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Friday, 8 November 2013

Indian elections 2014: The Future game

Indian Elections: 2014, a few who would change the game among the many ...

India's electorate has always dispensed more power to regional parties thereby enabling coalitions. The regional parties hope to have either a "weak" or reasonably compliant group calling the shots at the center, ensuring that they can have their say.

This would quickly explain how the most complex coalition was headed by H D Deve Gowda and later by I K Gujral who were not perceived to be strong leaders. This does not however grant them authority and therefore explains why they had shorter terms. However perception does not necessarily mean that the leader in question or the party enabling that person with leadership is strong or weak. This however affects electoral mandate.

The second factor is that public awareness toward corruption and scams is growing with an inherent want for 'fair governance'. Hence any party perceived corrupt or having been involved in scams has the negative swing as they call it. (Yet, we must remember that historically - even in terms of evolution, nature itself has never been fair.) Hence having fair governance is as much a pipe dream that might even end up with a global Orwelian Dystopia.

India needs:
  • Stability in the Center to help growth in terms of economy.
  • Regional stability to avoid unrest, rise in issues like naxalites, requests to form new-states of regions that were not previously union-territories.
You can read further, on the possible political future of India from 2014-2027, hoping that a worldwide war or catastrophe does not happen.


Here is a quick list of the power brokers in each of the past elections leading to the present. This gives us some data to work with to predict what happens next.
  • 15th Lokh Sabha (2009) 
    • Led by: Congress(I) - Manmohan Singh (37.2%)
      • Coalition Alliance: UPA
    • Opposed by: BJP - L K Advani (24.6%)
      • Coalition Alliance: NDA
  • 14th Lokh Sabha (2004)
    • Led by: Congress(I) - Sonia Gandhi (35.4%)
      • Coalition Alliance: UPA
    • Opposed by: BJP - Shri A B Vajpayee (33.3%)
      • Coalition Alliance: NDA
  • 13th Lokh Sabha (1999)1999 Lok Sabha.png
    • Led by: BJP - Shri A B Vajpayee (37.1%)
      • Coalition Alliance: NDA
    • Opposed by: Congress(I) - Sonia Gandhi (28.3%)
      • Coalition Alliance: UPA
  • 12th Lokh Sabha (1998)
    • Led by: BJP - Shri A B Vajpayee (37.2%)
      • Coalition Alliance: NDA
    • Opposed by: Congress(I) - Sitaram Kesri (26.1%)
      • Coalition Alliance: UPA
    • Government short-lived as 
      • AIADMK pulls out support for 18 seats. 
      • Regional parties are unable to form a stable coalition.
  • 11th Lokh Sabha (1996)
    • Led by: JD -  H D Deve Gowda (29%)
      • Coalition Alliance: UF (United Front)
    • Opposed by: BJP - Shri A B Vajpayee (20.3%)
      • Coalition Alliance: NDA
    • Government short-lived as 
      • Congress(I) removes "outside support" or non-participative support.
      • Laloo Prasad Yadav forms his own party weakening the Janata Dal by 17 seats.
      • Regional parties are unable to form a stable coalition.
  • 10th Lokh Sabha (1991)
    • Led by: Congress(I) - P V Narisimha Rao (35.6%)
      • Coalition Alliance: First UPA Coalition
    • Opposed by: BJP - L K Advani (20%)
      • Coalition Alliance: (early NDA)

What might happen?

Perceptions 

Narendra Modi is simultaneously being seen as both strong and weak. This seems to be the message he is sending. The strong image should attract more to vote for the BJP. The weak image should help him form alliances with regional parties early on. He is a game changer as I've earlier looked at him with skepticism, but his approach is indeed new and that would empower him.

The strong image has attracted a lot of youth and urban voters. The weak image has convinced some regional parties to ally with him, but the "strong" image is now beginning to overshadow his 'weak' image that is making it difficult to form more regional alliances as necessary.

The Congress(I) actually has three leaders - Manmohan Singh (who may not take the next term), Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi. All three are perceived to be weak on the outside while their strengths are probably known only to those close to them. It is folly to judge politicians by their speeches, promises or their perceived victories and failures.

Newer players like Arvind Kejriwal are here to satisfy the public need for better governance. They know that they do not stand alone, yet the fog of doubt clouds them for now, as such players have been too small an influence even in past elections.

Despite all their previous successes, they are also playing this game with perceived weak leaders while their internal politicking strengths are not entirely compromised. However their image in front of the average voter has suffered, thanks to scams, graft being publicized - thanks to privatized "intelligence."

International Power

While perceptions vary, Indian economy is fairly stable in a situation where the global economic crisis (a process rather than a single event) has been on the rise. No country has been spared the ill effects of this. In combination with the events that are termed the Arab Spring (which seems a desperate global attempt at taking international control out of the Arab League / Oil Exporting Nations) the global economy has suffered massively.

Despite the fall of the USSR, Russia a former ally of India in international matters is rising as an international powerhouse along-with China who has managed this feat though their stability is still seen lacking. India's attempt to join the (self-appointed) super-powers has not been very successful during the past decade.

