Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Rahul Gandhi’s interview rattles the BJP….

BJP bhakts, who clutched at the weak straw of Rahul Gandhi’s inaccessibility and shyness, were in for a big shock when he decided to reach out to media. Not to any ordinary “friendly” media types, but to some of the biggest and toughest – Dainik Bhaskar and Times Now. Shocked and awed, BJP trolls could only criticize Rahul for the way he spoke, not for what he spoke. Clearly they were rattled.

Rahul’s areas of focus were spelt out repeatedly (so much so that #BJPrattled complained about that also!). Clearly, women’s empowerment, providing youth with opportunities, fighting corruption, making India a manufacturing superpower and sharing power with people are Rahul’s theme for his party.

Now this is not the first time he’s spoken about these subjects. He has  been demanding 33% reservation for women in Parliament for long. His party even got the legislation passed in the Rajya Sabha a few years back. (Incidentally, in today’s speech, Obama also spoke of women’s empowerment). He has repeatedly said that if our women remained behind, “only half” of India would progress, and he’s not interested in this kind of India. Obama made similar sounds.

On opportunities for the youth, we know that that has been Rahul’s obsession for long. He has transformed his party’s youth bodies in ways which allow the youth to enter and actively participate in politics. Equal opportunity to all is what is close to the heart of the youth, and that’s what Rahul has delivered in his previous job as President of Youth Congress. He is now doing that for the larger AICC.

On corruption, Rahul came out strongly. Rahul is the one who brought in the Lokpal. Till the day he announced that he would make it happen, the Lokpal bill was rotting in Parliament. As soon as he announced it, it became law within days. The BJP fell in line, the entire opposition fell in line. If the BJP had had their will, there would be no Lokpal today. Anna realized this duplicity of the BJP when it first promised to include Lok Ayuktas within the Lokpal bill, only to later use the garb of “federalism” to go back on its word. We know how Narendra Modi actively connived to deny Gujarat a Lok Ayukta for 10 long years. We also know that the BJP has not supported the grand vision of Rahul on cleaning up politics – his “six pending bills”. Earlier, Rahul wanted to give the Lokpal constitutional status, but the BJP didn’t allow that too. At all points, the BJP has used corruption only to crib and complain and badger the Congress with; but has shown very little interest in actually doing anything constructive. In fact, it went ahead and diluted the Gujarat Lok Ayukta Act giving its CM even more control over the watchdog. Fighting corruption has become Rahul’s calling card; not something that he runs away from.

This is the “new system” that he repeatedly referred to in his interview. A system in which a Sheila Dixit will have to face the courts if that’s what the evidence indicates; a Kalmadi will have to resign when there is prima facie evidence. And a system unlike what the BJP wants when it decided to bring Yeddy back into the party. Rahul may well be compelled to ally with RJD because of political reasons, but at least he doesn’t bring corrupt people back into his party.

His spiel on making India the manufacturing hub was part of his government’s long term promise…. His party’s visionary Delhi-Mumbai Industrial corridor is all about manufacturing growth, of creating new smart cities….things that Modi has tried to usurp. His government’s New Manufacturing Policy is all about increasing share of manufacturing to 25% of the GDP from some 16% at present. His government’s focus on infrastructure is also about increasing manufacturing.

Now to some specifics. Arnab tried to provoke Rahul by asking he was afraid of Modi. Rahul was cool. He first said that he was afraid of nothing, given his tryst with personal tragedy in the past. But anyone with even little intelligence (and that clearly excludes BJP trolls) should know by now, that he is THE PM candidate….his party’s ad campaign foregrounds him. Only dimwits would continue questioning if he is the PM candidate. If there were any doubts, Rahul clarified that if his party failed, he would take responsibility. Has Modi ever said that? Why….Modi didn’t even go to Karnataka to campaign, knowing his party would lose. He ran away from a tough fight. But he was all over in Gujarat, MP, Chhatisgarh and Rajasthan….states where the BJP was expected to do well anyways. Running away is not new for Modi. He ran away from Karan Thapar’s interview as well!

