Everyone and their grandmothers know that the next battle in Indian politics will be between Nardenda Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat and Rahul Gandhi, the scion-in-waiting, and currently the vice president of the Indian National Congress. And as a corollary to Rahul’s candidacy, maybe Shashi Tharoor can grunt his way into contention.
While we may be gripped by the winds of the election season here in Pakistan — especially with the return of Musharraf and Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan march — our neighbors next door are readying themselves for their bi-decade earthquake.
Scores of pundits have voiced opinions on the upcoming elections in 2014 , and their analysis seems to bunched up into some variant of the following:
1. It’s the INC, stupid! – The Nehru-Gandhi legacy in Indian politics is one of the longest serving political dynasties in South Asian politics, and there’s no reason for it to end now. 2019 will mark a century since Motilal Gandhi first became the President of the Congress Party. Current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wasn’t chosen by Indira Gandhi on the basis of his intellectual prowess but as a placeholder for Rahul Gandhi. And now that Rahul Gandhi has come of age, he’s ready to step into his ready-made political-heir-in-chief suit. His meekness, however, may lead to the following corollary:
2. Sashi the technocrat – Because Rahul has expressed reservations for assuming the highest political office, many have looked to Shashi Tharoor for salvation. He’s easily the most qualified person for the job, with a resume that runs for pages: a Phd from Tufts at the tender age of 23, executive assistant to Kofi Annan, author of several books, runner up as Secretary General of the UN, and incumbency as member of the of parliament alongside a cabinet level position as the Minister of State for Human Resource Development. The educated and professional class swoon over his name, and even see him as a replica of – brace yourselves for this one, and maybe even chuckle at the thought — Jawaharlal Nehru.
3. Gujarat elections – The recent Gujarat elections illustrated that the Baharitiya Janta Party (BJP) is a force to be reckoned with. The BJP won 115 of the 182 seats in the state’s assembly, thereby stamping legitimacy to Modi’s nationalist platform. Coming in a distant second was the Indian National Congress with a slender holding of 61 seats.
4. Modi’s speech – Modi is considered to challenge the Prime Ministerial position following the legislative elections. An overt sign of this came following the Gujarat election this past December. After BJP claimed victory, he delivered a biting speech and it just so happened to be the case that it was in Hindi. Modi is fluent in Gujarati, addressed a predominantly Gujarati audience, yet nonetheless delivered the speech in Hindi, a clear signal of his ambition beyond the role of Chief Minister.
5. Gujarat’s growth – Manmohan Singh was selected by Indira Gandhi on the basis of his economic plans, and as irony may have it, he may go down as the worst gatekeeper of India’s economy. Gujarat is a different case, however. Between the years 2001 and 2010, Gujarat’s economy grew at an average of 10 percent each year. Contrast this with the latest nation-wide economic projections for next year, which state that India is predicted to grow slower than it has in the past ten years. Gujarat is also favorable to small-businesses where a recent study showed that almost 13 percent of all private sector investments are scheduled to be established in Gujarat.
6. The Bengali Effect — The argument here seems to be that like the Awami League in Bangladesh, INC is using it’s bully pulpit to limit the influence of opposition parties. In Bangladesh, one of the readings from the recent trial of Jamaat leaders is hinged on the same assumption: the Awami League set up a tribunal whose conclusions violated the ethics of international norms of trial in order to squelch the main opposition party, the Jamaat i-Islami
Likewise, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde remarked that reports indicate the involvement of BJP in “promoting Hindu terrorism.” While it may be true, the accusation came at the heels of the Gujarat election, where BJP secured a commanding win. In other words, the BJP is very much like a Rorschach test, the experiment in psychology where a person is asked to discern what a series of inkblots may mean.
Everyone is shown the same series, but they all project a different meaning on to the picture. Some see the BJP as promoters of terror, while others see it as a qualified protectors of India’s gradually declining economy. India’s elections in 2014 may be just as fiercely contested as the one’s here in Pakistan. With daggers drawn on both sides, it’s likely to produce fireworks in the coming months.