India is gearing up for its forthcoming general election and the political players are on overdrive to influence the electorate. Prime ministerial candidate and Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi’s sponsored page ceaselessly appears on the sidebar of my Facebook page, though my attention was recently diverted by everybody else’s, including my own, Facebook movie.
It does feel great to star in a film. There is no guarantee, however, that every Modi ‘Like’ will translate into a click on the EVM (electronic voting machine) button for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
India is too vast and diverse for a sponsored FB page or millions of Twitter followers to have significant bearing in an election. Without doubt Modi considers zealous social media users to be a core constituency. Given nature of India’s first past the post (FPTP) ballot, Modi knows too well the slightest swing in his favor could make the difference between victory and defeat.
Beyond the virtual world, opinion-poll favorite Modi has been traversing the country addressing massive rallies, appealing to students, chai wallas, dalits, backward castes, upper castes, and north easterners. This proves that the real pulse of the nation lies in streets, alleys and by-lanes, not inside TV studios with simultaneously speaking guests as Arnab Goswami would like us to believe.
After years of aloofness from everybody except a select few insiders, Rahul Gandhi allowed himself to be interviewed on TV for the country to figure out the real him. Maybe he should have chosen to remain an enigma. The interaction with Arnab reaffirmed beliefs the Gandhi scion desperately needs to move out of introspection and into performance mode. After all, people voted for the Congress party to change their lives for the better, not for Gandhi to discover truth.
Rahul tried to enlighten us about his profound thoughts – changing the system, empowering women, rooting out corruption. Is this supposed to be complicated or what?
The newspapers are splashed with half-page posters of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi (both smiling for a change) claiming successful social welfare schemes, the efficacy of which cannot be simply determined. The only certainty is a depleting exchequer.
India’s growth rates, meanwhile, have dipped to levels that can only mean a downhill trajectory for most and failure of policy. Beyond Congress and BJP, others too fancy their chances to rule the Delhi durbar or at least call the shots like Left parties did between 2004 and 2009.
Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aami Party (AAP’s) is sadly turning out to be the Poonam Pandey of Indian politics, looking to dominate news headlines by hook or by crook with allegations, dharnas, bombastic statements.
Running a government is not about making headlines. In cricket parlance Kejriwal and his core group want to hit a six with every ball. Virendra Sehwag tried for a while and has been dropped for good.
To keep up the tempo, party minister Somnath Bharti entered homes of women at night accusing them of being prostitutes. Gauging recent developments, AAP has been looking for excuses to vote itself out of power. And succeeded.
Kejriwal has resigned over the Jan Lokpal Bill, perhaps fancying his chances as a future PM of India. The people of Delhi have reason to feel betrayed. If the emergence of AAP dented BJP’s performance in the Delhi elections, their desperate shenanigans could benefit Modi in general elections.
Away from the din of national media, the three queen bees of Indian politics, Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati and Jayalalithaa, street smart, power hungry and ruthless, can never be pushovers.
As Atal Behari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh found out, these ladies can bring any government to its knees to have their way. And given nature of coalition politics, each one also fancies their chance for a top job this year, instead of just being the power behind the throne.
I do feel sorry for Nitish Kumar though. He is a good man who seems to have played his cards wrong. Nitish has unfortunately sidelined himself while his intention was to trip up Modi. Thankfully, DMK, political party cum corrupt business enterprise, looks to be staring at defeat.