Over to the Polling Booths

By the time this issue reaches the hands of the readers, the voters of the second largest democracy in the world would be queuing up at the polling booths in some parts of the country to put in place the 16th Lok Sabha.
The past decade had been a roller coaster ride for India with technology driven progress. The country stands hugely transformed despite a coalition ruling the Centre. And one should not be stingy with words while giving credit to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) for putting in place a handful of useful legislation to materialize inclusive growth. Sachar Report heralded the realization that Muslim minority should not be left behind in the race of socio-economic progress. Similarly, Right to Education Act (RTE) made the right to free and compulsory education justiciable. Right to Information (RTI) has endowed the citizens with powers to demand transparency in administration. MGNREGA improved the scope for livelihood in rural areas, though not to the extent the UPA would claim. Bills on Food Security and Waqf Amendment too brightened the otherwise bleak outlook in important sectors.
But then UPA failed miserably to measure up to the people’s expectation in giving them a transparent administration. Number of billionaires rose just as the hopes for a decent life were crashing for the common men and women. A host of scams that burst forth on the national scene, led to the perception that while people were being doled out legislative lollipops, the politicians and bureaucrats were skimming off the cream. Crony capitalism dug its heels deep into the system and robbed the people off their investments. National resources were being auctioned to bidders colluding with the powers that be. Diffidence set in the UPA clique with refusal to come up clean on the series of scandals involving several of its cronies. Decline of morale became evident as the coalition began to waver over issues so vital as bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, Aadhar card and LPG cylinders. Partners that left it in midstream have blotted out almost all the hopes of its return to the centrestage of power, given the popular mood.
Though NDA’s stars seem to be ascendant, it is not likely to repeat its past performance. The very fact that the alliance is headed by a chief minister of a state, speaks volumes about the total lack of its pan-Indian appeal. Yet the high-voltage campaign, the tech-edge and the noticeable high morale of its cadre do signal the alliance’s capacity to sail ahead of its current rival. If the alliance could make amends for bruised egos of some of its old veterans, it is all likely to manage numbers that would make its claim for the hot seat unassailable in a coalition era. It is good of the alliance that it scrupulously kept out the communal rhetoric and hate-spewing leaders out of its loop.
But rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has emerged as a spoiler for the NDA. It rocket-launched itself into the fray through elections in Delhi and still later into power. By jettisoning the power on a high moral note, AAP has demonstrated its commitment to cleaning the system. This might happen less through its own rise, and more through agenda-changing impact it may cast on the polity. Arvind Kejriwal’s broadsides against the ‘Vikas Purush’ where it hurts him most—the elitist developmental model—have been unnerving the BJP the most. AAP’s reluctance, nay refusal to indulge in secular rhetoric must be understood in the broader terms. By taking on this divisive personality, Kejriwal is demonstrating in ample measure the hollowness of pursuing development without ensuring social justice. Going by this yardstick, AAP is the best thing that has happened to the electoral politics of the nation.
As for the third front, it seems there are no takers for it as of now. The concept has moved into oblivion without any prospect of revival in the near future. Nearly all regional dynasts who presided over the mushrooming dynasties till recently have competing heirs to contend with and are in no position to lend the nation any worthwhile alternative.

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