April 13, 2014

On the Road before E Day

Day 12: My four predictions for May 16

Sunday found me in a playful mood and I decided to attempt some predictions for the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Of course, I’m using the word 'predictions' in the sense of political assessments. If you want a prognosis on the basis of stellar movements, please visit the nearby roadside astrologer, and consult his parrot!

I’ll venture to make four predictions. The first concerns the BJP, which is clearly going to be the single-largest party. It is confident of a double century, dreaming of a higher score – but will probably end up disappointed. The party is not going to win anything in West Bengal, not even Darjeeling, on which it is setting so much store. In Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the BJP is near absent, despite the hype and hoopla. This means it will win enough seats to fit its Lok Sabha MPs into an Airbus A320. That plane has a cabin capacity of 180.

Next comes the Congress, facing its worst moment in history. I suspect it will have enough MPs to pack into an Indian Railways train compartment. The capacity here would be 72 passengers.

Third, the Trinamool Congress, the AIADMK and the Biju Janata Dal will be comfortable winners in their states and will each find ample seating room for their MPs in a bus. Perhaps we can add the YSR Congress in Seemandhra to this list. Its leader, Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, has been scrupulous to his promise and remained equidistant from the Congress and the BJP. He has not made the same mistake as N. Chandrababu Naidu and the Telugu Desam.

A slightly smaller bus, or a mini-bus in Kolkata parlance, should do for the MPs of Mayawati’s BSP, which is giving the BJP a strong fight in Uttar Pradesh. As for the Aam Aadmi Party, maybe it will have MPs to fill the backseat of an auto-rickshaw.

So what are we left with? A plane that’s all dressed up but lacks the fuel – the incremental seats and partners – to take off and get somewhere. A lone train compartment in the middle of nowhere, with the rail tracks yanked off and no engine in sight anyway. Thankfully we have lots of buses, representing the transport mechanism – and the aspirations – of the common Indian. After May 16, these buses – and these parties – will get India to its destination.

Derek O’Brien
Member of Parliament
Chief Whip in the Rajya Sabha and National Spokesperson, Trinamool Congress