Mainstream, VOL LII, No 20, May 10, 2014
Political Crystal Ball-gazing or Whither 16th Parliament?
Monday 12 May 2014, by
When I proposed writing this piece even before polling for the 16th Parliament is concluded, a friend asked if it would not be wiser to await the outcome on May 16, 2014. Perhaps he is correct. But on the other hand, there are some benefits of “thinking through” or anticipating events, even if based upon gazing into a political crystal ball.
By all indications, the ongoing general elections will see the decimation of the INC as a result of the anti-incumbency factor, the late and weak start of the INC campaigning, the huge corruption scams that have come to light during UPA-2, and the unacceptable price rise affecting the vast majority of Indians. Indications are also that the BJP may turn out to be the single largest party or even cross the magical 272 figure on its own, though this is unlikely.
If the BJP as the single largest party is called upon to form a coalition government, it might succeed in doing so, but the prime ministership of Narendra Modi may not be acceptable to the coalition partners, some of whose heads are themselves prime ministerial aspirants. If, however, Narendra Modi does become PM the coalition may not last very long because Narendra Modi is a dominating personality, and may be unable to coax along a coalition like A.B. Vajpayee. If NDA-2 collapses, the 16th Parliament will close prematurely, requiring fresh general elections.
On the other hand, if BJP as the single largest party is unable to form a coalition to cross 272, or is not even the single largest party (which is not impossible), it is faintly possible that a so-called Third Front may appear and be invited to form the government. Let us for the moment, for want of a better name, call it the TF Government. This TF Government is unlikely to live very long given that its constituent regional parties are headed by leaders who are dictatorial by nature and have prime ministerial ambitions. When the TF Government falls apart, again the 16th Parliament will close prematurely, requiring fresh general elections.
It would be unfair not to discuss the Left parties which appear to have lost out, and are reduced to being a “TV studio party”, as one commentator put it. They may be able to help in forming a non-INC, non-BJP front, but have little or no influence within it. Anyway, a TF Government could easily fall apart with or without a Left component. It is equally unfair to not discuss the AAP which is expected to win about twelve seats in the 16th Parliament. It will have little political weight for voting in Parlia-ment, but it will certainly set the audit cat among the bureaucratic pigeons, and generate stronger public opposition to corruption.
The bottom-line appears to be that the 16th Parliament may not last very long whichever way the dominoes tumble, and a fresh general election for the 17th Parliament could very easily be on the cards in 2015 or even, heaven forbid, later in 2014. The question really is: how will the people vote for the 17th Parliament? Here, the political lay-person’s crystal ball shows one of two possibilities.
The people, fed up with political instability, vote for the 17th Parliament over-whelmingly for the BJP (to cross the 272 mark) because they do not see the decimated INC as anywhere near providing stability. In this scenario, Narendra Modi will certainly be the PM, and possibly Amit Shah as the Deputy PM or Home Minister. The Union Government swings India decisively to the Right of the political spectrum, and several State governments ruled by regional parties with dictatorial leaders follow suit. The AAP remains small in numbers at the Centre but makes gains in some States. The Left, defeated in detail by its inability to converge, suffers serious attrition.
This is less likely. The Left parties, stung with their political irrelevance in the 16th Parliament, have buried their internecine differences, and rallied their splinter groups to present a re-invented democratic Left Front of communist and socialist groups. This Left Front claws its way back to win sufficient seats to influence formation of yet another alternative non-INC, non-BJP alliance. The INC suffers further loss with some of its leaders deserting to join the BJP and some joining the Left or AAP, and fades into political irrelevance. The people, fed up with the corrupt coalition politics of horse-trading, give the AAP a substantial number of seats, and the AAP decides to team-up with the non-INC, non-BJP alliance to offer stability at the Centre. The BJP is still the single largest party but is unable to cobble a coalition. So an ideological hotch-potch coalition government muddles along.
The 17th Parliament and the Union Govern-ment of Possibility 1 or 2 will have to face multiple issues. Among these are likely to be an increasingly assertive Chinese military on both land and sea borders; a depreciating rupee and domestic price rise; India’s “million revolutions” finding voice over corporate plunder, with widespread social unrest.
This crystal ball may be defective, but the reader might like to activate his/her own crystal ball to gaze into the future. But even if the details of crystal-gazing differ, it is clear that India is “on the verge of entering into a reactionary phase in our political history”, and entering “a dark chapter in the political life of the nation”. [Ref.1]
- Ananya Vajpeyi, “A modern-day enlightenment”, The Hindu edit page, April 17, 2014.
Major General S.G. Vombatkere retired as the Additional Director General, Discipline & Vigilance in Army HQ, New Delhi. The President of India awarded him the Visishta Seva Medal in 1993 for distinguished service rendered over five years in Ladakh. He holds a Ph.D degree in Structural Dynamics from IIT, Madras. He is Adjunct Associate Professor of the University of Iowa, USA, and is a member of the NAPM and PUCL. He writes on strategic and development-related issues.