Korea has also joined the race to become a superpower and has been growing quite visibly to the rest of the world at a fast pace. GDP growth figures hint at why some economies have become more powerful than the others, though they are just reflecting interdependent variables. (China: 7.8%, India: 3.2%, USA: 2.2%, South Korea: 2.0%) Despite this fact, India is trying to field a possible World Bank Governor in Raghuram Rajan for the future.

The capitalist  game has become extremely dominant. Any attempt to bring back socialist control will now prove to be much more difficult. Russia, the former Socialism bastion have themselves yielded to it by using a double-arm control strategy on the economy. Earlier, ruling parties had always adopted a bipolar approach with socialism powering the public enterprises. Today no party can reverse the (so-termed) Free Market (economy) or Capitalist Market which had begun taking root in 1991-92. 

Private Intelligence

Contrary to popular belief Social Networks (think Facebook, Twitter, Google et al) have aided Governments share the costs of having to collect intelligence/information on the public. Private industries spying easily on people is probably the most horrifying global development ever.

Most of us forget to see this as a global shift in economic policies by sharing costs with a free-market sector rather than pay it through taxes. However, this also ends up with the architecture of the Internet leaving this information a lot more vulnerable than ever as countries slowly learn how to adapt themselves to use the Internet.

Outright censorship of the Internet has been the present government's attempt. The Congress(I) has always tried to (and often seemingly succeeded in) control all forms of media. This in turn helps the ruling government to quickly know at lesser costs what might happen in an election. This would mean an exit poll or an intelligence report may not be required at all - the information of public trend is already out there to be collected.

Scams

Each time the coffers/treasury of a country fill up, the possibility of scams increases. There's just too much in front of people who simply do not know what they can do with it. The result is either nepotism or outright stealing/scamming, but never a fair market to all players.

As people, better governance is rather an ill-defined term. Corruption or Graft as it is even defined in many political-science textbooks is usually rooted in society and then gets institutionalized within larger entities (including government.) Hence, despite cries claiming to help remove them, there is no single law that has not been tried or even implemented earlier (to a certain extent) that has succeeded. Hence, the approach to remove it has to be far more complex.

This is a very complex game that is no longer played with zero-sum dynamics. There is no victor and opposition. There is always group dynamics and equilibrium that is necessary to establish stability. This implies that a few promises will remain unmet and some policies originally present will be subject to change irrespective of whether the composition of the center remains the same.

Likely Scenario

The battle between the Congress(I)/UPA - already perceived weak and filled with scams and the BJP/NDA will result in the choice of the highly unstable Third front. This will enable some regional leader to come and provide temporary stability in the center as long as this leader is assisted by either of those parties/alliances. From prior data, such a government would be hopelessly short-termed with an inability to form consensus and therefore any policy.

As a change of power is a requirement for the public, choosing the BJP with the public image of Narendra Modi becoming increasingly strong creates a strong possibility for the BJP to take power. However they will also have to broker strong regional alliances - where the number count gives them an advantage.

The Congress(I)/UPA know that their chance is a third or outside chance for the 2014 elections. Their cards have been played with this precisely in mind. As in any game, politics is never fair. The Congress(I) knows that they cannot sway public perception and image for a host of reasons while Modi has his best shot now as his image has reached an all-time-high and continues to grow. Hence their outside chance is now to get more regional parties to ally with them. This is a hopeful strategy, but closer to an under-dog strategy than a strong one. Their chances are lower, though not remotely impossible.

So here's what is the most likely way things pan out (2014-2027):
  1. The Third Front commands strong power and stakes claim to form Government under some aspiring leader. (There is no shortage here for names.) The Congress(I) and BJP inevitably refuse to shake hands in an attempt to become King-of-the-hill themselves. A short-term government that lasts at least a year is formed, but is destabilized by 2015.
  2. This forces India to take in general elections in 2015, resulting in a win for the BJP/NDA, but relying strong on regional parties. The result is a short-tenured government lasting until 2018 if all goes well.
  3. India goes in for another election in 2019, where if the UPA has gathered enough strength and the public have forgotten most of their earlier scams and reasons for ill-repute, re-enters into power for another 3-year stint lasting only as long as 2022. 
  4. By this time, the third front can coalesce into one strong legislative party [with one name for the general elections, rather than their regional identities] that can fend both the NDA and the UPA by removing regional parties allied with them under the third and stronger leader. They stake government by 2022 and manage the first non-Congress, non-BJP government that lasts until 2027. By 2022, their old excesses or mistakes in 2014-2015 are forgotten allowing them to grow really strong. This may be a strong balanced regional broker with equivalent power in the center. 

Conclusion

The game of politics is however too intense to predict accurately for three more general elections. However it is a safe bet. If more states are formed, then more regional parties take command moving India inevitably into a regionally distributed power-center.

If we don't get strong leadership in 2022, India risks civil war at multiple fronts and will inevitably end up a broken country. Yet, given our populace and past records, capitalism might just be the force that helps this happen in order to protect the interests of the companies and thereby employees (the private sector should by now have become the largest employer in comparison to the government sector.)