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    Posted March 31, 2014 by
    Kolkata, India

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    Diversity is India’s biggest Achilles’ Heel - The Arithmetic


    The battle lines for the biggest electorate across democracies and across continents is now on in full force under the glare of the media and it is a no holds barred contest where the stakes are presumably very high on either side of the fence for the players. For the incumbent it is the arrival or presumably the emergence of the prince ready for coronation and a victory is to remain relevant and hold his aging party together under a cloud for deeds/misdeeds of damaging (electoral) proportions. For the challenger it is revenge time for being hauled over burning coal, media attention and intense scrutiny for acts and omissions purportedly committed, though not confirmed by the courts or the people of the state, TWELVE long years back, important for his secular opponents but increasingly marginal for a youthful population looking for growth, jobs and fulfilment of aspirations. In this gladiatorial arena unfortunately these are not the only two players, the broth contains ingredients from at least a dozen other political parties who could play a vital part in the ultimate recipe cooking for power in Delhi.
    It is the end of March, the great Indian summer has turned on the heat in the literal sense, a bit earlier than anticipated, aided by the Sun God who probably is feeling the body heat generated, and sending it back, by nearly 1.3 billion in the hustle and bustle called life and power. The winds up to now assisted by the Wind God seem to favour the challenger who appears larger than life for his millions of raucous and strident followers the messiah with the magic wand who going by their unbridled enthusiasm seem to have anointed him to the throne well before result day. The reality however, is little more arithmetical and the devil is in the details which the challenger and the party are fully aware of. Narendra Modi and the BJP are only relevant in 343 of the 543 Parliamentary seats lacking a footprint in most of the Eastern and Southern states . Even if they were to notch up their best of 70 %, this after averaging out across states in some they could get upto 90 %, the BJP under Modi touches only 240, 32 short of the 272 simple majority mark. If they do get to 240 they are assured of support from the Andhra parties who together are vying for 42 seats and who would set aside ideological differences to stay on the right side of those in power at the Centre. The downside to the 240 figure, and it is reasonable to assume, is that Modi may have peaked a tad bit too early, there might be viewer fatigue on the excessive exposure that he is receiving and the pot shots that his opponents are taking might be sticking or that the Congress under Rahul has made a minor impact with the voters in his more new interactive and approachable avatar.
    However, for the Congress even though they have a pan India reach because the party has been around since before independence, though some would question that claim, is largely irrelevant in the current situation in 338 Parliamentary seats and the best case scenario in these seats under the present national mood is a 5 % return translating into 17 seats. What this effectively means that the party would have to turn in a stellar performance in the other 206 seats which given the ground reality is easier dreamt of than done. Assuming the Congress were to recover some lost ground, as they seem to be doing, in the run up to the election the best they can get to is 50 % or 103 seats taking their tally to 120 which considering the mood a couple of months back would be a great improvement since many were predicting double digit figures for them. However, it is a given that with 120 seats and very few allies as of now, the Congress would be in no position to support a government of other regional parties from outside since those would be such a disparate and recalcitrant group that bringing them together would make scaling Mount Everest without oxygen seem like a walk in the park.
    As of now the BJP under Narendra Modi seems to be on track to reach 240 but one does expect some of the sheen coming off as and when his political opponents mount credible political gerrymandering to neutralize him and his party or the BJP and Modi score some self goals which in the Indian political landscape given its chaotic nature is an everyday “nautanki” (drama). In large parts of India the voters still prefer caste, language, cultural pride and even religion over the need for a single party rule at the Centre. The fact that as humans we wear multiple identities in our lives, the identity which secures us best in a given situation purely driven by survival instincts, which has been the bedrock during our evolution, gains prominence and plays out to the galleries during election time in India.
    The message is clear, India is a diverse country and its diversity could be the vulnerable heel in India’s Achilles for a strong and stable government and a resurgent India. If it were not for this diversity Narendra Modi and the BJP would have romped home with a clear majority of 272+.

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