India goes to the polls

This is an important month. Over the course of a little over a month, up to 800 million Indians will vote for their representatives in the Lok Sabha. While I don’t want to comment on the political outcomes, I am quite interested in some aspects of the debate.

1. The lately arrive BJP manifesto puts development up top and the traditional hindutva bits behind (Ram temple, cow slaughter…). The news channels are all at it with “communist” leaning folk pretty upset as usual. N Ram of The Hindu was in particular railing about the Uniform Civil Code. Why are leftists opposed to a uniform civil code. Shouldn’t communists be the first to back it? After all it abolishes separate personal law for different religions. Why should Hindus be allowed to practice sati, or Muslims the triple talaq? Should there not be one law across community lines? Given that the Constitution of India has the uniform civil code as an objective of state policy, it is even more interesting to see the people opposed to it.

2. The rise (and fall?) of the Aam Aadmi Party. There are multiple things here.

When given the chance to govern Delhi, this party ran away. It was completely opportunistic – contesting LS polls while their chief gets bogged down with administration was not possible. Thus the party chief who said that he is committed to the people of Delhi as CM is contesting the LS polls giving a lie to that promise. Why trust them on good governance if they run away at the first fight?

It is not the only promise not kept. If the point of the party is anti-corruption and strong government, why is he standing against the BJP man in Varanasi when it is more appropriate to stand against the Congress leadership?

The AAP also comes across with what I would call anarcho-populism. As many left wing revolutionaries have done in the past the support comes from the youth, the disenchanted, the disenfranchised and so on. They have been the worst affected by the growth slowdown, high inflation and corruption. But the policies of the party – which are very populist – cannot be reasonably implemented. While the party says that the government should not be in the business of running businesses and that they are business-friendly by promising good governance, the short Delhi stint is not promising. Subsidy increases (water, power), education reservations and the like are policies that will entrench poor growth and high inflation, while leading to more opportunities for corruption. And where is good governance when the government raises moral hazard by telling people that their power dues will be forgiven. No answers.

What is very surprising is people like ex-bank chiefs and ex-IT company C-level execs are contesting on AAP tickets. Do they endorse these policies?

In the end the party will go back to protesting. They know that if they come into power they will have to deliver, which is impossible.

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