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The 2014 Elections PM hopefuls| Photo Credits : BBC

Race for top post hots up: PM hopefuls await ballot verdict

By Anuj Shrivastava

Party ideologies are being redefined, reinterpreted as political realignments have started taking place before elections; all strategic compulsions for survival, winning votes and seats.

The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) is now in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) after Congress and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) were not generous in seat-sharing. Ram Vilas Paswan returns to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) after 12 years. The alliance benefits BJP as it opens doors for post-polls support. In a ripple effect, Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam(DMK) chief Karunanidhi found “good friend” Narendra Modi a “hard worker” (No, he did not mean to offend P. Chidambaram in any way, or may be!).

The Congress-RLD pact in Bihar looks doomed and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi(TRS) is averse to a merger. Congress may have to contest Bihar, Telangana alone.

While realignments, defections will go on till the polls and reappear for government formation, the PM hopefuls are aware that they are likely to become the deciding factors for the country’s next PM.

Mamata Banerjee

An aspirational Didi Photo under creative commons

An aspirational Didi
Photo under creative commons

Hidden in her refusal to align with either the Congress or the BJP is seen Mamata Banerjee’s aspiration for the PM’s chair. With Bengal having 42 seats, if TMC emerges as the third largest party in Lok Sabha, Didi will be a strong claimant to lead a “Third Force” government if the NDA falls short of support. The support of Anna Hazare who will campaign for Trinamul boosts her chances.

“I have extended my support to Mamata as she thinks and works only for society and country. She is a CM and can lead a life full of luxury but she leads a simple life. She is the only leader who responded to my letter on 17 issues for good governance,” Hazare said.

Didi’s government faced criticism over rape incidents and her controversial statements and when Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra was assaulted, arrested over “defamatory” cartoons. Her critics call her mercurial and populist. TMC will contest all seven Delhi seats. This makes it very interesting as Anna will campaign for Didi’s candidates against AAP’s.

Didi’s government has launched an Administrative Calendar for efficient, accountable and transparent governance. This initiative, the first in India, sets targets for all departments on progress of projects. It will fast-track projects, make monitoring easy, detect delays and ensure timely completion. The calendar will ensure accountability and spot non-performers.

Didi’s chances depend on the number of seats TMC wins and if she is able to rally support for herself.

Nitish Kumar

An ambitious Nitish Kumar| Photo under creative commons

An ambitious Nitish Kumar| Photo under creative commons

The JD (U) leader and chief minister Nitish Kumar started nursing Prime Ministerial ambitions once his clean image and good governance earned him plaudits for the turnaround in Bihar. His fans call him “Sushasan Babu”.

However, his ambition made him take a somewhat too hard stance on secularism and his strong opposition to Narendra Modi finally ended up with the JDU breaking alliance with BJP. Nitish Babu tried to get cozy with the Congress thence and sought special status for Bihar in vain.

The poll prospects of JD-U don’t look very promising as poll surveys show a BJP surge in the state under Modi’s influence. Nitish Babu is now one among the many contenders for the PM’’s post in the Third Force. If the JD-U wins a big chunk of the 40 seats in Bihar, his “acceptability” to lead Third Front will be  higher than others.

Jayalalithaa

Photo under Creative commons

Photo under Creative commons

Jayalalithaa Jayaram, Amma, has gone public with her ambition of becoming the PM. With an eye on capturing most of the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu and one in Pondicherry, AIADMK has forged alliances with the CPM and CPI.

The BJP was keen on an alliance with AIADMK but that was not to be.

The AIADMK manifesto for LS polls promises freebies e.g. mixies, grinders, fans, milch cows, goats, solar powered green houses (for BPL) and marriage assistance, hitherto enjoyed in Tamil Nadu, to all people in the country.
Only a good showing in elections will help Jayalalitha realise her dream. She is seen as not too affable a leader.

Mulayam Singh Yadav

The Samajwadi leader has never been shy of sharing his dream of becoming the PM. His party is in government in UP that has 80 Lok Sabha seats.

Netaji will be hoping for a sweeping win like in the last Assembly elections in the state. Netaji relies heavily on caste politics, Yadav-Kurmi votes and his Muslim votebank. The Lok Sabha seats tally in UP will be the crucial factor in deciding the next PM. Winning 40 or more seats can tilt the balance in Mulayam Singh’s favour.

Arvind Kejriwal

Arvind Kejriwal figures in the list as a very unlikely probable. The Aam Aadmi Party is unlikely to win clear majority on its own and it has showed in Delhi that it cannot run a minority government.

Kejriwal and AAP find all others corrupt, don’t see eye-to-eye with anyone and have not made any attempt to form alliance with any party.

Mukesh Ambani nowadays finds more mention in Kejriwal’s speeches than do Modi and Rahul Gandhi. Kejriwal and his associates target all big names. The results are showing; Kejriwal has been summoned as an accused in a criminal defamation case filed against him by Nitin Gadkari.

Rahul Gandhi

Photo under Creative commons

Photo under Creative commons

Rahul Gandhi is the undeclared prime ministerial candidate of the Congress party. The Gandhi-Nehru family scion is harping on RTI, Lokpal and other populist legislations.

He is not being given much weightage by political pundits. The Congress party seems to be heading for its worst-ever performance with surveys predicting that it may be confined to a double-digit tally.

Rahul has assumed a very uncharacteristic aggressive posture after being accused of having a soft approach. He still looks like believing that some populist laws and schemes will help him and his party get back into the  saddle. But the public mood seems very different. Prospects for Rahul Gandhi are as good as for the Congress party.

Narendra Modi

Photo: Narendra Modi's official Flickr account

Photo: Narendra Modi’s official Flickr account

Narendra Damodardas Modi is the favoured prime ministerial candidate and a clear front-runner as he leads the BJP-led NDA in elections.

The BJP is all tipped to bag the largest number of LS seats and it may be the party’s best performance ever.The BJP claims there is a wave in his favour.

Modi enjoys backing of the corporate world for his business-friendly, pro-growth, pro-development  policies.If the BJP does well in U.P. and Bihar and manages to touch the 250+ figure, his becoming the PM will be a certainty.

Modi has a good track record with high rate of economic growth, development and prosperity in Gujarat, which has become an attractive investment destination.Modi is known to be a workaholic.

Gifted with great oratory skills, he is a crowd-puller. Heavy crowd response at his rallies has been giving jitters to his rivals.

Modi’s speeches are motivating and in his governance anecdotes he stresses on out-of-the-box thinking for results. A man of very humble beginnings, Modi rose to become the CM by the dint of hard work and dedication.He is labeled as a controversial, polarising and divisive figure by his rivals who use the 2002 riots to flog him every now and then.

In a big timely reprieve, a trial court has accepted the Supreme Court-appointed SIT report clearing him in one case.  Modi latches on to every attack on him and cleverly uses it to his advantage. Following remarks by SP and Congress leaders on his being a “chaiwala” once, he launched the “Chai pe Charcha” campaign to garner support.

The campaign is yet to hit its prime and will step up once the Election Commission issues the poll notification. The post-election process will be no less interesting than the campaign.

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