Importantly, Rahul drove home the difference of his party with the BJP. The BJP wants “concentration of power”, while the Congress stands for “giving power to people”. This is so true. In Gujarat, no one even knows who the 2nd leader is after Modi. Rahul promised empowerment to women. Modi stalked women. In the past, we’ve seen Rahul’s liberal credentials. His fight against Sec 377 is well know. In contrast, BJP wants to keep the country in the 17th century. The Cong’s difference with the BJP on communalism is well known.

On 1984, I think Rahul handled the issue head-on. He accepted some Cong men were possibly involved. Has the BJP ever admitted that any BJP people were involved in Babri/Gujarat riots? Nah….not until the courts declared them guilty. Rahul also made a correct distinction; that the Congress govt never supported the anti-Sikh riots. The regrettable carnage took place possibly because the government had been shaken with the loss of its PM. But in Gujarat, a CM-in-harness either willingly allowed and fanned the carnage, or at the very least, sat twiddling his thumbs while his state’s Hindu zealots brutalized the minorities. It is because of this difference that that the Sikhs have forgiven the Congress, voting it to power for almost half the time since 1984 in Punjab. The Muslims have never forgiven the BJP. The BJP only wins in states which have <10% Muslim population. The Congress is full of Sikhs. Modi still continues to deny Muslims seats. BJP trolls can compare 1984 with 2002, but there is nothing comparable at all.

In the end analysis, Rahul spoke well, confidently and gently. It is this gentleness that BJP trolls are panning today. I don’t blame them. They are so used to the uncouth, crass, and guttural conduct of their PM candidate that they have forgotten what gentleness can achieve. They need to only remind themselves of Mahatma Gandhi’s gentle style, and what it did to British bullies.

The real truth is that Rahul’s interview with Arnab was a powerful “coming out” moment for him. He could have chosen a “softer” journo, but he decided to sit across the bully Arnab. He could surely have done better in body language, and he will improve. But what he spoke about is what we should focus on. His vision of an inclusive India (he hates “unfairness”), an India that provides opportunties to its youth and its women, one that fights corruption with sincerity, is what we should remember. There was no bluster in Rahul’s talk….even Arnab conceded that Rahul’s heart was in the right place. It is this that has the BJP rattled. It is this that has BJP trolls attacking his interview….

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Modi’s speeches show his Congress phobia….

There was a joke going around on twitter yesterday which captures all of Narendra Modi’s speeches very effectively: Congress talks about Congress, Congress, Congress. Modi talks about Congress, Congress, Congress! And indeed, hidden in this innocuous banter, is the very real truth about Modi’s Congress phobia. The Congress phobia manifests itself in the form of “virulent attacks” on the party, just like inferiority complex often presents itself as superiority complex. The fact that this is a phobia is borne out by the continuing refusal of Modi to be interviewed by journalists – who could expose it.

Just look at just a few of Modi’s Congress-phobic utterances yesterday:

·        Congress did not name in PM candidate because…..(a plethora of pitiable reasons)
·        The Nehru-Gandhi family is anti-OBC. It suffers from “feudal mindset, casteist prejudices and sense of uniqueness”
·        Idea of India no one’s monopoly (in reference to Rahul’s assertion that Congress is an Idea genetically coded into India).
·        (Congress) cannot deign to compete with a tea hawker
·        They feel ashamed because while they have pedigree, I can only boast of my achievements

All the above statements are just from today’s TOI. There were countless other references in his speech yesterday. Obviously, thanks to all these Congress-phobic jabs, there was no time left for anything that would tell us what Modi’s vision for the country is. What eventually came out looked second grade, and mostly a continuance of what Congress has been practicing for a full decade now. Sample the following:

·        Rainbow model of governance. Focus on culture, agriculture, women, natural resources, youth, democracy, knowledge  (I mean seriously, this banal statement is all Modi could make?)
·        Black money stashed abroad to be brought back and used for poor (Ya, but how? Does Modi support the idea that all currency notes above Rs 50 should be scrapped? All cash transactions above Rs 2000 should be banned? How will he do more than what Chidambaram has done with Swiss and other governments?)
·        Shift healthcare focus from curative to preventive. Health assurance needed, not just health insurance (But this is exactly what the Congress’s National Health Missions are, no? Besides Modi hasn’t been able to deliver even the most basic of healthcare in his state – as borne out by the pathetic HDI figures; so how will he do so nationally?)
·        Price stabilization fund for inflation (Very little is known of this idea which is a problem by itself, but isn’t monetary policy the turf of the RBI? Or does Modi not know that?)
·        100 smart cities to be created (A continuation of Congress’s idea. Remember a large number of cities are being created under the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor. Ditto under the Mum-Bangalore, Bangalore-Chennai and now Delhi-Kolkata corridors as well).
·        IITs, IIMs and AIIMS in every state (Again, a continuation of Congress’s vision – it has already created several new IITs/IIMs).

Yesterday, the papers carried the story that the BJP was going to continue with MNREGA and FSB as well. So really, where is the difference between the BJP’s vision from the Congress’s?

There isn’t. At least not in Modi’s tiny mind. What is in abundant supply in his mind however is rhetoric and there was plenty on display yesterday, like in all speeches

·        Govt dole, dole, dole ki baat karti hai, per govt bhi dol rahi hai (completely senseless; just a play of words; besides, how many people understand the word “dole” to mean subsidies?)
·        Since defeat looks inevitable, Sonia Gandhi decided to protect her son. No mother would like to sacrifice her son at the altar of politics (Arre, but Rahul is the one who will face the flak anyways. Besides, he has the guts to campaign in difficult states. Modi on the other hand refused to go to Karnataka).
·        Congressmen had come hoping they would get their PM candidate but they got three LPG cylinders instead (Honestly, the same could be said about Modi. People came hoping to hear his vision; all they got was more gas).
·        And of course the rhetoric on black money. This is such a bogey now, no one believes it. Its one of those issues that the BJP rakes up before every election, only to forget it later).

The highlight of Modi’s speech yesterday however was his retort to Mani Shanker Aiyer’s “tea boy” comment. Senseless and silly as that comment was, for that kind of personalized attack is really the BJP’s style, not the Congress’s, Modi’s retort was equally senseless and silly. He painted the Congress as being casteist. Now the BJP, which is a party of Brahmins – one that has grudgingly appointed an OBC as its PM candidate – shouldn’t call others casteist. Aakar Patel once wrote on how the entire top leadership of the RSS, BJP, and other Sangh outlets is comprised of Brahmins. If there is one party that is truly casteist, it has to be the BJP. But for Modi, who has earned the #feku tag, truth is an easily dispensable commodity. This is also borne out by his advice that “Non violence is the top dharma”. Really, Mr. Modi, you are saying this? And “all spiritual paths are the same”, but then Mr. Modi, why did you just introduce a bill (Freedom of Religion (amendment) bill) in your state that seeks to merge Jains into Hinduism? The Jains have strongly protested against this bill; even held dharnas. Why did you do this? Only to show Hindus to be a larger number than they are? Why do you have this Hindu-centric world view?

The real truth is that Modi’s comedy show yesterday was just that; a comedy show. One has to admit Modi’s speeches are always good fun to listen to. He’s a great stand-up comedian. But please let’s not make the mistake of paying too much attention to what he says. Its not the content that makes a Modi speech; it is the comic style. I too had a good laugh yesterday!

Friday, January 17, 2014

The difference between a Rahul Gandhi and a Modi speech….

Rahul Gandhi delivered yesterday, one of the most powerful speeches I have ever heard. His detractors have been forced to take note. The speech spread an immediate panic in the BJP, with twitter trolls getting into an overdrive to trash it – no doubt on instructions from their paying bosses. The media pundits – many of them BJP acolytes – were forced to sit up and acknowledge that a rousing speech could be delivered in a style so different from the type of guttural speeches that one has gotten used to hearing from Modi and Kejriwal.

