With the outcome of the recently concluded assembly elections, the countdown has begun well and truly for the Lok Sabha polls around March-April next year. The signs don't augur well at the outset.
Sheila Dikshit was voted back for the third consecutive time - This means that the electorate did not have a better choice and chose the lesser devil of the two. For a person, who has shot herself on the foot through several indiscriminate and unthoughtful public comments, the recent one being after the murder of Soumya Viswanathan, the public clearly felt BJP would be a worse option.
The outgoing CM played with fire while promising reservation in the election campaign and had to face immense public scrutiny and shock over the Gujjar agitation that followed as a result. Anti-incumbency played a role here though not as heavily as many had presumed.
It was a vote for populism and people again realized that they would be worse off with the opposition in power - the subsidized rice and promise of bicycles together with the perception of development and the image of the CM played a definite part.
In voting back Raman Singh, people have approved of the strong anti-naxal action image of his.
What is crucial is that BJP was unable to capitalize electorally on the question of terrorism and tough anti-terror laws. But despite our press believing so, I feel that the people have voted smartly - they realized that it is the central Government whose role is critical for strong measures. They have also decisively lessened the impact of anti-incumbency. No analyst worth his salt can henceforth rattle off that jargon. Three states have defied that and quite impressively in at least two!
It is time for all the key players to introspect which our political parties and their leaders can hardly be expected to do. For the BJP, the sooner it comes to terms with the fact that narrow agendas won't work anymore, the sooner it can hope to make gains. LK Advani as the choice in itself might distance some traditional loyalists who have voted for the lotus because of Vajpayee's image. It needs to tread a cautious path with its known well wishers so that it remains firmly mainstream.
The Congress is by far the gaining party in the equation but not without riders. It should focus during the next three months on the decisive handling of the current mess at the center and in Maharashtra in particular. Economy and diplomacy are the keywords and much depends on our PM and External affairs minister in the current scenario. A strong candidate backed by shrewd strategy management is absolutely necessary for the congress to return to the center next year.
The BSP and its dreams lie shattered. The Left is making some seemingly smart political moves but in doing so, the image of a squeaky clean party is taking a severe beating. Alliance with Mayawati and Jaya can tarnish that in due course. Its influence is confined to pockets of the country and hopes of a third front are still very romantic at best.
With a picture that is delicately poised, it is anybody's guess as to how the Lok Sabha polls might swing. It looks as if the voter is not yet decided. The next 3-4 months are hence all the more critical for all the major political players. Did anybody speak about the nuclear deal by any chance?