Dr P Pullarao
The greatest writer William Shakespeare 500 years ago made the date March 15 a very famous. He called it the “Ides of March“, because an astrologer had predicted that the great Roman Emperor Julius Caesar would be assassinated that day and he was assassinated that day. Now March 15 is becoming an important date in India.
That day the results of elections to 5 States will be out and fate of very important leaders would be decided. Prime Minister Narendra Modi ,Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav, and most important of all Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Kejriwal without any dynasty, caste or party to back him up did a miracle and defeated the Congress in Delhi when it was in power in Delhi state and Central Government.
Congress is fully aware that if Kejriwal rises, it will be destroyed in the small States of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh,Goa,etc. Kejriwal can fight elections in small states . In above States, Congress and the BJP are the only two parties and they usually form governments alternately .With the rise of Kejriwal, this comfortable relations between political opponents ended.
Kejriwal is seriously contesting only in two States of Punjab and Goa. Both are small States and have entrenched BJP-Akali Dal-Congress parties. In Goa, which has only 40 MLAs, Kejriwal has made his presence felt .But he is not expected to get many seats. But he has offered an alternative to BJP and Congress. What Kejriwal has done in Goa is allowed honest people who would never have had a chance in politics to contest on his party ticket. This election has therefore opened up Goa politics to new comers.
It is in Punjab that Kejriwal has started a potential earthquake in Indian politics . Though Punjab has only 13 MPs, it has disproportionate influence in India. Punjabis are spread all over India and across the world. Sikhs dominate Punjab and their Gurdwaras are centers for Punjabis. In Canada, there are 4 Sikhs who are Cabinet ministers in the Canadian government .
Punjab is a state dominated by only the Congress and Akali Dal-BJP front. No other party has ruled Punjab since its formation over 50 years ago.
In a state where Sikhs, it is strange that a total outside like Kejriwal is now expected to get a good percentage of votes. If the polls are correct, then Kejriwal might get 30% of the votes and maybe 40 MLAs out of 117. If this happens, it would be major shakeup of Indian politics.
Having become Chief Minister of Delhi, both the BJP and Congress had expected that Kejriwal would get a bad name and disappear. But obviously people feel that whether he does wonders or not, they want change away from the same people ruling forever. The same ministers and their families rule Punjab.
The Badal family captured the Akali Dal, which was a religious party and was formed in 1920. It is nearly a 100 year old party .It was dominated by Sikh religious leaders. But now everyone thinks Akali Dal is the personal party of Badals like the DMK, Telugu Desam or Naveen Patnaik’s BJD in Odisha.
The same faces, the same styles, same corruption and nothing is delivered . Plus people have to put up with arrogance . The officials of Punjab adjust nicely to the corrupt leaders and everyone in power is happy.
What would be the consequences of Kejriwal doing well in Punjab?
- 1. First it would create a movement in the country ,where new leaders and new parties will emerge and try to bring change. The national parties or Fronts would get competition. It would also be a threat to dynasties. Younger people will get interested in politics. As the country is becoming more urban, younger people have lesser caste loyalties and ties to old political parties. Instead of huge offices, staff, social media will help launch politics.
2. The charisma of Kejriwal will go up enormously in India. Once he became chief Minister of Delhi, there was swelling of support for him. His party contested elections in many states and did well. But that support went down. Now if Kejriwal does well in Punjab, it means that India is ready for him and his party.
4. Kejriwal already has plans to enter Gujarat. He proposes to ally with the PATEL agitation leader Hardik PATEL and the young Dalit leader Jignesh Mueva .For the last 40 years, Gujarat has been a 2 party state between the Congress and the BJP. Like all other states, people want change. But they could never get it in Gujarat. It was the same Congress MLAs and BJP MLAs.
5. If Kejriwal does well in Punjab, he will become a much bigger worry for the Congress. The aim of the Congress party is to make allies everywhere and then lead a Front . But Kejriwal is definitely not pro-Congress in any way and will not agree to support a Congress -led front . Therefore, wherever Kejriwal grows, Congress will decline. .
7. Today it looks as if Congress will form the government in Punjab. But if the Congress does not get a majority, it will be a hung assembly. If that happens, then Kejriwal will become a top national figure. Kejriwal does not need rich people, big offices, for his party to succeed. His formula is anyone can put on the AAP Cap and become an Aam Admi Party leader. You do what you want . There are no leaders. That is his strength . Every slum youth or student feels he is a leader just by wearing a cap and carrying a flag. Other parties are like a government department. Kejriwal allows total freedom to work. But of course, he will select the MLAs and MPs.
What kind of Chief Minister of Delhi has Kejriwal been?
Kejriwal has been very clever to be able to fight the BJP Govt of India, Congress Party, Courts , his old comrades who turned against him like Yogendra Yadav ,famous lawyer Prashant Bhushan. As far as governing Delhi has been concerned, Kejriwal has maintained a very simple style. He delivered some things that he promised. People who voted for him in 2014 are still behind him.
March 15 will definitely impact politics of India. No regional party has been able to do well in any two States. If Kejriwal does well in Punjab, he will definitely become a threat to the national parties .Kejriwal has taken a big risk .If he does not do well in Punjab, then he will suffer in Delhi .
Kejriwal is doing what Shakespeare advised 500 years ago ; “ There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Otherwise, the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and miseries.”
Let us see if Shakespeare is right .
Dr P Pulla Rao is a Socio-political and Economic analyst