By Ridhima Aneja
Edited by Nandita Singh, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
With the ending of 2014, BJP was seen settling in office and in power, busy crafting itself as the “ideal” party by shooting out an agenda of governance and growth. Modi was seen as picking up the broom on various occasions to begin the “Swach Bharat Abhiyaan” – a policy narrative to clean India. However, it is high time a party knows that there is more to cleaning a country than just picking up the broom – it requires major policy changes and action in the real sense. The Planning Commission was removed from the government panel, and what has come into the picture is Niti Aayog, with its neo-liberal policy of change and development.
However, what is even more evident after the BJP win in 2014, is that it completed the process that was unleashed by the election win of 1989. A question that is now central to the assessment of competitive politics in India is what form political competition will now take in India. Congress started sliding down bit by bit since the elections of 1989. The year was seen as the decline of Congress and rise of a polity that had no Congress in the picture. As the foundations of the Indian Political System were laid down by Congressmen, a situation wherein Congress and the Gandhi’s aren’t in the picture anymore seems dysfunctional, but yes maybe for the betterment of the country.
So basically, the post 1989 period appeared as extremely chaotic politically for the country, as many new parties began to appear, and the Congress was seen losing to various parties in many states. This period saw the rise of multiparty coalition governments. At an all-India level too, the BJP formed an anti-congress coalition, the National Democratic Alliance, and the Congress reciprocated by forming a coalition – United Progressive Alliance. Today, it is the BJP that has emerged as the majority party in the Lok Sabha. The Congress has been defeated so badly that no other party is gravitating toward them to help them with a coalition. Today we’ve reached a stage where instead of asking the famous question – After Nehru who?, we have to find an answer for- After Congress, what?
In the seven months since the BJP won the election, it continues to be popular with the people and bask in the limelight of Narendra Modi. Not only has the party come to power in Maharashtra and Haryana, but also has bright chances of forming the party in Jammu and Kashmir.
In stark contrast, we see no revival of the Congress anywhere near. Hence in any analysis of the emerging format of competition, the BJP will undoubtedly occupy the central position and the question of its competitor will go unanswered.
The course of competition may however be addressed by bipolarity. Already in major states like Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh bipolarity politics has been common for more than a decade. Bihar also shows signs of a bipolar government and a similar picture is shaping up in Orissa. As the BJP extends its base, the bipolarity is bound to continue, and it won’t be surprising that multi-party competition might become rather rare at the state level.
Also the BJP enjoys, and will enjoy, no major opposition in the future, occupying a pre-eminent position without much threat from any one single competitor. Political competition in India, thus, has taken a plebiscitary turn and will continue to revolve around the issue of leadership, and it’s unlikely that anyone will beat Modi at that. Rahul Gandhi’s disinterest and lack of connection with the public has led the Congress to rub mud on its face if we consider the leadership abilities of “Baby Gandhi”. The picture may change for the better if the leadership pedestal is taken up by Sonia’s daughter – Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. Her sharp presence can bring about a change in this BJP led era and change the face of the future of Congress party. A small slip can also cause a halt in BJP ‘s onward march as the country’s public seems to be merely infatuated to the ideal of politics as stated by Mr. Modi – one slip by “the man” and it will all slip away.
However, the idea of politics of the poor still seems to be an idea of politics for some distant land. As the current government further does not concentrate on inclusive growth and development, none of the state parties also concentrate on the development of the poor. As such, the politics of the poor- even only in rhetoric- can prove to be the ideal opposition required by the BJP or the country.
Thus, as BJP is all set and ready to enjoy this phase of political dominance, its success and ability to get the “acche din” will depend on contingencies like- its very own performance at the Centre and the State level and the work done by the MPs and MLAs in their tenure; how well they treat the Muslims of the country and how well they cope if and when a challenge is put forward to them by a party at the state level or any party coming up with the agenda of politics of the poor. The answer will only be revealed with time. However, whatever happens, what the people of the country actually want are the “acche din,” nothing else.
Ridhima Aneja is a third year student pursuing B.COM (Hons.) from Sri Venkateswara College, University Of Delhi. She has an eye for perfection and detail and is a girl who never settles for mediocrity. Being an optimist and a work enthusiast, she aims to become habitual to achieving her goals and aspirations even while facing complexities in both professional and personal fronts. An aspiring diplomat and lawyer, blessed with a dauntless personality, she enjoys corporate law but her true interest lies in India’s relations with other countries, especially Pakistan and working for women rights. She aims to be a catalyst in making every Indian household a violence free home. She identifies herself with being a part of an emerging world community and become integral enough that her actions contribute to building this community’s values and practices. A girl who is strictly driven by her passions, she is also a national level debater , a skilled dramatist and a self proclaimed dancer .