The difference between a Modi speech and Rahul Gandhi’s was just that – the style. Not once did Rahul abuse Modi or anyone for that matter. Not once did Rahul say “BJP-mukt Bharat”, in retort to Modi’s constant “Congress-mukt Bharat” refrain; a refrain that reveals Modi’s fascist beliefs (that a particular party should simply not exist at all). This is a democracy and every party has a right to exist in India. The point about the Congress being a part of India’s genetic coding was well struck…..a party doesn’t survive for 125 long years unless it becomes a part of its people. And Rahul was right. Congress has become an idea, rather than a mere organization or party. An idea that, in contrast with all others on offer today, stands for 21st century values best described by words like “liberal”, “inclusive”, “decent”, “respectful of people” and other such. Like I mentioned…..all of these are in direct contrast with what the BJP stands for: “regressive”, “divisive”, “abusive” and “distrustful of people (why snoop otherwise?)”.

Rahul spoke like Obama. He spoke with a passion rarely seen in Indian politics; an even more rarely in Congress leaders. Like Obama, Rahul  roused his cadres bringing them to their feet. They hadn’t come to stop demanding Rahul be made PM, and they didn’t, especially during his speech when cries of “PM PM” rent the air. Who the PM candidate of the Congress is was on obvious display yesterday…..for all who observe politics. The party with its 125 years of experience had the courage to stick to its principles – that it chooses its PM only after winning the elections.

For a change, Rahul indulged in rhetoric, even though in small doses. Modi on the other hand is mostly about rhetoric. “My voice will be heard in Pakistan” is nothing but the loud but fearful cry from a coward sitting in the safety of his own backyard. The real voice is that of the jawans….fewest of whom come from Gujarat. When Modi screams “we need strong leadership”, its all rhetoric for we are immediately reminded of Godhra, Ishrat Jahaan and Gujarat’s sweetheart land deals with Adani. Some leadership! When Modi calls for “eliminating corruption”, we see the rhetoric in the images of Bangaru Laxman, Nitin Gadkari, Yeddyyurappa, Pokhriyal and scores more. When Modi extols the virtues of Sardar Patel, we see the rhetoric (and deceit) in the distance that separates the real iron man from the #feku. And when Modi says that there have been no communal riots during his rule in Gujarat, we know the rhetoric as we think of Muzaffarnagar. Even without any references to history, Modi’s speeches are full of lies. He’s comfortable with that…..for he knows that no one can question him….he doesn’t take any media questions after all! What he doesn’t know of course is that while the public may sometimes bow before a demagogue, they won’t vote for him. What he perhaps also doesn’t know is that Indians like to see decency in their leaders; and that’s where their votes flow.

One can see the difference between Modi and Rahul on their choice of “target groups” as well. Modi’s target is the “kattar” Hindu (the fringe elements of this great religion, who are orthodox and intolerant of other views); Rahul’s is the “poor classes”, who he wants to convert to “middle classes” in the next 5 years. Modi tomtoms his OBC credentials; Rahul never once spoke about his or anyone’s caste. Modi’s chances are only in the Hindi heartland, hence he speaks only in Hindi; Rahul’s appeal is nationwide, so he spoke in both Hindi and English. Modi’s biggest supporter is the abusive Hindu zealot; Rahul’s the ordinary decent, secular Indian lives happily as part of a heterogeneous society. Modi can only be a Hindu nationalist; Rahul cannot be anything but an Indian nationalist. See the difference…..everywhich way, Modi appeals to a sliver of the population; Rahul to the much bigger whole.

