India 2014: Most Interesting

2014 is shaping to be the most interesting Indian election of my lifetime to date. The Congress that spearheaded India's independence struggle and then ruled for much of the half century after that is headed to below 100 seats. The BJP just might go past 200. AAP might emerge the third largest party: Kejriwal's resignation as Delhi Chief Minister was a political master stroke. Could AAP end up with 50 seats? I don't know.

BJP will get highest ever Lok Sabha tally, Congress lowest: Times Now poll
The poll projected that the BJP would win 202 seats if the elections were held now and its allies another 25, giving the NDA 227 seats in the 543-member LS. The Congress, in sharp contrast, would sink to just 89 and even with 12 seats from its allies the UPA would barely cross the 100 mark, it predicted. ..... With "others" likely to win 215 seats and many of them having joined hands with the BJP in the past, that would be very good news for those rooting for Narendra Modi as prime minister. In terms of vote shares, the NDA is estimated to win 36%, the UPA 22% and others 42%.
Right before Kejriwal resigned, the Third Front was in the lead in the projections with 42% of the vote to the BJP-led NDA's 36%. Some interesting permutations and combinations are possible, and most of them look good for India. I think 2014 will be that watershed year for the Indian economy like 1991 was when Manmohan Singh as Finance Minister opened up the economy a little. 2014 could be for India what 1980 was for China, the year when double digit growth rates started and stayed for over two decades non-stop. And we are all winners.

BJP is like McDonald's. It is the single largest fast food chain across America. But the Third Front is like the Chinese restaurants spread across America. Collectively they are bigger than McDonald's, but it does not appear that way. But 2014 could also shape up to be the election that mints out only winners. Modi, Nitish, Kejriwal, Rahul could all end up winners, no matter what.

Both Modi and Nitish would be wonderful if either were deprived of the big throne in Delhi and had to continue as Chief Minister. Their states would benefit. Neither seems to have clear successors who could replicate their magic in Gujrat and Bihar. On the other hand both have the political muscle that Manmohan Singh lacks.

One quality Kejriwal seems to share with Modi is it might be hard for him to put together a coalition. He might prove to be a one trick pony, at least this year. Just like Nitish has been saying he will support whoever will give special category status to Bihar, Kejriwal will go for whoever promises a Lokpal Bill at the center. AAP is number one on anti-corruption, but its economic vision has not gelled yet. Nitish has done the unthinkable when it comes to corruption in Bihar and is in a good position to seek Kejriwal's support after the election. Nitish has mastered the art of the Janata Durbar that Kejriwal tried and failed at.

Interim budget 2014: Chidambaram's 10-point agenda to make India 3rd largest economy

If you put the BJP at 190, the Congress at 100, AAP at 35, and the Third Front at 220, that does not put Modi in the lead, because the BJP at 190 and the Congress at 100 puts the BJP at 90. The Congress will support anyone but Modi, particularly Nitish. Rahul is a Nitish fan. What Nitish calls the Janata Parivar, the former Janata Dal party, might together bag more seats than AAP. That might also be true of his Eastern Bloc that includes Mamata.

Not creating a formal Third Front before the elections is a good step that does not push away Mamata and Mayawati. Both will support Nitish in the aftermath. Nitish as Prime Minister and Jayalalita as Deputy Prime Minister might be a good bet.

Nitish could end up a two term Prime Minister over 10 years if the Third Front parties were to form a federation. Each constituent party would stay as separate parties free to contest each other at state levels when necessary, but at the center each party would have a person who is part of some sort of a coordination committee in Delhi. Such a federation would ensure the Third Front government completes a five year term for the first time. Minus such a setup would leave too much room for horseplay.

AAP might not join such a Third Front. But it will support it if it gets a Lokpal Bill, and it should be given that. The Congress sure will not join the Third Front, but will happily extend outside support to keep Modi at bay. And Modi is going to continue to be an excellent Chief Minister.

But this outcome is not sure at all. Modi is very much in the running. The BJP crossing the 200 mark could throw up some interesting scenarios. And should the BJP cross the 200 mark, not form the government, and if the Third Front gives the country mid-term elections, the BJP could then cross the half way mark all on its own. It could become the new Congress.

I do think of Kejriwal as a future Prime Minister, but for that to happen he will have to realize the Indian electorate cares about double digit growth rates more than corruption. He has to look like he can deliver on both.

Jayalalita, Mamata and Mayawati are all in strong positions. It is good for India to have strong women politicians. It is just that none of them look strong right now on either anti-corruption or double digit growth rates.

Rahul can afford to stay out of power for another 10 years. He is young, he has time on his hands. That will also allow him time to build his party. He has some interesting initiatives in play in terms of power devolution in his party. But then parties like the Congress and the BJP are never really out of power. They always get some states to rule.

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