The Election Commission of India is going to announce the dates for the general election 2014 on 5 March. The developments are being watched keenly for several reasons. One is the people’s loss of faith in the Manmohan Singh led UPA-II government, which is crossed all records of corruption anywhere in the world. The TimesNow TV is debating since this evening some six more scams under the Manmohan Singh government. The latest relates to payments unauthorisedly made by the Rolls Royce to agents for securing the aircraft engine orders worth 10000 crore rupees. It has surfaced after the UK’s Serious Fraud Office has arrested one Indian in London in this case. So the people want this government to be thrown out.
The election has also become interesting for the emergence of Narendra Modi as a strong contender for the Prime Minister’s job. He is the BJP nominee. He has managed to strike a cord with the people on the strength of his success as Gujarat Chief Minister for more than 12 years now. He has emerged as a good administrator and a development oriented politician. Above all he is a man of very high integrity. That is what India has been looking for in the last 10 years. Narendra Modi is such a contrast to the UPA-II government, its prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the scam tainted government. What is striking is the successful bonding with voters in UP and Bihar among others. Modi has held public meetings in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, UP, Bihar, Rajasthan , Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and other states with astounding success. Some people call it Modi wave whereas others call it a media wave. However, I am on a different point. We need to note the changing mindset of the voter in these states, particularly UP & Bihar, which together determine the PM candidate on the strength of their seats in the parliament. These states account for greater part of the Indian poor. Coupled with West Bengal and Odisha they present the picture of poor India, Indian culture, Hindu religion and resistance to change. Large territories in this part of the country remained under the British rule. That is one reason for the extensive influence of communism/socialism in this part. Pangs of poverty and hostility towards the British government for its atrocious rule made it possible for leftism to grow in this part. It gained further strength from the religion, which was responsible for not only social stratification but also hatred for wealth (possession, creation, investment). The Hindu religion preached and continues to do so even today, hatred for wealth, calling it derogatory name of Maya or illusion. Virtue is not associated with wealth. It is something to be hated and got rid of if one wants to attain moksha or salvation. It is the same as anti women precepts in most world religions. A wealthy person is not respected for his wealth. Rather he is looked down upon even by the most plebeian of beings in the society! It has been drilled in to the psyche of Indians that moneyed people are not respectable and hence earning big money or creating wealth should not be the goal of life for any gentleman. So there has never been any incentive to create wealth and engines of economic growth at levels industrialized societies actively promote. All literature, especially Hindi and Urdu, is replete with eulogies for poverty and denunciation of richness in the most derogatory terms. The culture that was born to this deadly combination of the British rule and leftism (words like Marxist, communist, socialist, progressive as in United Progressive Alliance of Manmohan Singh) were meant to act magnetically on the masses. They discouraged agitations for jobs, demands improvement in living standards of the masses, creation of means of livelihood and creation of opportunities for generation of wealth. They were opiated with slogans like equitable division of land and wealth. With no past experience of the functioning of modern democracy, the people were not able to understand the mechanisms of governance under the new system. Malpractices soon started operating. Initially it was all hidden from the public eye, but as such practices became common for the people’s representatives in the country, the government ministers and bureaucrats, private businesses and foreign companies, it came for critical public review and was termed corruption. The spread of television and the internet empowered the masses, who were now able to see all that was considered unimaginable earlier. The people became angry and agitated. Call for transparency in governance grew by the day. Demands for the Public Ombudsman started rising, even as there were systems in place to check corruption but which were deliberately rendered dysfunctional. When the government itself becomes corrupt, who can save governance? It didn’t take the people long to decipher the reasons for their poverty and backwardness- they could see the connect between corruption & poverty. With the spread of scientific knowledge, the influence of religion also shrank. Falling value of the money, shrinking incomes, rising prices made even the most non-moneyminded realize value of money in life. As population started shifting away from agriculture, they demanded jobs. The hot bed of leftism that the entire eastern belt used to be grew impatient with its ideology and moved towards the credo of development. A people who could be inspired easily by a Prime Minister like the late Lal Bahadur Shastri to observe fast on Mondays to help the economy were not prepared to listen to the politicians flaunting masks of progressivism, socialism or marxism but looting the country by corrupt means. It is this change in the psyche of the masses in states like UP and Bihar that is the biggest single contribution of Narendra Modi. India is essentially a country of Sadhus (akin to mendicants) as they have no family to tend and are in a better position to serve the society. Bachelor politicians like Narendra modi qualify that test also. It is going to be Narendra Modi this time. Even if it is otherwise, the leader will have to match his qualifications. All his rivals, Rahul Gandhi of Congress, Mulayam Singh of Samajwadi Party, Nitish Kumar of Janata Dal (United), Arvind Kejriwal of Aam Aadmi Party, J. Jayalalita of AIDMK and the string of leaders of the third front- look dwarfs before him at present. Narendra Modi has fixed the bench mark for the aspirant to the office of the Prime Minister of India. It can only be raised.
Like Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal of the AAP has also set the bench mark for candidates and governments. No criminal can now enter the parliament on the ticket of the national parties. No government can survive long if it indulges in corruption. The punishment inflicted on the Congress Party in Delhi Assembly elections last year by the AAP of Arvind Kejriwal has reduced it to pitiable party of just 8 members against its unbroken 15 years rule. The AAP has put even the BJP on notice to behave ethical or perish. Other parties have not yet started taking the AAP seriously, but they are going to learn their lessons in the next 2 months. There is only one regret that the AAP has displayed lack of governing capabilities. In fact, it was not even expected to. This party was born of the anti-corruption crusade of Anna Hazare, a Gandhian. Since the public anger was so strong the AAP knew any candidate would have won on its ticket on the strength of just a clean image. Hence it put up totally inexperienced candidates. Besides it could not win a clear mandate to form the government. It formed a minority government with outside support of its arch rival the Congress Party, which was painted as the most corrupt by the AAP in the election campaign only a few days ago. This ruptured its public image. People resented it. The AAP could not utilize the opportunity to give a good government. It impacted its dream march for the parliamentary election. It is entering the fray, but it will work as a spoiler only. It will harm the prospects of Narendra Modi by making the fight three cornered. It is dreaming of forming a minority government at the centre, as it could do in Delhi. But that would prove disastrous for the country. At a time when there is compulsion for accelerated economic growth, the AAP is likely to upend policies and programmes rather than implementing them honestly. As of now its economic policy is not clear. It is confused on sensitive issues relating to social harmony, internal security, foreign policy, defence matters and other complex government issues. It will end up tying with the wrong kind of political players. Experiments are alright at state level, but unwelcome at national level.