Rahul’s speech was all about the positive steps he has in mind, his vision. He wants 50% CMs to be women. He wants clean politicians to enter the fray. He wants the youth to take charge. He wants to work on better education. He wants to eliminate corruption….and he has a legislative plan. Importantly, Rahul says “others can complain; but we will deliver”. Modi on the other hand is just that: permanent cribber. Take away the opportunity to crib, and Modi will come a cropper; like Kejriwal in Delhi now.

The real truth is that Rahul Gandhi delivered a passionate and rousing speech…..without ever indulging in even an iota of indecency, a far cry from the usual gutter-level speeches we hear from Modi. Rahul has offered a liberal, secular and clean alternative to Modi. The Congress has found its leader. And the leader has rattled the BJP….

Monday, January 13, 2014

AAP/BJP making Delhi regressive, illiberal….

Delhi till recently was one of the symbols of modern India….of liberal thinking and free business….largely a legacy of 15 years of Congress rule. With a change of regime, this proud legacy of Delhi is in danger. Both the ruling AAP and the hoping-to-rule-soon BJP have a vision for Delhi that is starkly different from Congress’s progressive one. If recent decisions of, and public statements by, BJP and AAP leaders is anything to go by, Delhi will soon change tracks – and head backwards towards the days when it was known largely as a “Punjabi lala” city.

What did Delhi transform into under Congress rule? It developed the best infrastructure the country had – the best airport, the best metro, the best roads, the best schools and colleges, the best sports infra and what not. After many years of humiliating power cuts (I remember waking up in the middle of a hot summer night, sweating profusely, complaining about the state of affairs in the capital…..till as late as in 2000, when I moved out of the city). At least from a “physical assets” perspective, Delhi was becoming a “world” city. The city also had a mixed culture, like all Indian cities; partly modern/liberal and partly traditional. But the modern/liberal culture always stood out. This modern/liberal culture was backed up by the institutions – most notably the Delhi HC, which repeatedly delivered judgments that took the reputation of the city up a few notches. The NGOs which called Delhi their home also added a liberal feel to the city (even though many went overboard with extreme socialistic views at times). Most importantly, the people of Delhi appeared supportive of free speech (the reason why AAP/IAC first came about)….a prime characteristic of any liberal society. This was propped up by the biggest contingent of news reporters and their types – after all, most news channels were based out of Delhi. Sure, Delhi had its problems – crime against women, an insensitive police force, loads of migrants from states with a “khap mentality” – but none that took the shine away completely.

All that is fast changing. AAP has taken such silly decisions, it has started hitting at the very foundation of Delhi. Free water was promised, but it was supposed to be on the back of removing “massive corruption”, not merely subsidizing costs. Various news reports have said that the 700 (or 660) litres per person per day is far too excessive, even more than what many/most European cities manage. What is fundamentally wrong is that water, a hugely scarce resource, is being given away free. Some have even said that the next world war could be fought over water (remember “Quantum of Solace” was based precisely on the theme of control over water). And here, we have a government giving water away free. Economists know that the only sustainable way to control demand is by pricing it high. This is plain stupidity.

Then take the half-price power decision. Again, the “price” hasn’t come down thanks to the alleged corruption being removed. It’s just that the government is picking up the tab now instead of the people. Its just another subsidy. My problem is not with the subsidy – a government has a right to choose what subsidy it wants. My problem is that the cut-off for half-price power has been set too high – 400 units/month. Now that’s huge. In Mumbai, 400 units would cost around Rs 3000-3500 per month. Anyone who can spend this much deserves to pay full price and more. Reportedly, 85% of Delhi will benefit from this subsidy. How can a subsidy be for the benefit of 85% of the people? The cut-off should have been 100 units or less…..

Then the decision to restrict admissions in Delhi colleges to Delhiites. Now this is similar to the much-panned ShivSena-imposed Marathi manoos culture which Mumbai suffers from. Delhi was always different; it was always the hub of the best education in the country. It benefited from students coming from all over. The students brought in a diversified culture. That sheen has been completely wiped off by the AAP. Soon Delhi will return to its “Punjabipan”.

