By Sushil Kutty
Those who say Modi and Shah failed big-time in post-poll machinations in Karnataka wait! Post-government formation, trouble is dogging the ruling Congress-Janata Dal (S) alliance. The slip is showing. The ladders on the Congress-JD (S) stockings are unravelling. Like silk usually does under stress.
Post-poll alliances are difficult to sustain. At stake are spoils of victory – ministerial slots and portfolios. Nearly every Janata Dal (S) and Congress legislator is ‘More or Less Aggrieved (MLA)’. The disgruntled are increasing. Some reports say ruling alliance MLAs are in touch with the BJP.
Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy is acutely aware that there is room for realignment. Leader of Opposition BS Yeddyurappa more so than HDK. The Congress walked away with heavyweight portfolios and Deputy CM Parameswara is acting like he is God! That has left ex-CM Siddaramaiah, who tore apart a religion and created one new, a mere mortal.
Frequent, even if spaced out, elections are the bane of democracy. That said recent victories in bypolls have buoyed the opposition grand alliance. Will the alliance last into 2019? For that the Congress will have to give and take. That’s where the rub lies. Left-liberal media still bet on the Congress. But most of the grand old party’s vote-bank in key poll-states like Uttar Pradesh has migrated to the regional parties of several states.
Nonetheless, there is hope that Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav will sew up Uttar Pradesh for the grand alliance with or without the Congress. And Mamata Didi’s “state-by-state; one-on-one elections” formula will leave the BJP in doldrums.
But despite the hand-holding and eye-contact on stage between Maya, Mamata and Sonia Gandhi, Narendra Modi continues to top surveys on who will make the ‘Best-Next-PM!’ The problem is the grand opposition alliance has not one single consensus PM-figure in its ranks.
Rahul Gandhi has staked claim. But will Mayawati allow him? Doesn’t Mamata Banerjee eye the post? How about Sharad Pawar, he’s suddenly surfaced from the deep? Maybe, old-horse Devegowda has the hankering? A case of once-bitten, twice game! Then, there’s Citizen Pranab Mukherjee, still carrying the PM-dream.
No decision on ‘PM’ may affect pre-poll alliance formation and lead to bad blood post-poll. Karnataka is an indicator. It might even be that many a voter will think twice before casting the vote. PM Modi will go into the elections with a record to show. People may yet prefer a start-up to waiting for an upstart to be announced post-poll.
That being said the BJP too is not sure. The 17th Lok Sabha might not give it the majority the 16th Lok Sabha conferred. And miracle 73/80 in Uttar Pradesh may not be repeated. Modi and Shah erred in making a mahant CM. The Yogi made enemies of even gangsters and petty pickpockets! Also, lower rung police and bureaucrats on a tight leash are not happy with the discipline.
Simply put, it is not just opposition political parties that have ganged up. A whole lot of others too are coalescing. Also, in the decades-old fight between Mandal and Masjid, the temple is losing ground. Unless the BJP gets a court order to break ground for a Ram Temple in Ayodhya before 2019, polarizing to consolidate the Hindu-vote will not happen.
Rajasthan is a lost fort. The rundown citadels of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are weighed down by debris of anti-incumbency. Modi and Shah face tough battles ahead. In a one-on-one the BJP might lose more than face.
That is unless Ujwala and Jan Dhan Yojana (JDY) delivered to the common man what Modi and Shah say they did – gas connections and money in JDY. Have Start-Up India and Skills India done what Modi keeps saying they did – created jobs, improved lives and lifted people out of poverty? If not all, enough to vote for an encore!
Have most if not all villages been electrified? Have the lakhs of toilets constructed made people squat and think in favour of Modi? Have people gotten over the adverse impacts of demonetization and GST? Do people have the brains to understand that some of the decisions that Modi took need time to make an impact? Do they realize that ‘Achche Din’ was a two or more term slogan, not for the one that is coming to a close in 2019?
Young voters, who are the majority, have grown up on 20/20 fare but lack 20/20 vision. They live for the here and now. Some of them are successful start-ups. The majority are upstarts, victims of entrenched government and private sector education scams. They lack the skills that go with specific jobs.
And too many of the adults are status quo-ists – swamp creatures mired in daily small-ticket corruption. They break rules and then go temple-hopping, take Ganga-dips. In lawlessness they thrive. They hate to stand in line but will drop dead in queues for cash.
If India is near rock-bottom on the happiness-index, it’s not because of the left or the right but because the average Indian doesn’t use his head. All the talk that the Indian electorate is wise and aware is bunkum – propaganda he doesn’t see through.
For all that the BJP might still emerge the single-largest party in 2019. But it could be post-poll Karnataka-like – hung from the Lok Sabha rafters. Kingmakers will get into a huddle. Moneybags will make phone calls. Bets will be made. But all bets will be off! A coalition government of the sort Devegowda-led will be drummed up. If only to ensure that it falls.
Then, there will be fresh rounds of permutations and combinations. Talent like Rajiv Shukla and Chandrababu Naidu will do sums. The next season of IPL might get postponed. But who cares so long as democracy of the sort Pranab Mukherjee swears by keeps India tied to elections and more elections.
Post-poll 2019 democracy will pale. Maybe, it’s time a tough-as-nails authoritarian dons the India colours. For at least one game and match-point! (IPA Service)