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More panic

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The battle for the Lok Sabha elections has well and truly begun. While the BJP’s local unit is attempting to pin down upstart Kejriwal in Delhi, Modi continues with his nationwide tour, adding momentum to his campaign. The Congress has finally managed to place its doddering old guard in semi-retirement and is attempting in the last hour to influence public opinion with a publicity campaign as plastic as the persona of the prime-ministerial non-candidate. The medium might be as slick as money can buy, but the message is as old as it ever was – caste, community and paranoia.

The established parties, as usual, are basing their hopes upon the gullibility and greed of the common man. Hope, idealism, altruism and the greater good can lead to AAP like movements, but fall prey early to cynicism. Unfortunately for the incumbents, the disillusioned will not be inclined to return to the fold.  The claims on development, too, are being undercut by the dismal stagflation, even as the ‘Gujarat model’, for whatever it is worth, has already become the accepted metaphor.

What to speak of the fringe elements, even the pillars of constitutional propriety have begun to stray from the straight and narrow. The President’s comments, for instance, on ‘anarchy’ indicate a partisan inclination that does not augur well for when seriously important decisions will soon have to be taken. All these are signs of desperation in the established elite, which stands to lose more than just political power when the change comes.

Will a decisive Modi victory be such a bad thing? A section of the political spectrum rightly fears the ‘fascist’ nature of a Sangh backed government. Are the people, however, to believe that it would be able to function unchallenged? Consider the condition of the hugely popular AAP in Delhi, which is already mired in controversies. Will it not give the Congress an opportunity to reinvent, itself, and bring forward leaders steeled in fighting the good fight? What about institutions like the media and the courts? Will they not resist unconstitutional elements as they should and always have? In fact, a dose of being in power will definitely moderate the BJP’s approach on a number of issues, as it did in Vajpayee’s time. This is already evident from the transformation in the content of Modi’s speeches as he has drawn closer to Delhi in his campaign.

The Delhi electoral verdict has messed up the calculations altogether. It has revealed the power of the youth vote. It was believed that the ‘third front’ comprising caste, regional and remnants of the Left would win enough seats to thwart an outright BJP victory. However, just as the youth and urban middle class cut through established patterns and voted AAP in Delhi, they could just as well plump for Modi at the national level. The third front no longer remains the second line of defence for the dynastic Congress. Hence, all the panic – to the extent that even the presidential office was not spared.

There are ways Rahul Gandhi could have caught the people’s imagination, but it is ten years too late. Now, his best opportunity to find himself will be as a leader in adversity. Sanjay Gandhi was at his best when out of power. His nephew may well face a similar situation in a few months time. What will he make of it?

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