Troubled Times

Forget the bribery. Each VVIP helicopter costs Rs 320-350 crore. There are twelve such VVIPs who need to fly at any one time. Who are these people? President,Vice President, PM and no doubt Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi and Robert Vadra. But that is only seven. Who else is entitled to such luxury? What justifies this expenditure under the Defence Budget if it is carrying non-Defence personnel most of the time? Did anyone care to find out if this is the best alternative even ten years after the initial order? Does Parliament ever debate such matters before they are decided upon or, will it only stage its usual hangama at the start of the Budget session ?

There will be other excuses for Opposition to stall Parliament. It is part of the ritual for every session of Parliament after all. Sushilkumar Shinde has become an expert at baiting the BJP/RSS. He knew what he was doing when he talked about saffron terror. Then, he has deprived them of a stick to beat the Congress with by hanging Kasab as well as Afzal Guru. How unfair!

Obviously the long election season is upon us and will last till May 2014. Mulayam Singh Yadav is fantasising about an early election as well as the chance that he would be the dark horse for Prime Ministership when there is a deadlock. But then so are many others who see their chance coming in 2014. BJP has Narendra Modi to deal with but no doubt several others like Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, and even Nitin Gadkari will be consulting astrologers about their stars. Congress may have declared Rahul Gandhi as the Leader but he may not be Prime Minister and we could have a good gamble on Sushilkumar Shinde or P. Chidambaram or Digvijay Singh.

What is certain is that the outcome of May 2014 is uncertain. Last August, the opinion polls said Congress 127 and BJP 145. The next highest was Samajwadi Party with 30 seats and then many smaller numbers for others. Since then Narendra Modi has surged forward with his P2G2 agenda. His promise is that he can bring to the BJP the sixty-odd seats that Manmohan Singh brought to the Congess in 2009, fighting on the development agenda. Maybe so, but only if BJP/RSS let him since they are suicidal in their desire for a Mandir. Congress should continue its secret prayers that RSS will dominate BJP for some years to come. RSS is the best friend Congress has.

Rahul Gandhi may thrill Congress hearts, but it is arguable if he can bring many seats to the Congress. He has been engrossed in rebuilding the Party since his anointment. He will find, like his father did, that the Party does not reform itself. Congress may have a dynasty at the top but it is a Hindu kingship with independent subordinates who bring gifts at auspicious times and troops at battle times (elections) but do not obey orders to resign or reform. He will only cause chaos if he tries to sack many oldies and replace them with a younger cadre. There will be defections and local rivals who would play the caste card better. The only hope Congress has is to rely once again on Sonia Gandhi who is the most effective campaigner they have. She delivered in 2004 and also 2009 with some help from Manmohan Singh. She can relate to the masses which Rahul Gandhi cannot.

If BJP has Modi, it will need at least 200 seats on its own to find partners to form a majority. With any other candidate, 170-180 will do. Congress only needs to get to 150 to form a winning coalition. BJP/RSS do not realise that their penchant for medieval themes like Hindutva and Mandir gives them a handicap of at least 30 and with Modi plus Mandir, 50 seats.

Meanwhile, a new politics is struggling to be born in India. Anna Hazare's movement and even more, the upsurge set off by the 16/12 events shows that there are young people out there in large numbers who have a different agenda based on equal rights and serious accountability. Their votes are yet up for grabs. Who will claim them?

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