Netas Roll up Sleeves: Which Way Will the Poll Pendulum Sway?
It would not be a cliché to say that the forthcoming national elections would be one of the most important and, probably, one of the most bitterly fought elections in independent India. The election fever is already high and everyone seems to be waiting with bated breath to find out what surprises it throws up. While the outcome of one election does not determine the fate of a nation, it does provide clear indications of the direction the country is taking.
 
No one polarises opinions in the manner in which the current prime minister Narendra Modi does. The two diametrically opposing camps vehemently espouse their points of view in a no-holds-barred manner. The first believes that the sincere efforts Mr Modi is making are not being appreciated due to the pathological hatred for him; in fact, his efforts are deliberately and seriously being undermined. 
 
They feel he needs one more term to turn the country around and anything else would dilute the impact of the commendable work he has already accomplished over the past five years. 
 
The second set of people believe Mr Modi’s tenure to be a disaster that has undermined the very idea of India and the sooner we have an alternative government, the better for the country.
 
They say a week is a long time in politics; 12 months being an eternity. The past 12 months seem to have brought about a very significant transformation in election prospects. From a time when the second term for Mr Modi was a foregone conclusion, there now appears a realistic chance of displacing him, especially after the outcome of the elections in various states last month. How convincing is that assessment? 
 
The general elections are still a few months away, which happens to be more than ‘a week’. A lot can happen during that period. We can make an assessment on the basis of the situation prevailing now and what we believe is likely to happen over the coming months. 
 
I believe there are two critical factors which will determine the outcome of the national elections. First, how successful can the Opposition be in putting up single, united candidates in each of the 542 electoral constituencies? 
 
The Opposition parties and their leaders have to be ruthless in assessing each and every seat to put up the most viable candidate or party, without being swayed by any alternate or extraneous concerns. Set aside your ego, animosity, historical skirmishes and any other considerations that are likely to side track winning ability. You will sink or swim together. 
 
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) steered by Mr Modi is likely to muster sufficiently large number of votes in most constituencies to be able to defeat a divided Opposition. The only way out is to be firmly and ruthlessly united. 
 
Obviously, the Opposition leaders are acutely aware of this fact. Many amongst them must view the ensuing elections as probably their last chance to remain relevant in Indian politics and not be pushed into oblivion. 
Mr Modi’s rise has already dented their political prospects; they can hardly afford to suffer another setback. They will also be helped by their pathological hatred of Mr Modi and the political ideology he represents and practises. 
 
If, despite this, they do not present a united front, they have no hope and the electorate will vote for one more term for the BJP and Mr Modi who will acquire an aura of invincibility that will take a long time for the Opposition to shake off.
 
The second is the narrative in the run up to the elections. Let us face the fact that there is no other leader who can even remotely compete with Mr Modi in setting the agenda for debate. 
 
This is despite Congress party chief Rahul Gandhi’s recent upsurge in popularity and renewed confidence; he apparently appears far more comfortable in his role than he ever did before. 
 
It is Mr Modi who will decide the narrative for the national elections. It is he who will determine what becomes a core issue, which the voters will vote on. Will it be religion and caste and the accompanying divisiveness that he banks on? Will it be development and the economy; does he feel confident of his performance over the past five years and of having delivered on his promises?
 
Will Mr Modi present himself as a messiah who is destined to single-handedly take India forward into the 21st century? Or, will he have the humility to say that while he did make an honest attempt, his work largely remains unfulfilled. Will he be able to make himself say that he probably appreciates governance in India better now and needs the next five years to work humbly on the nuts and bolts that clog the Indian government? Arrogance and supreme confidence vs humility with sincerity?
 
I believe people are largely put off by the conceit, the egoistic behaviour and over the top claims unfailingly made by the BJP and Mr Modi. If he continues in the same mode during the elections, the electorate is quite capable of teaching him a lesson. On the other hand, a humble, honest, down to earth avatar will jell more with them and the results might be more to his liking. 
 
Will he be able to shed his ego especially after enjoying years of popularity and unfettered power and set the narrative accordingly? Or do the BJP and Mr Modi believe that his personal appeal to the voters is sufficient to sway them in their favour? 
 
He is smart, in fact, very smart and knows the pulse of the people in the same manner that Indira Gandhi did decades back. But, as with Mrs Gandhi, a few years in power are bound to create a chasm in the relationship with voters and the connect with the grassroots gets easily broken. Which version of Mr Modi we see during the campaign would be interesting not only for behavioural scientists but will also determine the outcome of one of the most crucial elections in modern India. 
 
