Volatile UPA vs Modi-fied BJP

Ex­hausted by in­fight­ing, the BJP failed to project it­self as a vi­able alternative, even as al­lies gave the Congress a mi­graine

Hindustan Times (Patna) - - YEAR REVIEW 2012 - — Vikas Pathak

The more things change the more they re­main the same. 2012 rolled in and did not bring with it any clear win­ners. When the ver­dict of the five as­sem­bly elec­tions came in at last in March, pun­dits were still scratch­ing their heads. Which al­liance will gain in the next Lok Sabha polls? No one seemed the wiser. The poll re­sults went like this. The Congress — fac­ing pres­sure over graft charges — won Ut­tarak­hand and Ma­nipur, the NDA took Goa and Pun­jab, and the Sa­ma­jwadi Party swept Ut­tar Pradesh, dis­lodg­ing Mayawati. The events of the next few months lent no more clar­ity to the for­mi­da­ble 2014 puz­zle.

Volatile al­lies gave Congress quite a mi­graine, while the BJP ex­hausted by in­fight­ing failed to project it­self as the vi­able, votable alternative and the Third Front re­mained what it has been for many years — a non-starter.

The Congress’ woes be­gan with the 19 Lok Sabha MPs of the Tri­namool Congress break­ing away from the UPA in Septem­ber over fuel price hikes and FDI in multi-brand re­tail.

In Andhra Pradesh, the Congress’s dis­con­nect with YSR’s prodi­gal son Jagan Mo­han Reddy con­tin­ued, some­thing that could cloud the party’s fu­ture in the south­ern state.

Nev­er­the­less, so­ci­ol­o­gist Vivek Ku­mar cau­tions: “As the year ends, Congress has given na­tional pol­i­tics a spin. It was reel­ing un­der cor­rup­tion charges, but has silently set the agenda through FDI in re­tail and quo­tas in pro­mo­tion for SCs and STs, sub­tly chang­ing the po­lit­i­cal dis­course.”

The BJP for its part tried to ride an anti-cor­rup­tion wave, but found it­self cor­nered when party chief Nitin Gad­kari was ac­cused of busi­ness ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in Oc­to­ber. With mul­ti­ple prime min­is­te­rial hope­fuls, the party could not re­solve its lead­er­ship is­sue ei­ther.

Ac­tivist and erst­while Team Anna man Arvind Ke­jri­wal, who founded the Aam Aadmi Party, grabbed head­lines with cor­rup­tion dis­clo­sures. Former Kar­nataka chief min­is­ter BS Yed­dyu­rappa also set up his own party — a devel­op­ment likely to harm the BJP in its only south­ern bas­tion, where it got 19 seats in 2009.

Key BJP ally Bal Thack­eray of the Shiv Sena died in Novem­ber, leav­ing the suc­ces­sion is­sue un­sorted. Will es­tranged nephew Raj Thack­eray steal the Sena’s thun­der next year?

The Congress sought to project its youth lead­er­ship. Rahul Gandhi led a high-pro­file Congress cam­paign in Ut­tar Pradesh, but the party could not gar­ner much success. Draw­ing from this ex­pe­ri­ence, the Congress de­cided to go for a low-key strat­egy in Gu­jarat in De­cem­ber.

Cor­rup­tion dom­i­nated the year’s po­lit­i­cal dis­course, fol­lowed by re­forms to­ward the end. Iden­tity pol­i­tics sur­faced in­ter­mit­tently — in the As­sam Bodo-Mus­lim ri­ots in July when north-east stu­dents got threats as far away as Ban­ga­lore and the con­tro­versy over SC/ST pro­mo­tion quo­tas. While the BSP backed pro­mo­tion quo­tas, the SP op­posed the move to at­tract OBCs and up­per castes. The OBC vs Dalit po­lit­i­cal con­test points to new so­cial fis­sures.

As the year wrapped up with polls in Gu­jarat and Hi­machal Pradesh, there were still no clear win­ners. The BJP won Gu­jarat but Congress wrested Hi­machal from the saf­fron party. Only one thing was clear — Modi’s en­try at the na­tional level may well be round the cor­ner.

PHOTO IMAGINGS: ASHISH SINGH

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