By Lalit Sethi
The call by a BJP leader to party cadres to get ready for mid-term elections has not even been endorsed by his party men as they do not appear to take it seriously. The principal reason for this is that the saffron party does not expect any improvement in its strength in the Lok Sabha from 120 plus seats. Just because other BJP leaders see that the Congress is a house divided and that there has been a debate over differences between two senior Ministers over the second generation or 2G scam does not cover up the deep in-fighting going on within the BJP itself, with a meaningless debate over who should be its future Prime Ministerial candidate. First, the BJP has to be sure that it could oust the Government or topple it in a censure motion, then talk of a mid-term election. The toppling games are nowhere in sight, with no party, not even the BJP serious about it. Thus the talk of an election is frivolous, if not ridiculous.
Even if many people throw their hat in the ring, each one is promptly disowned by the rest of the leadership and forced to announce that he is not a contender for the top slot, for the simple reason that the office of the Prime Minister is a vision in the dreamland, nothing else. When Narendra Modi went on a three-day fast in Gujarat last month, he promptly drew many detractors from within the party, especially Delhi and the RSS. When Mr. L.K.Advani announced his yatra from Gaya and persuaded the Chief Minister of Bihar, Mr. Nitish Kumar, to launch it, he was promptly summoned to Nagpur to announce that he was not projecting himself as a future Prime Minister and give this assurance to the party chief, Nitin Gadkari, as well as the RSS boss, Mr. Mohan Bhagwat that he was not in the picture.
Now even the yatra is doubtful as the starting point in Gaya is flooded. Mr. Advani may be forced to change the venue or drop the idea. The grand idea: war on corruption. That has drawn the heckles of the former Karnataka Chief Minister, Mr.Yeddyurappa, who was told that he could not be allowed to come on the dais when Mr. Advani reached Bengaluru and addressed a public meeting there since he was considered tainted over the loot of iron ore and had to resign from office recently. Yeddy thought he was one step ahead of the BJP State chief when he announced a yatra of his own. That creates a somewhat ridiculous situation.
At the national level, the Congress and the United Progressive Alliance may not be a picture of unity and may be facing many problems, but it sees no threat yet to its survival. Why is this so? Because who will rock the boat at the Centre? Who is prepared for a mid-term election? The regional parties, nearly all of them, have their own political and local issues to address and have no time to engage in an exercise of futility, which could sap their resources and the energies of their cadres.
In U.P., Ms. Mayawati and Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav are preparing for elections to the Assembly next year, in a few months. Both tacitly support the UPA at the Centre and give it the voting strength of 325. Ms. Mamta Bannerjee has just won the Assembly election in West Bengal and is part of the UPA. Does she have the time to waste on mid-term elections? Half a dozen of her party men are Ministers at the Centre and this gives her clout. Do Nitish Kumar in Bihar and Naveen Patnaik in Odisha as well as Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu have the time to spare to engage in toppling the Government at the Centre?
The DMK led by Karunanidhi remains a part of the UPA and continues to enjoy power in Delhi despite losing elections in Tamil Nadu and office as well as being in the dog house? Two of Karunanidhi’s leaders, including his daughter, may be in Tihar and facing trial in a Delhi court for the 2G spectrum sales, but that has not changed or affected his perceptions, with the result that he has not broken ties with the Congress because being a partner of the ruling dispensation in Delhi brings a great number of benefits and considerable political influence. Who would like to throw them away?
The Government may have faced much trouble from the Anna Hazare camp over the issue of corruption and the Lokpal Bill, but that question is being apparently adroitly managed. At the worst Anna Hazare has announced that he will in future support independent candidates who appear to be honest as part of his demand of right to reject all candidates on a ballot paper. That means he would like to get some candidates of Team Anna like Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi and some others elected to Parliament and legislatures, but most of them would be spoilsport to all political parties by splitting votes and perhaps giving the benefit to a dark horse here and there. Anna Hazare may be media savvy already and may be taking up a Bharat Yatra of his own, but his team is focused on getting the Lokpal Bill passed by Parliament as early as possible. That may be easier said than done.
A new controversy over the poverty line has risen with the Planning Commission and its Deputy Chairman, Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, coming in for much sarcastic comment over the presentation of a paper that says that people who can afford to spend Rs. 32 on food and clothing in a day in towns and Rs. 26 in a village are not poor. Social activists have asked him and his fellow planners to themselves try and live on Rs. 32 a day or draw a remuneration of not more than that. While Mr. Ahluwalia is sticking to his guns and not revising the rupee element in his new affidavit to the Supreme Court, the whole exercise is divorced from ground realities and has attracted the attention of the chattering classes. Does this question embarrass the government in any way? There is no comment, but whenever it comes up in Parliament or some other forum, it may be sought to be pushed under the rug or just brushed aside with a promise that it would not impact official policies Some people have even said that Anna Hazare’s popularity could be ascribed to his ideas being utopian and it is for that reason that he has been a fairly big draw. He received much attention because of the well choreographed protest in Delhi, especially Ramlila Ground. Where else could he have drawn the crowds, except in the National Capital. (NPA)