L K Advani has predicted that after 2014 elections the Prime Minister of India will neither be from Congress nor BJP. This outburst may be out of frustration because he had been nurturing the dream of becoming Prime Minister after Vajpayee or merely as a political analyst. He may be right since the trend in recent state elections has shown that regional parties have gained ground as a result of incompetence of both the national parties. Imagine Rahul Gandhi along with his bandwagon going from village to village in UP and BJP’s firebrand orator, Uma Bharti roaring at the top of her voice and yet no votes for either of them.On the contrary, the Samajwadi party sprang a surprise. For formation of central government the states that matter are J&K, Punjab, UP, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu which have State parties already in power besides Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Maharashtra where local State parties with regional identities are likely to make a comeback. Then what will be left for the Congress and the BJP?
The Indian National Congress which is now ruling in the Centre as also in many states is likely to face anti-incumbency factor and may be thrown out of power for reasons of corruption, price rise, power and water shortage and after effects of drought faced by the country. No charisma of Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi or for that matter their regional satraps is likely to come to the rescue of Congress.
On the other hand, Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) is in a fix of its own doing. It has been a victim of indecision since its inception. Vacillating between Hindutava and Secularism it has neither been able to give an alternative political ideology to the country as a whole nor find a replacement in place of Vajpayee who though he subscribed to RSS philosophy yet maintained a tender face to comfort his allies. Even Vajpayee faced the ire of Karunanidhi, Mayawati, Mamta Banerjee and Farooq Abdullah at different points of time during his short tenure as Prime Minister. Fact remains that there is no concoction that can baptise BJP, a Hindu party, and make it look secular to non-Hindu communities. Problem with BJP has been that it is not able to decide whether to become completely secular like Congress or stay as a Hindu party. The role of the party in Gujarat and Orissa has further compounded their problems and more than convinced other communities that BJP is basically a Hindu party. It is this stance of the party that has estranged Naveen Patnaik and Nitish Kumar who cannot afford to toe their line on many issues. Question remains if BJP cannot shun this tag, then why not own it completely and without reservation and make sure Hindus vote for it en bloc? After all they form more than two third of the population. Here again the problem with the BJP, as also with its ally Shiv Sena, is that they are urban-centric and their policy formulation is dominated by Brahmins and the trading community who are caste conscious and do not allow the party to become popular among scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. In UP they had a brief honeymoon with Bahujan Samajwadi Party twice but failed which was exploited by Mayawati to label them as anti-Dalit.
Worse still is the internal rivalry among BJP leaders. In the past they showed scant respect for many of their charismatic leaders rather disgraced them publicly like L K Advani, Govindacharya and Uma Bharti not to speak of hardliner Balraj Madhok who did not want Jana Sangh to lose its identity. Party’s chief was caught taking bribe while in Karnataka the erstwhile Chief Minister is facing charges of corruption. A party which was known for its moral code of conduct and discipline registered a steep fall in ethical standards. So under these circumstances who does BJP chose as its next Prime Ministerial candidate – the old guard such as L K Advani or Murli Manohar Joshi, young turks such as Sushma Swaraj or Arun Jaitley or the one and only one Narendra Modi who has more enemies within NDA than outside.
Coming to prediction of results for 2014 elections, given the bias of the people towards regional parties coupled with non-performance of Congress and indecisive BJP, there is likelihood of a fractured verdict in 2014 with regional parties having a larger piece of the cake to eat. Naturally therefore, there may be an attempt to make a third front in case some one like Nitish Kumar or Biju Patnaik takes the lead. One of the parties out of Congress or BJP may have to support them either from inside or outside. Given that Congress has a so-called secular tag with it, most of the third front parties may opt for support from it and not from BJP. And so the BJP will continue playing the part of main opposition party for next five years thereafter stalling parliamentary proceedings and crying foul on major and minor issues.