Difficult Choices

Egypt’s Disgraceful Descent
Sectarian Agenda to the Fore
Pakistan’s Perilous Drift

UPA is clearly out of favour for its sins of price rise and corruption.
With Congress fortunes appearing to be on irreversible decline, Muslims’ quest for an alternative at the Centre should begin in right earnest. In all likelihood, the Indian National Congress’ tally in the 542-member Lok Sabha will not exceed 130 in the forthcoming general elections. The party’s future does not seem to be secure in major states except a couple of them. In contrast, the Bhartiya Janata Party has consolidated its position in some of the western and northern states, if the results of the recent assembly elections in five states are any indication. It is likely to surpass the Congress in terms of seats. With national politics revolving round a bipolar axis, regional parties are all likely to gravitate towards the alliance emerging on the top of the tally.
Besides incumbency, the taint of massive corruption and price rise have ruined the Congress fortunes drastically. The brazen dismissiveness with which the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has dealt with corruption and allowed prices of the essential commodities to spiral upwards, have robbed it of all prospects of finding any favour with masses.
Never before in Independent India, the rich had stashed and displayed wealth in the manner as they did during the UPA’s decade old rule. And never before the common man had felt more deprived in matters of access to essential commodities as during the recent years. The decade has witnessed social and economic disparities assuming yawning proportions with cities taking in millions of under- and unemployed youth with no hope of any decent livelihood coming their way. The general masses are in no mood to pardon the UPA for its shameless insensitivity towards these core concerns and will vote for any other alternative, communally partisan or otherwise. Muslims too would need to take these factors into account in shaping their choices for the 2014 General Elections.
Congress has acquired other minuses too. Charm of the Nehru-Gandhi clan simply refuses to work miracles with the masses any more. The Congress is suffering from chronic structural infirmities too. It has always been wary of raising strong regional leaderships and is likely to pay for this cardinal sin of setting too much store by the dynasty. The aspiration revolution triggered by the highly penetrative media has elevated expectations of the common individuals sky high and the UPA has miserably failed to deliver them even the basic needs. In cozying up with big businesses, it dumped its core constituency, the OBCs, minorities, Dalits and the Scheduled Tribes. In the crucial northern states, it refuses to see the reality of regional parties calling the shots and has consistently refused alliances with parties representing the subaltern sections.
The central scene being fuzzy and there being no secular, pan-Indian alternative to Congress party, Muslims would do well by carefully choosing regional parties to deny the communal parties access to the corridors of power. But it is easier said than done. With most regional parties being locked into adversarial equation with the Congress, it may be more facile for them to ally with the NDA rather than the UPA. Fortunately general Muslim masses in the northern states are much wiser than their projected leaders like Madani, Barkati or Bukhari. They should continue to shun these self-centred elements and steer their course away from their counsels. Politically unaffiliated Muslim intellectuals and activists should come forward to tilt the support towards winnable secular, alternatives on a regional basis.