The growth rate of the country is declining swiftly,and the inflation has reached an all-time high of 8.9 percent. The election commission has yet to decide on the date for parliamentary elections,but April is most likely.
The two major parties to look out for are the Bhartiya Janta Party and the Congress,which now controls the government. While BJP has announced its prime ministerial candidate,Narendra Modi,chief minister of the state of Gujarat,Congress says that it does not need to do the same.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,who has been in office for almost 10 years,is not expected to be a candidate.
While the whole nation is debating who will win in this face off,the major issue in the voters’ minds is the unstable economy. The nation is looking for someone who will promise to improve the economy,more job opportunities and better security.
Three outcomes are possible.
“Scenario number one is that BJP gets on its own between 180 and 190 seats,with the addition of allies could get 200 seats,and Modi becomes the prime minister,” Milan Vaishnav,associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s South Asia Program, said.
He spoke at a recent conference at the Atlantic Council.
The Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament,has 552 seats,and 272 seats are needed to form a government. BJP is currently expected to sweep more than 270 seats.
Vaishnav discussed two other scenarios. In one,BJP falls short of 270 and still comes to power with the help of smaller parties,but Modi gets side-lined for a more probable PM candidate. The other scenario is that BJP under performs,which is highly unlikely,he said.
“The latest polling says that BJP is expected to win,as the rural support for BJP is increasing,surprisingly. And Congress,despite passing several bills like the food security bill in favor of the rural population,seems to be losing their support,” Raj Desai, associate professor of international development at Georgetown University,said.
Desai said that BJP can sweep 220 seats,but anything above that depends on how deep the party can penetrate in the Congress constituencies. The question is whether the minority groups with traditional Congress voters will be able to pull off such a turnout.
“Until now,the discussion was really about who is going to win,and now we have come to a point where we need to start thinking about what a BJP government would mean,” Sadanand Dhume,resident fellow at American Enterprise Institute,said.
The general opinion of the speakers was that BJP will form the next government.
Vaishnav said that any new government should look at getting the economy back on track and tackling the growing deficits and the collapse in the investment cycle. He said that if BJP talks about better economic policies it might be able to tap in on the Congress voters. “Traditionally,minorities – Muslims – have never voted for BJP and add the Hindutva ideology to it,it’s a bad mix. But,Modi is preferred amongst the Dalits and the tribals,” he said.
Dalits are a part of the population formerly referred to as untouchables or outcastes. Tribals are people who can be referred to as the aboriginal population. These are called minorities because of their low social and economic status.
Another aspect that needs attention is religious conflict. In 2002 Gujarat saw the worst Hindu-Muslim riots after India and Pakistan separated in 1947. It was alleged that the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi was involved in fuelling violence. Later,Modi was given a clean record after an investigation. Modi represents a party that is pro Hindu,and because of his alleged involvement in the Gujarat riots,Muslims are not likely to vote for him.
Vaishnav has a different take on it. He said that the country has moved on from what happened in 2002. Growth,economy and jobs are the pressing issues,and Hindu-Muslim tension ranks very low on people’s mind.
“Modi is effectively communicating with the youth. He speaks of their aspirations. The youth is in awe,” Vaishnav said. On the other hand,Congress is trying its best to capture the youth’s attention,but failing badly,he said.
Reach reporter Kritika Gadhvi at [email protected] or 202-326-9868. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.