ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Right, Left and Centre

Even as the UPA government begins its fifth year in office, the national political scenario is disconcerting.

With the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) having completed four years in power now, the remaining year of its term will be used by both the Congress and its allies, as well as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), for a frenetic reshuffling of the old cards in preparation for the next round of the electoral poker game that is due by the summer of 2009. The BJP’s success in the Karnataka assembly elections, coming as it does in the wake of successive Congress defeats in several states since 2004, has got the Indian Right’s adrenalin going. The party’s ever-aspiring candidate for the next prime ministerial post predicted during his party’s recent national executive committee meeting in Delhi that more parties will join the NDA before the 2009 elections to make the alliance a “strong and unshakeable anchor” that would make his party a “clear winner”. If the pattern of the election campaign followed by it in Karnataka is any indication, the BJP, in the coming parliamentary poll, is likely to fill the vast void of the public mind with hate-filled rationalisation of murderous panic about terrorist attacks – which the BJP alone, it claims, can snuff out, once it is voted to power. In its campaign it can throw in, in good measure, all the usual rhetoric against inflation, rising oil prices, farmers’ suicides and other ills if they continue to plague the country over the next crucial months.

Unlike the Right, the Centrist Congress leadership, while reviewing the Karnataka results, seemed to be huddled more in a funereal ritual than a hopeful limbo, and is yet to formulate a clear strategy to fight the next Lok Sabha polls. Unable till now to create any major popular impact with its flagship programmes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) or farmers’ loan waiver, it is further weighed down by unpopular decisions like the hike in fuel prices. It may be banking on pulling off the nuclear deal before the elections which might appeal to the super-patriotic public ego. But the party is yet to get its rusty gears grinding into motion to revamp its own state units and cleanse them of factionalism, and make the government purge its administrative machinery of the corruption and nepotism which subvert the UPA’s altruistic programmes that promised to help the rural poor. But this is too tall an order to be carried out within less than a year – the time left for the Lok Sabha polls. It can only draw comfort from the fact that it will be quits with the BJP which is as faction-ridden and swarming with corrupt bigwigs as the Congress, and may not therefore gain an absolute majority in the next Lok Sabha.

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