Prof. Arindam Chaudhuri
Hony. Dean, Centre For Economic Research and Advanced Studies, IIPM -
Midway through this election, I would not be surprised if some insider reports state that at least some of the national parties, if not all, have already started working for the next election. And by this I mean the next Union election, which in any case would be much sooner than expected. For if one were to believe the exit polls results by most media houses, then I have no doubt in saying that we are heading for a terribly fractured mandate. And probably given the economic environment, there could not have been a more damaging news than this for the overall economy. With economic slowdown plaguing the whole world, it has been witnessed that the governments of most of the economies worth talking about, have been extremely involved in finding ways to tackle this recession; and if possible, to arrest its mayhem as much possible. And what we are observing in India is just the contrary, with possible election outcomes just adding to it!
In today’s India, political alliances are mostly based on selfish compromises rather than ideologies. Thus, it doesn’t take much time for yesterday’s allies to become today’s rivals. The hype around the success of the UPA government being a helping hand of the common man notwithstanding, the way some of its key allies like RJD, Samajwadi Party and Lok Janashakti Party have gone ahead with forging a Fourth Front – in addition to the utopian dreams being woven by the Left through a Third Front – makes it sure that at best, India is voting to a disastrous outcome. Worse is the fact that this mandate would be more fractured than it has ever been in the past. A struggling Congress is in no position to form the next government without the support of the Fourth Front and perchance even the Left. And while the Left is still smarting from the slap it received when it withdrew support to the UPA (only to witness the UPA carrying on with support provided by the Samajwadi Party), the fresh overtures of the Congress towards the Left indicates that the next government might just not be possible without them. And if the Left accepts this glad eye premise, then it is tantamount to their endorsing the nuclear deal – a proposition they would find very difficult to sell to their constituencies. Thus, turmoil is inevitable even if UPA forms the next government with Left support. In the same league, given the number of aspirants for the post of Prime Minister this time, starting from Sharad Pawar to Lalu Prasad to Mayawati and even Prakash Karat (well, of course in addition to a beleaguered Manmohan Singh), it is for sure that the Congress would not have that much leeway in propping up its candidate for the post of PM even if it gets the same number of seats that it got in 2004. And the way the Congress is running with the hares and hunting with the hounds – with appreciation for Lalu’s bete noire Nitish Kumar and flirting with the Left while courting Mamata Banerjee – the problems would only get compounded as each would want to have their own pound of the Shylockian flesh.
Given the precedence, I don’t think BJP would be in a position to form the government (however, I just wish they had fielded Narendra Modi as the Prime Ministerial candidate instead of sticking to the tradition of fielding a senior leader and trying to assure themselves of a thumping victory!!) even though I am pretty confident that it would improve its tally. And thus, the chances are high that a fractured UPA would try it out once again. For a while, the well practised musical chairs would go on; and there isn’t any doubt that India would witness another election sooner than later. And if that happens, the worst is going to follow with respect to the economy! Anticipating that such a coalition cannot run for the next five years, for whatever time it survives, the ruling coalition would desperately try to hold on to power in every possible manner. And like in the past, policy decisions and policy making would completely take a backseat. Moreover, with the changing power equations, ministries would be traded to keep the coalition satisfied and intact. And with this, what would follow is an obscene national loot!! Given the limited shelf life of the ruling coalition, partnering parties would clamour for juicy portfolios and would completely suck them out as much as possible. And there cannot be anything more damaging than this, considering the economic turmoil that the country is going through!!
What is most unfortunate is the fact that while the time was ripe for India to consolidate its position in the globe (as I had mentioned in my previous edits), India miserably instead is going to lose out on this opportunity. So, while the various governments across the world would leave no stone unturned to capitalize upon the economic slowdown, an ugly national loot would continue in India. And this is the unfortunate outcome of this Union election!