(Sunil Mahajan, a financial consultant and teacher, has over three decades experience in the corporate sector, consultancy and academics.).
 
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COMMENTS

Ashish M

6 days ago

Dear Debasish and Sucheta, Moneylife is a great platform for financial education and awareness. Please don't make it a political 'akhada.' Let political magazines focus on that.

Anand Vaidya

6 days ago

I consider this article biased and not worth a read. Amazing untruths fills this article. eg:

"It is Mr Modi who will decide the narrative for the national elections. It is he who will determine what becomes a core issue, which the voters will vote on. Will it be religion and caste and the accompanying divisiveness that he banks on?"

I think Modi is the first Indian politician to eschew narrow caste/religion divisions and has rolled out programs which are not caste/religion specific (Jan Dhan, Health Insurance, Electricity for all etc etc). Whereas it is the oppisition rag-tag army of leftists who support armed Maoists and selfish crooks who divide the country on the basis of language, religion and caste.

Want an example? The JDS-Cong gov in Karnataka is scheming to split Karnataka into two states by whipping up sentiments of people. Congress has been playing dirty tricks to split Lingayats from Hinduism. They split Jains from Hindu fold Didn;t they?

Meenal Mamdani

6 days ago

I am not in either camp. I assess Modi on his performance.

On the plus side are his economic reforms, primarily the Bankruptcy act. The other reforms such as GST are good but BJP cannot claim ownership of that idea. UPA started it and it was vehemently opposed by BJP while it was in the Opposition.
On the negative side are primarily his divisive rhetoric on religious minorities which has created a climate of fear in areas where the power of BJP fringe is dominant.

Modi's ego will not let him admit errors, like demonetization and bungled roll out of GST.

I agree that Rahul is yet to prove himself and there is no other pol of national stature to combat Modi's charisma.

My hope is that BJP returns to power with a significantly reduced number of seats so that it needs help from other parties. This will dilute Modi's power and force him to consult others before making arbitrary decisions. It would be great if Gadkari would displace Modi but that is a long shot.

Liju Philip

6 days ago

The biggest disaster to ever grace the PM seat has been modi. If he canvasses on that point, then maybe some people will at least vote for him for the honesty. But then modi and honesty are two parallel tracks that never meet.

Francis Xavier R

6 days ago

" It is Mr Modi who will decide the narrative for the national elections. It is he who will determine what becomes a core issue, which the voters will vote on ". Can't agree.

Remember, even with Vajpayee's "India Shining" campaign, BJP lost. At that time, actually India was economically performing well.

Modi had lost a good opportunity to make a difference. He just proved, BJP is just another avatar of Congress.

At best BJP can win around 100 seats.

REPLY

VIVEK SINGH

In Reply to Francis Xavier R 6 days ago

Yea , like you are only going to decide that BJP will get 100 seat and Congress will get 282+ seats

Parliament passes upper caste quota Bill
Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the Parliament on Wednesday passed a landmark Constitution amendment bill providing for 10 per cent reservation to upper castes in government jobs and higher educational institutions, with the Rajya Sabha voting it late in the night after rejecting a demand for referring it to a select committee for detailed scrutiny.
 
The House passed the Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, 2019 -- which was adopted by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday -- with 165 members in its favour and seven against it in a division amidst broad support from the Congress and other opposition parties despite their reservations over its constitutional validity and the timing in view of the approaching elections.
 
Earlier, the House rejected an amendment moved by DMK member Kanimozhi and CPI(M)'s T.K. Rangarajan for referring the bill to a select committee for indepth scrutiny, with 155 voting against it and 18 for in a House of 244. Several other opposition amendments were also negatived. A constitutional amendment needs a special majority of more than half of the House present and two-thirds of those present voting in favour of it.
 
The AIADMK, which is friendly with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), staged a walkout opposing the Bill with its member A. Navaneethakrishnan saying it violated the basic structure of the Constitution. 
 
Rejecting the opposition criticism that the bill was brought late in the government's tenure with an eye on upper caste votes in the coming Lok Sabha elections, Social Justice Minister Thawarchand Gehlot said the measure had been brought with good intentions and was aimed at justice for the economically weaker sections.
 
He called the bill historic and allayed fears that the legislation would face legal hurdles, saying since it is a constitutional amendment even the Supreme Court would accept it, should there be any challenge.
 
The Minister told the Congress party that unlike the Narasimha Rao government which issued a government order to implement a similar quota, the Modi had taken precaution by bringing in a statute amendment.
 
Intervening in the over eight-hour debate, Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the proposed quota would not breach the Supreme Court's cap of 50 per cent on overall reservations.
 
