BJP’s night of long knives and the travails of women voters
Livemint’s Gyan Verma is calling it the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) night of long knives. The overhaul in the party’s leadership that commenced with Narendra Modi’s selection as the party’s PM candidate in September appears almost complete. “A new leader has to emerge in the BJP and there should be a new framework for it. A new leader cannot emerge in an old framework so generation shift will happen,” a sociologist told the paper. Sushma Swaraj, Lalji Tandon, Murli Manohar Joshi and L.K. Advani are some key members of the old guard who now appear to play diminished roles.
Swaraj isn’t the only female politician and Lok Sabha candidate facing a turbulent campaign. Namita Bhandare, also in Livemint, says that there is “blatant misogyny reserved for women politicians”. Bandare lists out a long timeline of personal attacks targetted at female elections candidates. “Everyone is not sexist. But Parliament must come up with a regulatory mechanism to fight hurtful, personal attacks,” the story quotes Brinda Karat.
Things don’t get much better when you look at the state of women voters. IndiaSpend reports that the proportion of women voters has plateaued. “Shockingly, the proportion of women in the voters’ list is at the same level that it was in 1971, when the gender break-up of voters was first gathered.” Tina Edwin analyzes.
The two main men in the race for the Lok Sabha, meanwhile, may be set for a titanic battle in Varanasi. Livemint reports that Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP’s) Arvind Kejriwal may contest against Modi in the latter’s hand-picked battleground. On Sunday, Kejriwal dropped hints at a campaign rally in Bangalore. “I will go to Varanasi on 23 March. We will have a rally in Varanasi. Whatever the people of Varanasi will say, that will be final. If the people of Varanasi decide to give me this responsibility, I will accept it wholeheartedly.” Kejriwal said, shrewdly ensuring a sell-out at his rally this weekend.
The Congress’s much touted primary process to choose candidates, meanwhile, has thrown up few surprises, reports Livemint, “with most of the candidates selected through this process being either sitting lawmakers or relatives of top party leaders.” One political analyst told the paper that primaries was an idea whose time is yet to come in India: “Unlike democracies which are 200-300 years old, we are just 60 year old. So, ideas that sell in India still need to relate with day-to-day tangible outcomes and not a process. Primaries is just a process.”
Having said all that, surely many aspects of these elections are forgone conclusions. Almost everybody expects the BJP to emerge the single largest party. Sandipan Sharma at FirstPost says that “2014 is like a thriller we are reading backwards.” Yet, Sharma insists, there are questions still left to be answered. For instance, is there really a Modi wave afoot? Or is it merely the symptom of an “anti-Congress tsunami”?
Predictable or not, elections are becoming fiendishly expensive. Niti Central writes that the 2014 Lok Sabha polls could tot up an eye-watering bill of Rs.30,000 crore—most of which will be foot by parties and private parties. “While the Election Commission is likely to spend around Rs.3,500 crore, the Union home ministry, Indian Railways, various other government agencies and state governments will spend a similar amount to put in place means to ensure free and fair polls.” the website says. All of which will make these polls comparable to the Rs.42,000 crore in bills racked up by the 2012 US presidential election. (Both, however, were cheaper than the total cost of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. In case you were wondering.)
Elsewhere blogger Harsht has spotted a curious contradiction in the warning issued to the AAP by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA). The warning contains these lines: ‘NBA requests the convenor of AAP to “immediately refrain” from making such preposterous allegations failing which NBA members would be forced to reconsider coverage of the activities of the AAP’. Eagle-eyed Harsht writes: “The suggestion here implies that the decision to cover activities of a political party is based on the party’s favourable view of the news media in the first place… The News Broadcaster Association in other words has justified its own criticism.” Or criticized its own justification. Or something.