Beyond AAP

In my humble opinion there are two things that will decide the results of the next general election.

Written by Tavleen Singh | Published:December 15, 2013 5:32 am

With the outpouring of punditry over the advent of AAP,you would think that there was nothing else in the election results to be excited about. I am not saying that the incredible success of a new and different kind of political party is not something to be excited about,only that there is much else that deserves attention.

AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) has done very well in Delhi,but it is not going to be what happens in Delhi that decides the results of a general election that is now just around the corner. In my humble opinion there are two things that will decide the results of the next general election. The first is whether Narendra Modi has succeeded in getting the acceptance he needs to become India’s next prime minister,and the second is whether the Gandhi dynasty has lost the allure that has kept it ensconced in power in Delhi for most of our years as an independent country.

Let us deal first with the Modi question. Congress spokesmen and pundits of secular bent have gone out of their way in the past week to assert that the results indicate that there was no ‘Modi wave’ except in Rajasthan. If there had been a wave,they point out,then the BJP would have won Delhi and won much more convincingly in Chhattisgarh. More neutral pundits and election analysts have said that the significant jump in the BJP’s vote share in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh is proof that there is a Modi factor. Not being a skilled number cruncher,I am going to stick to what I sense of the public mood on my travels,and at the risk of someone flinging this in my face next year,I am going to say that I do sense a wave for Modi personally. Not so much for the BJP.

The reason why it is important to make this distinction is because,if it were a straight fight between the BJP without Modi and the Congress,I am not sure whether the BJP would make much difference to the seats it already has in the Lok Sabha. What Modi has brought with him is a hint of something new. He has succeeded in projecting himself as a strong leader,and if you talk to your average ‘aam aadmi’,you may find that what he yearns for at the moment is a strong leader.

If he is likely to vote against the Sonia-Manmohan government in 2014,it is mostly because of this. It is not that the price of onions and tomatoes do not matter and it is not that he is not sickened by the endless list of corruption scandals that have tumbled out of the government’s closets in the past five years. He is. But,he blames these things on the absence of a real leader at the helm of India.

At this point I must record that I have met almost nobody in recent times who has a good word to say about the Prime Minister. This is very different to the last general election when he was certainly one of the reasons for the UPA to be given a second term. Today he is seen more as a prime minister in absentia,and direct blame for this is put on Sonia Gandhi.

There was a time,not so long ago,when nobody other than your humble columnist pointed out that when she ‘sacrificed’ the prime minister’s job in 2004,all she really did was sacrifice accountability. Today I meet almost nobody who has not noticed this. What most voters have also noticed is that she has spent the UPA’s second term trying to pave the way for her son and heir to take charge of India.

This most voters do not like. They see it as a duplicitous game that seeks to fool them into believing that the Gandhis cannot be blamed for anything that has gone wrong,that they are above other politicians in their supposed disinterest in high office. Senior ministers of the Government of India sneer every chance they get at Modi’s ambition to become prime minister without noticing that,as far as the average voter is concerned,this is exactly what they like about him.

In a country that has been virtually leaderless for a very long time,what there appears to be is a real yearning for a leader who takes charge and accepts that he is accountable for whatever happens. Good or bad. So in my reading of the tea leaves of the recent election results what I detect clearly is widespread support for Modi and,in almost equal measure,a weary disdain for the Dynasty. We do not know what will happen in 2014. What we do know is that there will be change.

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter@tavleen_singh

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