There are many kinds of marriage in the Hindu scriptures. You can marry within, above or below your caste. You can have a gandharva marriage or be abducted. And then there are some less pleasant ways. The problem for politicians is not whom to marry, but whether the marriage will last. As the election inches closer, the number of unions are rising; but so are the divorces. Amar Singh and Jaya Prada have hitched up with the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) after wooing the Congress and being rebuffed. Congress grandees in Uttar Pradesh are defecting to the BJP after reading the writing on the wall. Other Congress seniors are refusing to run for the Lok Sabha altogether.
The hasty marriage between the Left and Amma ended quickly in tears for the Left. Mamata Banerjee was stood up by Anna Hazare when she thought they had pledged eternal union. Ram Vilas Paswan left the cosy secular embrace of Lalu Prasad and hitched up with the BJP. Mulayam Singh Yadav has taken the view that if one member of a family is part of the SP, the entire biradari has to be. The Congress well recognises the importance of family. So despite Rahul Gandhi’s plans to clean up the selection process of candidates, it has stuck to the family line in Maharashtra; so wives, sons, nephews and grandsons have been inducted.
All this frantic coupling and decoupling will only last till May 16. Once the results are announced, the entire merry-go-round will start anew. Indian politics is an ideology-free zone. Even the so called secular-communal divide is only for show till the votes are counted. Memories need to be very short. Thus, Mamata has sweetly forgotten her part in the BJP/NDA government and now denounces the BJP for being communalist. Paswan has shown the way the parties will drift as and when the BJP emerges as the largest single party.
The cruel reality of Indian electoral politics is that the two national parties get around 300-325 seats between them. The other 220-245 seats are divided among the other 45 parties which inhabit the Lok Sabha. The third largest party achieves 25 seats if it is lucky. The Left got around that number in 2009. Dreams of becoming prime minister are aplenty, but they need a reality check. Mamata has just had that experience. The TMC is a West Bengal party and cannot aspire to be a national one with or without Hazare. Mayawati also has dreams of winning seats for the BSP beyond Uttar Pradesh, but that too will prove elusive. Jayalalithaa is wise in not attempting to reach out of Tamil Nadu. Sharad Pawar knows that the NCP has barely any clout beyond Maharashtra.
Only the Aam Aadmi Party has ambitions to be a national party right away. Hence, the shenanigans of Arvind Kejriwal — who needs a headline a day, if not every hour on TV, to achieve his aim. The haste of putting up 350 candidates around the country has meant a sacrifice of all the lofty principles AAP aspired to in Delhi. So whoever they can get with even a slight media presence has been given a ticket. That is nothing unusual. In Indian politics, some names can drift to any party and get elected — Kalyan Singh and Amar Singh are examples.
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AAP can be a national party or it can be a principled one. I hope it chooses to be a national party since its principles are tiresome clichés of impractical idealists. It will garner a respectable vote share but not many seats as, outside Delhi-Gurgaon-Noida, it has no real depth of presence. Ten seats will be a creditable showing, 20 a landslide. Of course, had they not resigned but shown some achievements in Delhi, they would have been taken more seriously.
The real prize awaits AAP after the election. If, as the polls forecast, the Congress ends up with double digits, then it will break apart. Many more grandees in the Congress with regional strength will start their own party on the lines laid down by the NCP. There will then be room for a national party to fill the gap. If AAP does not disintegrate due to Kejriwal’s ego trips, then it may yet succeed the Indira National Congress. Amen.