity voting has been relegated to only choosing the lesser evil. Not about getting the right man for the right job like in other walks of life, education, employment, scholarship etc. Nothing objectionable. But when it comes to alignments, there is a chasm between ideologies and objectives with everyone busy scrambling for pelf and familial aggrandizement and Parties to increase their political firepower.
What next? Can we merely shrug our shoulders and dismiss it as political kalyug? No. True, numbers will decide who sits on Delhi’s gaddi. At the same time, all Parties should quickly rethink their priorities and desist from elastic loyalties and destructive mindlessness electioneering.
In sum, six weeks is a long time in politics and 42 days in election-mode an eternity. The pendulum will swing from one end to the other, evaluating the fluctuating stock of the candidates depending on their stock preferences. Clearly, an unpredictable poll turf lies ahead. If they are real Desh Bhakts as they profess to be, they should remember this adage: Nothing costs a nation more than a cheap politician. Jai Ho! — INFA