2014 will herald another ‘khichdi’ at Center

Janab Iftekhar Shareef
Janab Iftekhar Shareef

India Post News Service India Post, as has been its tradition, had conducted a survey among Indian American leaders with regard to the forthcoming national elections in 2014. The questions were put to assess their views on the possible outcome, inflow of foreign funds influencing the elections, the misuse of government machinery to change the election outcome and lastly, their choice of PM.

The consensus that we had last week was that there would be another ‘khichdi’ government at the Center and that the impact of foreign funds would be not much. There was no clear choice about PM but most agreed that Rahul Gandhi would not be a good choice.

Here we have a few more Indian American leaders expressing their views:
Iftekhar Shareef, a front ranking community activist and Trustee Board chair of FIA, said the elections in 2014 will be a neck to neck race between UPA and NDA with both very much balanced with their allies. For the last three elections minority votes have been the deciding factor. If election happens today, UPA will emerge as the lead coalition, he observed.

“But any small factor does make a big difference amongst Indian voters. We remember 1999 elections NDA won because of simple onion prices going up. Today we have issues of corruption, atrocities against women, soaring petrol, diesel and cooking gas prices, recent calamities and many other such issues”, he said. However he felt that 2002 Gujarat incident can hurt BJP nationwide, especially among minorities. But if things are neck to neck, I strongly believe that UPA will form the new government in 2014.

Iftekhar did not feel that money from Indian-Americans will have anything to do with funding in the elections of India. “First of all India does not allow any funds from foreign sources. May be from Gulf countries Indians as they are still holding Indian citizenship, they legally could support the process. In States like Kerala, Gujarat and Punjab, heavy presence of NRIs and their funding may be justified,” he said.

About muscle power and misuse of government machinery, Iftekhar said that media is playing a big role in the process. “I do not think any manipulation or misuse is possible. Everything is computerized. It is a little different in rural areas where money could play a significant role,” he pointed out.

His views on choice of PM candidate were that one can suggest one’s own candidate “but it is the matter for party to decide who will be its PM candidate “In my view Rahul Gandhi is still not ready for the post of PM. There are more senior qualified leaders in the party like Chidambaramji, Salman Khursheed ji, Shusheel Kumar Shinde, Kamalnath ji and more.
“In case of the BJP, Narendra Modi should wait a little more and clear himself from the 2002 incidents as cases are still pending against him and investigations are still on. Modi Ji needs to take into confidence all the minorities including Muslims, Christians, Dalits and other caste people. There are more qualified leaders like L.K Advani Ji, Rajnath Singh Ji, Arun Jaitley Ji and Shivraj Singh Chauhan; even Sushma Swaraj Ji,” he opined.

Laj Madan a prominent businessman and jeweler said that he would like to be proven wrong “but I am a bit pessimistic and believe that because of the role of big money, the Congress Party will survive at the Center.” The party is also be aided by two big factors: vote bank politics and pseudo-secularists, who are “incurable cowards.”

With regard to flow of funds from abroad, Madan said that without discounting foreign funds, the current ruling establishment is awash with ill gotten wealth in the hands of domestic mafia, working directly and conniving at the behest of this ruling dynasty.

The ruling cabal has no compunction in using any and all available means at its disposal which range from abusive use of CBI to launch motivated investigations to employing henchmen to launch smear campaigns, misuse of the compliant press and so many dirty tricks in helping create communal disinformation.

Responding to question about future Indian PM, he observed that “seriously, it will amount to no less than a natural disaster and one of the greatest misfortunes a nation could suffer if Rahul Gandhi were to become the Prime Minister of our great nation. ”

Dr Ram Gajela, former president of Indo American Democratic organization and a community activist, said that multiplicity of parties, including a good number of regional parities influencing elections at the local level, would not ensure a single national party to gain upper hand in the 2014 elections for Federal government. “Coalition will be the rule of the day,” he observed.

Responding to the question of influence of money on the elections outcome, Dr Gajela said that much would depend on the caliber and popularity of the candidates seeking elections. “If the electorate likes a particular candidate, money would not pay a significant role. At micro level, it could be but not at macro level,” he felt. Besdies, the same yardstick would apply to the use of muscle power or/ and misuse of government machinery.

“Both will have small impact, if the right candidates and having pull with the electorate are fielded in different constituencies.”

He was cautious in answering question about his choice for PM – Rahul, Modi or any other candidate. He said “let the people of India choose their candidate. I will go with that,” he said

Salil K Mishra, president of the Association of Indians in America Illinois chapter, said that in the near future there is no possibility of any single party forming government at the Center given the stranglehold wielded by regional satraps in various States of the country. BSP and SP in Uttar Pradesh, DMK-AIDMK in Tamil Nadu, TMC in West Bengal, BJD in Odisha, JD (U) in Bihar, Akalis in Punjab and a few smaller parties in Jharkhand, Assam, Haryana, J&K and now in the Andhra-Telengana region are bound to play a major role in the next elections. In this scenario, I would say Congress could be the winner after the break down of relationship between Nitish Kumar and the BJP.

With regard to the flow of funds from abroad and their influence on elections, Mishra observed “it will have no impact on the outcome as it is very small compared to the real expenses an Indian election normally entails. The amount spent on Indian elections is huge even though not all the expenses and inflow are well accounted for. The real issues would be religion, caste, rich-poor divide, corruption and of course the strong regional aspirations,” he added.

The Government misuse or political manipulation in Indian elections is a thing of the past. Muscle power has a say but its real impact on the final outcome will be negligible, he said.

With regard to the likely head of the government and his choice of the PM candidate, Mishra mentioned “I do not have any personal preferences for any candidate. But I predict it could be Rahul Gandhi as the Congress party is capable of stitching together a credible coalition to form a government. Modi is largely untested for a bigger role but remains an exciting promise. He has to convince a larger swathe of the electorate. Also, Modi has less name recognition in States other than Gujarat and the north. Rahul benefits from being the scion of the most famous political dynasty in India. I would keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best man to win the job.”

Surendra Ullal