The rising summer temperatures are expected to soar even further in the days to come, as the election heat wave envelopes the country.
The curtains have opened on the biggest show of democracy in the world. The Election Commission of India has announced the schedule for the Lok Sabha elections, the code of conduct has come into force, and for the next few weeks – two months in all – until the time a new government is elected, formed and sworn-in, politics will take centre stage in the country. Politics will replace government work as governance slips into limbo due to the election code.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will be attempting to regain a majority, the feat it had accomplished in 2014. The Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi, will be seeking to put behind its poor showing of five years ago and make a comeback to the treasury benches of the Lok Sabha. Alongside these two main parties, and playing major roles, will be the myriad regional parties and smaller national parties, that could very easily play the role of kingmaker once the results are out or dash the hopes of the main players by edging out their candidates in the hustings. All in all, the election promises to produce plenty of drama, with much emotion throughout and a climactic ending.
There is still uncertainty over the alliances that will seek the people’s vote in this election. While the National Democratic Alliance, led by the BJP will take to the election battle field, the possibility of a united opposition challenging the NDA appears to be receding as each day passes. The mahagatbandhan that had almost crystallized some months ago has shown signs of disintegrating with some of the major regional parties detaching themselves from the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance. Now, in the last lap of the race, so to say, will the parties find that elusive common ground to group together?
This is going to be an election where myriad issues will decide the outcome. India being a multicultural, multilingual country, there is no single issue that a political party can take across the nation and seek votes based on it. This has led in the past to a large number of regional parties successfully appealing to the sentiments of the people and getting their candidates elected to the Lok Sabha. It can also lead to a hung house and coalition governments. The latter cannot be wished away.
It’s the era of coalition governments, and India can say goodbye to a single party government. The political parties know this only too well. The last 15 years have seen stable governments in the country provided by coalitions. In 2014, despite getting a majority of its own, the BJP formed the government with its alliance partners, distributing ministerial berths to them and including them in governing the nation.
For the electorate the challenge would lie in being able to differentiate between the populism and the pragmatism that come wrapped in the promises of the political parties and candidates. There are going to be a lot of them in the coming days, as candidates and their supporters reach out to the voters at their doorstep. If an educated decision is to be taken on whom to vote, the voters have to be able to weigh the assurances from the candidates and seek guarantees that they will be fulfilled. As often seen in the past, a promise has not always been fulfilled.
As India takes a break from everything else, the ensuing political heat will generate much debate and perhaps even some acrimony. The time for change has come. The time for the people to decide who will represent them in Parliament and who will govern the nation for the next five years is here. In the coming weeks, it is the voter who is the most important person. All he has to do is decide what is best for the country. Not a simple decision to make, but one that nevertheless has to be made.