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Political Parties Rumble As World’s Biggest “Democracy” Gets Ready For National Vote

BalwantSanghera

Indian politics is fascinating towatch. I have been here formore than two weeks.Whenever, I get a chance to readthe local newspapers and talk topoliticos and ordinary people,one thing stands out. Everyonehas an opinion and usually it isfairly strong either in favour ofone party or against another.The upcoming elections to theLok Sabha (Indian Parliament)have generated a lot of interestin this regard. Every politicalparty is busy drafting their manifestosand selection of candidates.The selection of candidates isvery different from that inCanada. Unlike Canada’s grassroots nomination process,, thecandidates are appointed/selectedby the party leader on theadvice of his/her advisors.Every selected candidate mustbe willing to spend a lot ofmoney –usually crores ofrupees. Thus to do politics inIndia one must have deep pockets.Every political party is busyplanning their election strategies.At this time, the two majorpolitical parties-Congress andBJP-are facing a lot of competitionfrom regional parties. Someof these regional parties arereaching out to others in orderto form the Third Front. Someparties on the Left are alsoengaged in this process . Thereis a lot f activity directed atforming alliances before the writis dropped.On top of that is the emergingAam Aadmi Party (AAP). AAPhas the fastest growth in membershipwhich has reached onemillion. Also, it has been successfulin attracting a lot of highprofile people. Unfortunately,this party’s internal strife hasbeen having a negative impacton its growth and development.Furthermore, its leader ArvindKejriwal seems to have bittenmore than he can chew.Nevertheless, it is still a growingparty with a wide appeal. It islikely that in the Lok Sabha elections,AAP will be an unpredictablewild card.The two major combatants-Narinder Modi of the BJP andRahul Gandhi of the Congress -have already sharpened theirattacks on each other. Modi isan experienced campaigner.However, the 2002 Gujrat riotsseem to be a major irritant tohim. Similarly, Rahul Gandhi isyoung and enthusiastic.However, he is hampered by hisparty’s record of corruption andscandals. The Left, having lostits power base in Kerala andWest Bengal ,has been workinghard to stay relevant in this election.In the Punjab, internal bickeringbetween the Cngress leadershiphas pretty well given a free rideto Badal’s Akali Dal. Unless thedissenters in the Congress sortout their differences, its chancesof winning many seats don’tappear to be good. However,Punjab has only 13 seats for theLok Sabha. As such, at thenational level it doesn’t havemuch clout. It will be the bigprovinces like, U.P, Bihar andMadhya Pardesh where electionswill be decided.These provinces like Ontarioand Quebec in Canada have thelargest number of seats. These provinces like Ontarioand Quebec in Canada have thelargest number of seats.This largest democracy in theworld has more than 750 millionvoters. The youth –agedbetween ages18 and 23-comprisealmost one fifth of thevoters. Thus, every politicalparty will be bending backwardsto attract the youth vote. On topof that, there are a number ofspecial interest groups who willbe vying for attention.The way things are shaping up,no single party is expected toget an absolute majority . Thepolls indicate that if nothingchanges between now and theelection day, BJP may end upwith the largest number of seatsbut not a majority to form government.Consequently, the nextparliament of India may be ahodge podge of different partieswith none commanding amajority. That is when horsetrading with regional parties andalliances will begin. However,the election is still more thantwo months away. In politics,time is of the essence. In politicalterms even one week is aneternity. Anything can happenbetween now and the electionday. Regardless, the entire world,especially the NRIs around theglobe, will be watching withkeen interest.Link columnist Balwant Sanghera, retiredSchool Psychologist and Community Activist.

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