It has been a very interesting week. We did Friends of BJP events in Bangalore (Mar 21), Delhi (Mar 26) and Ahmedabad (Mar 28). I was there for all of the events. Travelling and interacting with different people gives a closer glimpse of the unfolding political scenario in India (which is fast-changing). All our events were extremely well-attended. The on-ground feedback and reading the media coverage leads me to the following conclusions about our forthcoming elections:
- The race is to reach 175 seats in the 543-member House. And there are three contenders: Congress, BJP and the so-called Third Front (a motley aggregation of regional parties). If any of them can get to that figure, then they have a good chance of forming a government at the Centre.
- Every small party has a desire to be part of the government – and will go to any efforts to make that happen! Whatever combination comes to power, we are in for a period of instability at the Centre. The dependence will be very high on smaller parties – any of whom could withdraw support at any time, and pull down the government (as happened during 1996-98).
- The main battle is still between the Congress and the BJP to emerge as the single largest party. No government will be possible at the Centre without one of them — unless as a combine they end up with less than half the Seats in the Lok Sabha.
- There is no national issue which means it will end up being a collection of multiple state verdicts. In an earlier era, anti-incumbency was almost a given but as some states have shown, good governance and a strong development focus can ensure an advantage for the incumbents. In short, the electorate is willing to recognise and reward good performance – which is a great change in Indian politics.
- I think there is a growing recognition that because of the uncertainty which is likely to emerge in the post-election scenario that we may end up with another election in 2 years. As a result, 2009 has become a testing ground for many ideas and theories – for example, the decision of the Congress to go solo at a national level in an effort to rebuild its base in the Hindi heartland (UP, Bihar, Jharkhand).
- The past two weeks have seen a shift: because the UPA has all but crumbled, the Congress is no longer the clear favourite. The BJP has not completely capitalised on this opening. And with more than two weeks to still go before the first votes are cast, there is a lot of excitement and drama still left! There is no better reality show than the political theatre that accompanies Indian Elections.
It is fascinating to watch what is happening. For a few of us at Friends of BJP, this is like a political internship. Even as we understand the reality of Indian politics, we are brainstorming on the role we in Middle India can play to transform and re-invent Indian politics and governance.