Both the ruling party and its opposition are equally pathetic. With so much anger in the citizenry it should not take rocket science to displace the incumbent. Unless, of course, the main opposition party chooses a leader it doesn’t really love and the party is so immersed in pandering to its base that it loses all touch with reality. The consequence is the re-election of an incumbent who, not having fulfilled people’s expectations vis-à-vis a difficult economic condition, logically should not have been allowed to continue.
Obviously this applies to the re-election of American President Barack Obama but could easily apply to the likely 2014 re-election of our Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh. There is a caveat: in Delhi, rumours abound that Manmohan Singh has been of late begging Congress boss Sonia Gandhi to let him retire. She, on the other hand, doesn’t want to let him go. She probably sees his government as a magnet for popular ire and hopes it deflects anger from her party, as was evident from the party jamboree at Surajkund on Friday where, in saying that party and government ought to work in harmony, she was trying to portray the two as distinct entities so that mud flung at one would not stick to the other.
This, conventional wisdom dictates, is to help smooth the path for the inevitable elevation of the Princeling (much like what is currently happening in China: the elevation of Princeling Xi Jinping amidst much hand-wringing over top-level ruling-party corruption), despite the not-so-young fella’s faux ennui with politics and other yucky stuff. However, it’s a stretch to believe that the average voter will distinguish the Tweedledum of party from the Tweedledee of government. Additionally, there is also the prime minister’s ambition, burning like a Diwali firecracker under his mild-mannered surface, looking for a third term. Yes: facepalm.
Yet if we can imagine such scenarios for the ruling party despite the back-breaking inflation and brain-numbing corruption that is incessantly thrown in our faces these days, it’s only because the main opposition party indulges in the kind of sordid backroom intrigue that makes the Congress look dignified and cerebral. Case in point is the scam that has bogged down BJP chief Nitin Gadkari. The talk is that the conspirer behind Gadkari’s continuing misery is former deputy Prime Minister LK Advani, whose plan perhaps was to have the BJP president deposed and replaced, as a sort of a consensus, by him as the interim party president — and the timing is important — before the Gujarat state elections. This is ostensibly to preempt Narendra Modi, who is expected to romp home and be re-elected chief minister, from being declared the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. (Such is Advani’s view of power at the Centre being a low-hanging fruit.)
Presumably such intra-party skullduggery is par for the course; at one level, it weeds out those who have almost reached the pinnacle of the political party structure but are not equipped for the biggest job in the land. At another level, it weeds out those with something to hide; and if Gadkari’s business venture involved a matryoshka doll of shell companies, then he has something to hide. The only thing that has been objectionable in this episode has been the media’s eagerness to drop its coverage of India’s most famous son-in-law and his overnight climb towards billionaire-dom, in favour of a portly businessman and his greasy dealings. Some journalists have tried to give it the fig-leaf of balanced coverage, which it would have been had the Robert Vadra revelations come from the media and not from anti-corruption crusader Arvind Kejriwal — even though Vadra’s dealings have been whispered about for the past two years. (For the record, the Gadkari disclosures began with a DNA column by NDTV anchor Sreenivasan Jain.)
The upshot is another elimination from the top of BJP’s pyramid and you know where this will lead: to a time when the only man left standing is Narendra Modi. And while he enthuses his base as well as the crony-capitalist constituency, you have to seriously wonder whether he can get enough electoral support to stake claim to form a government. After all, Mitt Romney, for all his pandering to the right-wing and subsequent shape-shifting to make himself acceptable to centrist American voters, ultimately lost his battle to become the most powerful man in the world; and it was because he did not have the minorities with him. This is why India, though it suffers America-like economic morass and China-like political corruption, may, come 2014, end up with same gang steering its national ship, drifting aimlessly in the choppy high seas of an unknown future, fooling the passengers into thinking that one of these days the ship will by itself suddenly turn into a luxury liner and sight the shore of superpowerdom.
The writer is the Editor-in-Chief, DNA, based in Mumbai