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Elections not far off

By: K Parthasarathi
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The political analysts and psephologists are already busy writing about the prospects of an early general election in 2008.The temporary truce notwithstanding the wedge between the Left and Congress has widened much that it cannot be abridged. The Indo-US nuclear deal might be the proximate cause but differences between them are so marked that it is surprising they pulled along all these years since the formation of UPA.If the government had withstood the fall, it was more because of Congress willing to bend to the wishes of Left till recently. The moment Congress resisted and spoke of going ahead with the deal no matter what the Left felt about it, the Left bared its fangs. Congress again had to buy peace with it for a few months by agreeing to formation of a committee to examine their objections to the deal.

The differences are real and wide and transcends beyond the nuclear deal. Left would not want a closer political relationship with US in any form. In their eyes the deal is only a forerunner to a change in India’s foreign policy of non alignment to one of close alignment with US. The arguments that such a deal provides the nuclear fuel and technology to India in return only for separation of civilian and military nuclear programmes and acceptance of inspection by IAEA over civilian part did not cut much ice with the Left. It feels that US would have the power to influence the foreign policy of the country and restrict its options to take decisions independently. The pressure to vote against Iran in IAEA and the joint naval exercises are seen are seen in this light. The anti US posture of the Left is well known. It is the basic non negotiable tenet of the Left parties.

Given this scenario the committee is only a face saving device to delay the fall of the government to an opportune time that is convenient to both. Both Congress and Left are not ready for the polls immediately. The Left would like to withdraw support on an issue that the common man can relate himself easily. Nuclear deal is a distant and an incomprehensible issue for him. The Left without withdrawing support would make Congress look weak unable to do anything concrete forcing the Congress to order snap polls out of disgust.

The BJP while it may not be ideologically against the US deal would welcome the fall out of the rupture in relations between UPA and Left. BJP too is shy of facing the electorate immediately. It would like a thumping and convincing win in Gujarat elections to galvanize the party and the electorate in favour of NDA .It would relish the opposition of Muslims to a closer alliance with US and the consequent loss of appeal towards the Congress. BJP would like to capitalize on the recent repeated terrorist attacks and plead for a stringent act to curb the menace knowing well the disinclination of Congress for a POTA like act. They would need some issues to make use of. The repeated bungling in Quattrochi issue and the way presidential elections was gone about are bound to figure.

The BJP is friendless except for Akali Deal, the Janata Dal-United and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD). The Shiv Sena after the Presidential election is a doubtful ally. These parties are inadequate to form a formidable combine against UPA.It has to cast its net far and wide to lure the third front parties like ADMK,TDP and SP into some workable arrangement. BSP with its own big ambitions is not considered as a likely component.

Goaded by their common enmity towards Congress, the third front parties may have to come together with BJP if they wish to keep out the UPA.But then these parties have their own huge Muslim vote base and would not like to risk it by associating with what is considered a sectarian party.BJP should therefore make the crucial move that the Hindutva policies would not find place in the common minimum programme.RSS and other sister organizations should keep away from BJP as otherwise it would be a millstone around its neck.BJP should first close ranks within the party and present itself as an unified party without dissensions... The party should now itself decide upon a tall leader who will form the government in the event of it forming a government with its allies.

The Left parties would no doubt capitalize on the adverse effects of an Indo-US deal and how they prevented it from materializing.. They would also point out how the UPA has gone slow on many issues that affect the poor. The Left parties are in the lime light today. They can be expected to maintain their tally more or less at the same level notwithstanding the rumblings in Kerala. The more virulent the attack on Left by Congress the further it would push them away from it.

The Congress would have liked to win the people by trumpeting the Indo US deal as a great achievement if it had materialized. It would not like to be seen as loser if the deal failed to pass muster with the Left but would turn the failure to its advantage by painting the Left in bad light. It would go to town pointing out that the isolation of India in the international world and the inevitable slowing down of economic growth is due to the handiwork of Left and other opposition parties.

To blunt the accusation of pro US slant and to win the Muslim votes, the Congress has already started implementing the recommendations of Sachar Committee report The Congress may not be allowed the privilege of introducing a favorable pre election budget in February. The longer the lame duck government that is rendered powerless prolongs its credibility would get eroded further among the voters. It has to do something dramatic to keep its image high.

There is nothing that it can think of except bringing Rahul Gandhi into lime light by making him the general secretary and go on a publicity blitzkrieg across the country that he is the future leader. How far this will yield dividend is a matter of guess depending on which side you are. It is doubtful whether he can charm the voters in Assam, Bihar, Tamil nadu, Andhra and Haryana. He failed in UP.

More than all these, these parties should remember that the lot of the poor continues to be miserable. Nothing significant has been done for them to feel happy about in the areas of employment, health, education and removal of poverty. All talk of GDP growth, burgeoning forex reserves, our supremacy in IT industry and expansion in steel, auto and manufacturing industries mean little to them. They would like something tangible in their hands and not promises of a distant rainbow. It is these issues that opposition parties would talk about and not about the advantages of proximity to US. The increased terror attacks would also be an issue. The parties would be tempted to include in their manifestoes promises of utopia for aam admi.

Finally the issues in election would be only those that affect the voters like rise in prices, easy availability of essential things, unemployment, forced land acquisitions and displacements, lack of schools and hospitals and such things. The formation of strong pre-poll alliances with winnable parties alone holds the key for wresting power. The choice of winnable party for alliance is akin to betting on a horse.

K Parthasarathi

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