Uncertainty will dog political stage

Written by Ninad Dhirubhai Sheth | Updated: Dec 31 2007, 04:28am hrs
A week they say is a long time in politics so a year is almost an eternity. To consider the prospects of an election in 2008 is hazardous, more so given the fact that in the Indian democratic circus, often things happen that no one wants. The resounding success of the BJP in the recent Gujarat polls has cooled the rush to the voter-adrenaline flow in both the Left parties and the Congress.

On the face of it, elections might have been averted. However, come the New Year and several things could yet lead to a fresh seeking of the mandate in 2008.

Three things are of principal importance. Will the Congress weaken its authority further and put the nuclear deal on ice and, thereby, look like a compromising party to avert elections For the deal, the prognosis looks same as before. Dead on arrival. It will go down as the worst political calculus of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to have raised the stakes to the level where the credibility of the Nation-State is hostage to its internal politics.

Says Subhash C Kashyap, political analyst, Elections are unlikely this year. However, the Congress will look a lame duck should it completely abandon the nuclear deal and expose the party as a weak player. Abandoning the deal, therefore, is not as easy a choice as it sounds. Even with Left opposition, there is a glimmer of hope should the BJP decide to abstain from voting in Parliament or walk out in protest and let the Congress carry the day.

The second factor of importance is the upcoming elections in the states. Of special interest would be the one in Madhya pradesh. If the BJP repeats Gujarat, the Congress would be on notice. In the event of the BJP registering gains in state elections in 2008, some of the allies of the ruling alliance at the Centre could also become restive and trigger a situation where polls can be a distinct possibility.

The third interesting prospect could be the performance of the Indian economy. With a robust growth rate and good monsoons, the momentum could swing back in the favour of the UPA. There could be a change of mood in the middle of the year, giving Congress the hope of cashing in on the opportunity. All the indications are that the economy will continue to do well in 2008 and a growth rate of 8% is a clear possibility. Thus, the current mood of despair in the ruling party may change should this good news keeps coming in.

Economic performance was shown to work as an election-winning idea in Gujarat. There is no reason why the same cannot be used in the national agenda. However, the Congress seems to be reluctant to make economic growth a platform, given the disastrous result of the India Shining campaign of the BJP in the last general elections.

Political analyst Neera Chandhok says, The possibility of election hinges foremost on the will of the Left to pull out. At this juncture, neither the Congress nor the Left is in a position to win an election on any platform. Organisationally, the Left is in a shambles. But, the momentum in a democracy can emerge for many factors and thus elections cannot be entirely ruled out.