Then the decision to reverse the previous Cong government’s decision to allow foreign retailers. Kejriwal says this will lead to unemployment; something that is a factual lie. But even if we assume it is true, won’t large Indian retail chains also do so? Will Kejriwal now go about shutting the Big Bazaars and Shoppers’ Stops? And then why stop there. Even large foreign restaurant chains – McDonalds, KFCs, Pizza Hut and what have you – affect the business of neighborhood samosa and chaat-walas. Why not ban them too? All in the name of employment generation????

What is tragic for Delhi is that the political alternative is no better. The BJP is regressive like how. It’s stand on the SC’s decision to retain Sec 377 is so pathetic, it disqualifies the party from ruling Delhi as well as the country. People often misunderstand this subject. By asking for scrapping 377, one is not promoting gay sex; one is only saying that the choice must be with the people. But then a party which considers Ramdev to be its spiritual guide, and anoints Modi as its PM candidate can only be expected to support such 17th century antics.

BJP also doesn’t want Delhi to get foreign retailers. It also wants to cut power costs by 30%. The party’s regressive economic thinking is further borne out from its decision in Goa to cut petrol prices to Rs 50 odd per litre, when the rest of the country pays Rs 80. India doesn’t produce enough crude oil; we import oil worth $100 billion a year. And yet there is a party that subsidizes petrol, the upper-class’s fuel of choice. Crazy. On education, the BJP’s past record is hardly encouraging. It completely saffronized education. Even today, in MP, school students are made to perform surya namaskars and recite Saraswati Vandana. In Mumbai, BMC (ShivSena) run schools are declaring holidays during Ganpanti and cutting back on Christmas holidays. What if Delhi’s schools were made to do the same?

And when it comes to language, the BJP’s has to be the most foul. It’s almost as if the criterion for becoming a member of the BJP is that one should be able to abuse. Someone. Anyone! And also indulge in acts of violence. If BJP politicians in Muzaffarnagar were hononred on Modi’s dias in a rally there, so will Vijay Jolly (the one who attacked Shoma Chaudhury’s home) and Vishnu Gupta be honored in Delhi. It’s only a matter of time. Equally, Delhi’s culture leaders – fashion designers, artists for example – should worry about how BJP/RSS/VHP/Bajrang Dal goons compelled MF Hussain to shift out of the country.

The real truth is that Delhi’s rapid growth of the last 15 years is bound to be arrested. Very soon, there will be power cuts in the city. There will be water shortages. Big businesses will probably feel suffocated and exit. Delhi had wrested momentum away from Mumbai….that’s going to be reversed. New Delhi will again become Dilli, and Delhiites Dilliwallas. Sad….

Thursday, January 9, 2014

AAP scuttles Modi’s chances….

Let me cut to the chase. The so called “Modi wave”, a mostly imaginary and PR-driven creation of the PM aspirant’s followers, is all but over. For whatever it was worth, the wave was mostly in a few states, and in a few urban areas in those states at that. With the AAP targeting the exact same voter base, and with far higher appeal, Modi’s wave has not only abated, but has actually reversed. Whatever chances he fancied of becoming PM have all but vanished.

AAP’s primary TG is the urban middle class. In Delhi, the AAP won most seats in the main city; in the outside “rurban” (rural + urban) areas, it fared relatively poorly. This in Delhi. Now imagine when the party extends its reach beyond the city-state, what is the likely scenario? It will do well in the core areas of the major cities; less well or even downright poorly in the outside and rural areas. This forecast could as well have been made for Narendra Modi. In fact, the key catchment areas for votes for both Kejriwal and Modi are identical.

And in these catchment areas, Modi is getting snuffed out. Yesterday’s TOI poll showed exactly that. More people are likely to vote for the AAP than the BJP. Including in Gujarat (46% people said they would vote for AAP; another 22% said it would depend on the candidate). Remember the poll was conducted in the top 8 cities only; so it has a solid urban bias. Another poll by India Today predicts pretty much the same scenario. To be fair, Modi still got the top billings in the TOI poll, but a rookie like Kejriwal got almost half of what Modi got. This within just one week of Kejriwal forming his Delhi government.

