The 2009 general election will hold interesting outcomes for all parties in the Indian political spectrum. The recent developments have thrown light on what might be the prospective coalitions this year. The Left has distanced itself from the Congress and yet has maintained a safe distance from the BJP, while at the same time inching closer to Mayawati.
The UPA has triumphed in the trust vote, and has paid the price for this triumph, by having a notoriously opportunistic SP and numerous other disgruntled regional parties and independents in its bosom.
The issues this year are obvious and self evident. The failure to control inflation may become an albatross around the incumbent Government’s neck, as it moves to the people for their mandate next year. The fact cannot be denied, that the people are angry at the rising prices, and their consequent failure to lead comfortable lives. It is futile to speculate whether the NDA would be able to formulate a better plan to tackle the monster of inflation as compared to the incumbent. The only conclusion that one can draw is that the common man’s wrath will be directed at the UPA, the common man’s saviour, whether the opposing party comes up with a better plan or not. The anti- incumbency factor will only add fuel to fire.
Another important matter, ignited by the BJP, is the Amarnath crisis. The BJP hopes that its assumption of the role of the "saviour and protector" of the Hindus in Kashmir would be translated into it being perceived as the sole custodian of Hindu interests in the country. Certainly, the BJP’s vociferous protests in Kashmir have raised the trust of the Kashmiri Hindus in the party. Whether this is effectively magnified to catch the attention of all the Hindus of the country remains to be seen. However, one can safely say, that the Congress’s status, as the main voice for the region’s Hindus has been diminished to some extent because of these events.
The nuclear deal, whether it is in the country’s interest or not, whether it should be renegotiated or not, whether it will enhance our energy production or not, will play not a very significant role in the country’s general elections. Certainly, the urban voters are aware, to some extent, of the nuclear deal, and can decide for themselves, its pros and cons. Yet, the more pressing issues, for an urban voter, would be inflation, rising crime, loan rates etc. As for the rural population, it does not have the faintest idea of the technicalities of the deal. What at best the politicians would be able to convey to the rural people is that the nuclear deal is something which is very good/bad for the country, sparing them the painful details.
The dark horse, in this general election, could be Ms. Mayawati and her BSP. After consolidating her power in Uttar Pradesh, the steely lady has already made clear, her intentions regarding the Centre. As of now, she is neither pro-UPA nor pro- NDA. On the other hand, saying that she is both anti-UPA and anti-NDA would be perhaps more correct. She has made it clear that she wants to see her Third Front at the Centre, with herself as the country’s Prime Minister. It remains to be seen how far she will go in turning her claims into political reality.
The CPI (M) has given its support to the Third Front and lavished praise upon Ms. Mayawati. Although, one shouldn’t be surprised if the CPI(M) were to go back to the UPA threshold, in order to avoid the travesty of bringing communal forces to power. It is a possibility which, though unlikely, cannot be denied.
The Congress might have a few tricks up its sleeve. Certainly, it has orchestrated a significant change in the personality of Prime Minister Singh, who has decidedly emerged as a more "assertive" and "political" person. Mr. Rahul Gandhi is waiting in the stage wing, gearing up for that moment, when the people’s perception of him as a modernising, innovating, yet tradition bound and respectful politician is firm and complete.
Indeed the general election will see many tall claims being made and many dramatic personalities clashing, but it remains to be seen whose claims will attract those votes.