Indian political scene will remain a fragmented mess

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STORY 2 ITEM 2 Photo 1
 
Narendra Modi
 
STORY 2 ITEM 2 Photo 2
 
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress Party boss Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
 
THE Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP, thrashed the Congress Party in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh (where it won 165 of the 230 seats, while the Congress bagged just 58 seats) and in the western state of Rajasthan (where it got 162 of the 199 seats, while the Congress won 21 seats), won the majority of seats in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh (where it won 49 seats, while the Congress bagged 39 seats) and won the largest number of seats in Delhi (where it got 32 seats, while the new party – the Aam Aadmi Party or AAP – won 28 seats and the Congress bagged 8 seats).

While some called this the “Modi wave” and hoped it would lead to a BJP government next year, others downplayed its significance, noting that the general election will be fought on national and not regional issues.

Veteran BJP leader Lal Kishan Advani told Indian media: “It is a contribution of all party members, particularly chief ministers.”

The anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002 remain a sore point. According to a BBC report in 2012: “The 2002 riots were obviously the worst [case of religious violence]. More than 1,000 people, according to the government’s own estimate, were killed.” Unofficial estimates put the death toll closer to 5,000, according to Wikipedia. Modi allegedly took no steps to stop the riots, though he denies this.

Also, critics note that though Modi has had significant success in transforming Gujarat into a prosperous state during his 12-year rule as chief minister, there has been limited progress of the poor, women and minorities, and that what may succeed in Gujarat may not work in the rest of the country.

The Congress Party has proved to be a huge disappointment with scandal, a slowing economy and disloyal coalition allies, and the Economist’s “The World in 2014” predicts that it won’t win in the general election next year. The Congress will probably win 110-120 of the 543 seats in the House of Commons (Lok Sabha).

On the other hand, the Economist notes: “Mr. Modi would need a thumping win, with nearly 200 seats, to attract enough allies to make him prime minister.”

 

AND that is where India’s fragmented political scene comes in.

Modi is considered a divisive and polarising figure and it will be a real challenge for him to convince regional parties to support him.

A Times of India analysis noted: “The Janata Dal (United) of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar snapped its 17-year-old ties with the BJP a few days after Modi was anointed as the saffron party’s aspirant for the top post.

“Over the years, the NDA [National Democratic Alliance] has shrunk from 24 constituents to four now.

“Knowing full well that it would be a daunting task to reach the magic figure of 272 on its own, the BJP has sought to reach out to some key regional players, including the Telugu Desam Party and Karnataka Janata Paksha of BS Yeddyurappa.

“There is a buzz that Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal too might return to the NDA fold. The Akali Dal and the Shiv Sena remain the BJP’s trusted friends.”

It added: “The Congress too is exploring various options. While its partnership with the NCP, National Conference and Ajit Singh’s RLD could continue, the party is also hoping that the DMK will eventually come back to the UPA. In Bihar, it has the options of going either with Lalu Prasad’s RJD or the JD (U).

“Manpreet Singh Badal’s Peoples Party of Punjab and All India United Democratic Front of Badruddin Ajmal in Assam could be other allies.”

That should give you a good idea of the fragmented mess of Indian politics.

The Economist notes: “Congress still has its strengths, not least its skill in building coalitions after elections. It remains India’s only truly national party.”

The endless rounds of horse-trading are hardly the way to run India!