Not surprising then that the BJP has been badly rattled. BJP loons have been attacking AAP at every opportunity; in one instance even physically. The BJP is coming off as a party that is a bad loser, grumbling and complaining and assaulting the winner. This is not something that too many Indians like to see in their political parties. A few weeks back, the party had similarly assaulted the editor of Tehelka, Shoma Chaudhury’s house. Other right-leaning outfits, all somewhere or the other related to the RSS/BJP, have also indulged in similar acts of violence in the past. These have now become more common and scaled up. The panic is so much that the RSS has now formally warned the BJP to be wary of the AAP. The writing on the wall is clear. The BJP is in trouble. The AAP is spoiling whatever party it was having.

Let’s compare the two main personalities. Narendra Modi is best known for his oratory; a euphemism for his ability to abuse the Congress. He has offered very little in terms of an alternate vision. Most of the times, his claim to fame is the success of Gujarat. But he suffers from a serious credibility gap, for everybody knows that Gujarat has always been successful, even before Modi came to the helm. This wrongful claiming of success has earned Modi the #feku tag. The other thing Modi is known for is Godhra and his hardline Hindutva stand (Hindu Nationalist, remember?). That earned him the #Hinduhridaysamrat tag. Yes, one last thing Modi is known. His vast knowledge of history, which has earned him my #comedywithmodi tag!

In contrast, Kejriwal is a learned man, offering definitive (even if regressive and sometimes downright populist) solutions to citizens’ problems. That is why nearly 70% of the TOI poll respondents appreciated the work of his government in the first few days. Kejriwal is known as an anti-corruption crusader; Modi, in contrast, just inducted corrupt Yeddy back into the party. Kejriwal is as savvy as Modi in talking to media; in fact more so. Kejriwal speaks from his heart; Modi from his politically polluted mind. On all counts, Kejriwal offers a new deal; Modi just a lot of blabber.

So, in right earnest, the electoral battle has opened up three ways. The BJP will still do well in the states of MP, Gujarat, Chhatisgarh and maybe a couple of other states (Rajasthan mostly). The AAP will do reasonably  well in the urban areas….maybe winning 25-50 seats out of the 125 odd on offer in these parts. The Congress can expect to do well in the rural areas all over; especially in areas dominated by the underprivileged, the SCs, STs, Muslims etc where most of its energies have been focused. The Congress will come down significantly from its 206 showing of the last time, but it could still retain 150 odd seats. If that happens, its going to be a widely split house…..

The Congress has an opportunity to grab. It’s the only liberal party in the country (leaving the Left for a moment). It has the most progressive stand on religious freedom; its top positions are filled with people from all religions. It is also not in the grip of any one dominant caste (unlike the BJP, which is ruled by the Brahmins). Every section of the Hindu society finds representation in the party. More importantly, the party is more in touch with today’s times, with its bold stand on Sec 377 proving the point. The BJP on the other hand is still stuck in 17th century orthodox Hindu mores. The Congress has also been liberal with media, while the BJP’s attacks on Tarun Tejpal recently, Cobrapost and others have shown signs of fascism.

The Congress has to overcome the perception of being corrupt. In this context, the recent moves of Rahul Gandhi are important. Passing the Lokpal was purely Rahul Gandhi’s victory. Had he not pushed it, nothing would have moved. Pushing 5 more anti-corruption bills in Parliament in February is also part of the same initiative. Whether he can convince people about his intentions or not, remains to be seen. But if he could do that, he will bring the Congress back into serious contention for power.

The real truth is that Modi’s prospects have been severely chopped by Kejriwal, making it a 3-way fight. The BJP is panicking, revealing its uncouth, fascist streak in the process. Kejriwal is enjoying his honeymoon period. And the Congress is silently recouping its energies to come back for one last fight. The battle for 2014 just got more interesting!