He said the legislation would apply to both Central and state governments.
 
Senior Congress member and an eminent lawyer, Kapil Sibal, said the bill had been brought with "complete non-application of mind" and raised questions over the constitutionality of the bill and its implementation.
 
"If the bill is passed, the implementation of the reservation due to complexities involved and absence of required data with the government would be like demonetisation." 
 
Calling it a "jumla" (gimmick), Sibal said: "Kamal ka hamla, aur ek jumla (attack of lotus, one more gimmick)."
 
"What was the hurry? The bill could have been sent to the Select Committee. There would have been discussions and suggestions before it was introduced (in Parliament)," he said.
 
Earlier, his party colleague and deputy leader in the House, Anand Sharma, welcomed the 10 per cent quota for the upper caste poor but questioned its timing as it comes ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
 
"We are not opposing it. But the question is why it is being brought all of a sudden. It is the last session (of Parliament)...then there are elections," he said.
 
He asked why the BJP did not bring the bill in its four-and-half years of rule and emphasised that the decision came after the saffron party lost five states in the recently-concluded Assembly elections.
 
Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Derek O'Brien accused the government of committing a "fraud with the poor and youth" on jobs and "spitting on the Constitution" by moving bills for passage without proper legislative scrutiny.
 
Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav said that since the government had now breached the 50 per cent ceiling on reservations, it should give OBCs the benefit of quota in accordance with their population at 54 per cent.
 
BSP member Satish Chandra Misra backed the bill and demanded that minorities also be given reservation.
 
BJP President Amit Shah, who was present during the entire debate, at one point intervened to accuse the opposition of trying to give quotas for Muslims at the cost of other communities.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Departmental wrangles delay Train-18 launch
The much-awaited launch of the indigenously-built Trainset, the Train-18, is stuck due to a bitter departmental fight within the Railways. It is still to get the full Boards green signal - a must for flagging off any new train.
 
The fight between two traditional rivals - the electrical and mechanical wings of the Railways - is so intense that, despite a conditional clearance from the Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety (CCRS) on December 21, the Board is again planning to send it back to to the CCRS to resolve the contentious issue of Electrical Inspector General (EIG) safety certificate.
 
While the mechanical department, which is at the forefront of manufacturing the Rs 100 crore Trainset, has maintained that an EIG certificate is not required as per the law, the electrical department is refusing to come on board without it.
 
Despite the crucial fact that the first semi-high-speed train is expected to be flagged off by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on its maiden run to Varanasi, the issue could not be resolved as both sides stuck to their stands at the Railway Board meeting on January 8. The result: The public transporter is considering referring it to the CCRS again, sources in the know told IANS.
 
Manufactured at Chennai's Integral Coach Factory (ICF), the 16-coach train clocked 180 kmph during its trial run and was duly inspected by CCRS during its Safdarjung-Agra trial.
 
Before that, the Railways had already successfully conducted a speed trial of the Train-18 on the Moradabad and Kota sections under the watchful eyes of concerned officials from the Railways' and Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO).
 
In fact, ladoos were distributed when the train clocked 180 kmph between Kota and Kurlasi on December 2. The first sweets were offered onboard to loco pilot Padam Singh Gurjar and his assistant Onkar Yadav.
 
While giving its clearance for running the train at a maximum speed of 160 kmph, CCRS sought safety certification from the EIG and recommended, among other safety measures, sturdy fencing of the tracks at vulnerable locations.
 
"Safety certification for all electrical systems shall be done by EIG of the zonal railway maintaining the rolling stock and submitted to Commission before commercial operations," the CCRS order stated.
 
However, the mechanical department maintained that EIG certification is not required as per the Section 54 of the Indian Electricity Act, 2003.
 
In fact, the electrical and mechanical engineers were jointly involved in manufacturing the first Trainset at ICF and, accordingly, certified that the "train is safe for passengers and all norms have been followed".
 
"The Principal Chief Electrical Engineer of ICF has categorically certified the train's safety and no further safety certification is required from EIG as per the law," sources in the Railway Ministry told IANS.
 
However, though electrical department has maintained that EIG is a must as desired by CCRS, the Board has powers to overrule the CCRS, as happened in the case of the Gatimaan Express's operation in April 2016.
 
Though CCRS had sought fencing of the track between Delhi and Agra before the commercial operation of Gatimaan Express, the Board went ahead with its launch.
 
The Railways could do the same this time too, but the fight is so bitter between the two traditional rivals that both sides are refusing to cede any ground, nothwithstanding the fact that it was hoped Train-18's commercial operation would start before the Kumbh Mela.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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