Special to Times of Oman
The bugle has been sounded. The world's greatest democratic exercise will begin on April 7, 2014 and end on May 12, 2014. By the end of May we will have a clear picture of the 16th Lok Sabha, and hopefully, the next central government.
Various surveys, whether they are stage-managed or not, point to BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) being in a position to form the next government with the help of a clutch of regional parties. The way BJP, once untouchable for many parties, going flat out to wheedle small parties into its NDA (National
Democratic Alliance) fold, one could say that it is in pole position. But it would be in the fitness of things to enter a caveat, which is that a streak of unpredictability has been found embedded in the DNA of recent Indian politics.
The entry of AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) into the political arena has added to this element of uncertainty. The new party has influence in urban patches, a fact that nettles BJP. Besides, its unconventional and in-your-face way of campaigning has made the media not just to take note but to give it wide coverage as well. In other words, stiff competition in the media space has benefited AAP beaucoup.
But AAP is not content with being in the news. Its supremo, Arvind Kejriwal, was a former tax inspector and is therefore adept at finding the clandestine way several sacred cows of our society work.
He alleges to the effect that major media houses are under the thumb of big industrial houses and, they in turn, are warming to BJP's PM-in-waiting Narendra Modi as also to Congress. Much as this is a stale bit of information, this might be news to the common man or the 'aam aadmi'. The result: the people at large could start thinking about the double standards of the BJP even as it guns for the scandal-ridden Congress.
Furthermore, AAP has shed lurid light on paid news as a political or corporate praxis, something which is unbeknown to the general public. Certainly, not all media organisations would come under this category.
But what is as clear as cut-glass is the politician-corporate nexus. Pretty much all industrial houses bat for Modi as the next prime minister. Kejriwal alleges that all rules, environmental or otherwise, have been upended to facilitate new ventures by corporate houses in Gujarat. The corporate world, in return, sees to it that there is no dearth of funds for electioneering, be it hi-tech or run-of-the-mill. Kejriwal demands to know the cost of copter campaigning and the source of funds. Modi has elected to ignore such demands altogether.
Be that as it may, the saffron juggernaut is moving ahead in the most calibrated manner possible. Apart from the election committee and the organisational architecture fronted by Rajnath Singh, BJP is being shepherded, or rather, controlled by the parent organisation of the Sangh Parivar, RSS. Any kinks — there are many — would be ironed out by RSS and there is no appeal against its decision.
In fact, without the RSS support, Modi would not have become the prime ministerial candidate. Despite protestations of being a cultural organisation, RSS is not only deeply involved in strategising together with the BJP think-tank but, perhaps more importantly, engaged in problem-solving. It has been instrumental in dousing fires of all types with the express intention of enabling BJP to hit the tantalising 272-seat target.
When the paterfamilias in the form of RSS is very much active, the day-to-day quibbles and spars over seats such as we have seen in Varanasi and Lucknow are a mere bagatelle. Most importantly, RSS ensures that its foot-soldiers fan out across constituencies for hard campaigning. Its affiliates like the VHP have their own missions to carry out. According to a report, VHP is given the responsibility for campaigning at religious levels.
Coalition-building and such other overt functions are left to BJP and it is doing pretty well on this score. Knowing full well that every seat counts in a coalition era, BJP has gone all out in enticing tiny regional and casteist parties into its fold or poaching malcontents from other parties, not least from Congress. The tie-up with LJP of Ramvilas Paswan in Bihar is, arguably, the best of its kind. In the process, it has torpedoed a formidable would-be RJD-LJP-Congress partnership. In Tamil Nadu, a BJP-DMDK-PMK bond is shaping up. Ditto in West Bengal where the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has pledged its support to the saffron party.
The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.