In its heyday in the early 1990s, there were fears that if the BJP ever came to power, it would never ever go away. Hitler-like, Vajpayee would take his mukhota off and reveal himself to be the Fascist all the progressives always suspected. Now the same dreaded BJP is behaving not so much like a Fascist party, but like the minority arm of Congress Congress (O) if anyone recalls-which Indira Gandhi cast off. That party was an example of self-destruction, having ‘too many chiefs, not enough Indians’. Now with Rajnath Singh against Advani and Shekhawat against them both, it is a sorry state for a party that aspires for power. Even the ever-secretive RSS has to go public and say it supports Advani and not Rajnath.
Six months ago, before the trust vote, the BJP had its Lohapurush and was riding high. Now despite wins in Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, it looks a tattered piece. It is difficult to see it bouncing back to being the largest single party by April-May, however hard Arun Jaitley tries. The CPI(M) seems to have gone off its Third Force strategy and is alarmed at the strength of the Congress. This is why Prakash Karat has now declared the Congress as enemy number one. I don’t think Sonia Gandhi should be flattered by this. It does not guarantee the Congress getting enough seats to form a government without Left support. Indeed despite the Delhi triumph, the Congress has not got much to boast about.
Look at its position nationally. Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala are out of its reach. If the DMK wins, then it may still sign up with the Congress but one can never be sure. It may not win, and, if it does, it may have other offers. If the Satyam scandal does not reach Rajasekhara Reddy, there may be some hope in Andhra. In Orissa it can hope for anti-incumbency. It may get a few more seats in West Bengal thanks to Mamata. Bihar will prove tough for both the Congress and the RJD as Nitish Kumar has been an exemplary Chief Minister. In UP, what with Behenji and Amar Singh wrestling it out in the akhada, there will not be much room. What remains is the north-eastern periphery and Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.
Forecasting is hazardous but I cannot see the Congress doing much better than its 150 and the BJP any better than 120. In 2009, for the first time, the two national parties, combined, will not command a majority of Lok Sabha seats. So expect a long and tedious scramble for coalition forming with all sorts of promises and some real cash, cleaner than the notes displayed in Lok Sabha I hope. India is a stable enough democracy for it to not matter if there is no readymade winning coalition. Like Italy and Belgium and France during the Fourth Republic, life will go on and there will be time enough to form a government.
The only problem would be if the Congress, too, falls below 125 seats. Then chaos will result as every combination of Behenji and Jayalalithaa and the TDP and the CPI(M) will try to form a government. We may see a repeat of the 1989-1991 or the 1996-1998 coalitions, which were fragile beyond belief. There could be a couple of more prime ministers before we get another election to settle the matter. There is a rich array of possible PMs-not just Manmohan Singh or Advani or Bhairon Singh Shekhawat or Rahul Gandhi. There could be Behenji, Amma, Lalu or Mulayam Singh Pahelwan.
The only certainty is that whoever is the next PM, it will not be a Muslim. India’s Obama will not be called Hussein. There are many reasons for this-some of them discussed in Ather Farooqui’s book Muslims and Media Images.
Muslims are not even like America’s blacks. They are more like America’s Indians or Native Americans. As far as the rest of India is concerned, they could be living on reservations. Sadly some Muslim leaders prefer this separateness because that way they get the patronage of ‘secular’ parties, who like ‘their Muslims’ to be neither seen nor heard. This is inclusive democracy!