Could Kejriwal Be PM?

Arvind Kejriwal’s stunning performance in the Delhi elections has changed equations in Indian politics. The new Chief Minister of Delhi was a key organizer for the anti-corruption Anna Hazare movement.

He sounds like Ralph Nader when he says the Congress and the BJP are not different at all. That is what Nader had to say about the Democrats and the Republicans. But Nader stayed a fringe candidate, Kejriwal has managed to capture Delhi, and is talking in terms of fielding candidates in over 300 constituencies for the parliamentary elections, including in every constituency in Gujrat.

It is a foregone conclusion that no party will cross the 200 mark. The Congress might even hit close to 100. The BJP will likely cross 150. For the first time a large space is being created for the non-Congress, non-BJP parties. And there are several aspirants for the top job in that camp.

Jayalalita and Mulayam Singh have been open about it. I think Nitish stands a strong chance. But the Third Front stays a hodgepodge, and if the Aam Aadmi Party managed to field candidates in more than 300 constituencies and managed to win in even 50 of those, it will emerge as the largest among the non-Congress, non-BJP parties.

If somehow Modi manages to get the BJP past the 200 mark, someone like Jayalalita might be happy to become Deputy Prime Minister. But if the BJP might hit 160 and the Congress 100, you can bet the Congress will join the anybody-but-the-BJP bandwagon. Which would mean essentially the BJP at that point would be considered a party with 60 seats, 100 of its seats cancelled out by the Congress.

Could Kejriwal end up with 50 MPs? How about 100? If he manages to cross the 100 mark, he would most certainly be Prime Minister.

Right now Modi and Kejriwal are the only two individuals who have all India campaigns in mind. Jayalalita is focused on Tamilnadu, Nitish is focused on Bihar, Mulayam is focused on Uttar Pradesh. But 50 MPs for Kejriwal, and 200 for Modi are tall orders. The largest of the non-Congress, non-BJP parties tend to get 30 seats.

The situation is fluid. India remains the most fascinating democracy. And YouTube makes it rather easy to follow the flux.

Modi has a good record economically. But Nitish Kumar’s record is better. Modi has a national party. Nitish does not. On the other hand, the BJP, it can be argued, is also a regional party. Nitish has an Eastern Bloc in mind. West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Orissa are looking to gang up. Each of those states have strong Chief Ministers sitting on top of regional parties. That is a bloc of about 100 parliamentary seats.

I think Nitish is betting on a post-election alignment of forces.

Many Indian leaders like to claim the 19th century belonged to Britain, the 20th to America and that the 21st will belong to India. Well, so far America is still in the lead. And it is China that is giving competition. India has not happened yet. There are so many Chief Ministers in India performing well. Gujrat as an economy is bigger and better than most economies in Europe.

There is a strong anti-incumbency wave in the country. Rahul’s chances are slim. There are many leaders fundamentally opposed to Modi, Rahul and Nitish among them. That makes it hard for Modi unless he managed to get the BJP past the 200 mark. A hung parliament is a foregone conclusion. The leader of the largest among the non-Congress, non-BJP parties will stand to make a claim. Who will that be?

What is obvious is that the run up to the elections are going to be very interesting. And the post-poll scenario is also going to be colorful. I don’t think Mulayam or Jayalalita will be it. It is between Nitish and Kejriwal. But then a scenario where Mamata has more MPs than Nitish or Jayalalita more than Kejriwal could also throw up interesting scenarios.

I like to say India is a European Union that is actually working. There is a single currency. More than six decades after independence the country is largely an amalgam of regional parties.

Overall I remain optimistic. I think India is poised to hit close to double digit growth rates. And so all fermentation in the political process is positive. India is proof democracy works. It takes time but it works.

As for Kejriwal, it remains to be seen if he can manage to get his magic in Delhi to hit a nationwide stride. Howard Dean did not become president. Imran Khan did not become Prime Minister. Anna Hazare did not become a politician. And so it is not a foregone conclusion that the Aam Aadmi Party will emerge the third largest. But if it does then Kejriwal stands a strong chance of getting the top job.

Modi Vs Kejriwal
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