The Escape Velocity of Hope, Pollsters, Punters and a Fourth Front - The New Indian Express

The Escape Velocity of Hope, Pollsters, Punters and a Fourth Front

Published: 08th December 2013 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 21st January 2014 01:11 PM

On a day when spin masters will torture the language of politics and plunder the lexicon to define victory and defeat and when pollsters and punters will redefine accuracy of prediction, a few observations.

Like it is no longer necessary for a party to win an election to declare victory. A loser can claim victory even if the winner has not won to full potential. So if the BJP doesn’t win 4-0, the match could well be declared a draw. And if—despite exit poll predictions—the BJP loses Delhi, then it would be deemed a defeat of the Modi factor. After all, if the magic doesn’t work in the most middle class, most politicised and most urbanised electorate, then what is the point!

Like it would be useful for the BJP and Congress to remember—even as they define victory—that it is not enough to do well in states where they are in direct contest, that there are states where contests are four-cornered, that the “others” front accounts for more seats in Parliament than either party, that together the two national parties lost deposits in 241 constituencies in 2009 and that on an average their candidates have been losing deposits in 200 constituencies in the past five polls, that together the Congress and BJP average 171 and 135 seats and that “the others front” average over 225 seats in every Lok Sabha since 1996. And it would be useful—for both Congress and BJP— to view the tapes of the October meeting against communalism to see the beginnings of a fourth front.

Like it must really be hurtful—or should that be cringingly embarrassing—for a regime that has hung on to power for nearly 10 years to be told that the escape velocity of hope is a new majority in Parliament, that the only solution for every problem facing the country is a new government. Almost every week a new investment bank tells investors “all will be well post 2014 polls”. That though hasn’t resulted in a ceasefire in the cabinet—the entitlement brigade has successfully stalled investments worth $200 billion or over `12.5 lakh crore.

Like it is curious that the Congress—which only recently described direct benefit transfers based on Aadhar as a game-changer—should be silent over the parade of PILs now pending in courts on issues ranging from privacy to its constitutional status. Like it is clear that the idea of Aadhar is also under attack from within the Congress—one minister has said “India cannot be reduced to a mass cash transfer state”. What is most curious is that the bill on the national identification authority is pending since 2010.

Like the manner in which the Sensex shot up post the exit poll predictions of a BJP wave is illustrative—of how little the market expects of the current regime and how much hope is invested in the next one. The punters in the market always chime—buy on rumours and sell on news. Wonder what happens when rumours fail. Makes you wonder what if the exit polls go wrong—where would the markets be headed for?

Like there is of course no reason, rather many reasons, not to take the Sensex too seriously. This index had shot up 800 points in August 2008 soon after the nuclear deal trust vote in Parliament in the hope that the exit of the Left would mean the entry of reforms. We know that story. It also rocketed 2,000 points when UPA returned to power—with the Congress winning 206 seats. We all know the state of the economy. 

Like it was good to see the Prime Minister react immediately to the daytime delusions of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Not that anything different could be expected from the grand protégé of Zia-ul-Haq and the political sponsor of all that transpired at Kandahar and who was in denial about Kargil. And it is therefore surprising that the Prime Minister of India was so convinced about a dialogue with him that he invested all his political capital with his own party just a few weeks ago only to hear stories about a dehati aurat.

Like it is telling that the idea of thousand cuts is now so deeply embedded at home, that the former Pakistani army chief has had to abandon his dream retirement home fearing attacks by one of the many home-grown terror outfits nurtured by the state. Like I think Sharif has got it all wrong when he says there will be a fourth war. When did the first one end? Every incident, whether fomenting terror in Punjab or the attack on Parliament or 26/11, is an act of war.

Like, coming back to the polls, it would be interesting to know how many votes were polled by NOTA (none of the above) given the brouhaha created around it by activists. Without a real follow through mechanism—for instance a re-poll —it is now at best a tool for anger management.

And finally, the Election Commission must study and reveal what percentage of the youth—the much-discussed first-time voter—exercised their franchise. After all, as the Election Commission has repeatedly stressed, the higher turnout is mostly a result of the cleaning up of the electoral rolls. So, it would be a good idea to understand how deeply the future of India—all 120 million first-time voters—is engaged with the present.

(Shankkar Aiyar is the author of Accidental India: A History of the Nation’s Passage through Crisis and Change; emails to the author can be sent at shankkar.aiyar@gmail.com)

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