Forget 2014, the Congress and BJP need to sit together today

All the indications are that the next Lok Sabha elections will see the national parties, the Congress and the BJP, being the two leading winners – but completely dependent on alliance (and other) partners to form a government.

CNN-IBN-The Hindu Election Tracker poll conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), that paints this unsettling picture, says that though both the major electoral formations will get 29 per cent of the vote share each, the NDA will be ahead with anything between 172 and 180 seats and the UPA behind with 149 to 153 — in short, a gap of 22. The BJP’s score, up from 2009, would be in the range 156 to 164; the Congress’s tally, 131 to 139, down from the last general elections.”

What this means is that, whichever alliance comes to power eventually, we will have the spectre of chaos we have seen during UPA II, where the party leading the alliance at the centre will be hamstrung not only by the opposition parties but also by their own alliance partners.

Manmohan Singh and LK Advani. Reuters

Manmohan Singh and LK Advani. Reuters

That means prolonged uncertainty in policy decisions and legislation. It means that we will see a corporate India that is confused, confounded and uncertain of what the future holds, we will see multinational brands and investors thinking twice before taking a strong India position, that we will see more pandering to an ever-expanding list of vote banks (with the pandering making some stakeholders happy while making others unhappy).

And it needn’t be so.

The BJP and the Congress, without any alliance partner of either the NDA or the UPA, together will have, according to the predictions made in the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies poll, a minimum of 287 seats – a clear majority in the Lok Sabha.

Whatever the final outcome, it is likely that, between them, the Congress and the BJP will have a final tally somewhere in this region.

And it’s this number that suggests that both the Congress and the BJP need to change their tactics somewhat in the light of the growing influence and clout of the regional parties as reflected in the composition of the current Lok Sabha and the predicted composition of the next Lok Sabha.

The BJP and the Congress will always be enemies – there is no changing that. But they can make their lives easier by collaborating on national issues where there is no ideological clash. For example, it cannot be good news for the next government, whether it is led by the BJP or by the Congress, if the rupee continues to hurtle south and FDI dries up.

Both the national parties need to agree on a common minimum program which they jointly push through, with the strength afforded by the projected 280 plus seats.

The problem with this suggestion is that the party in power will monopolise the credit and the popular support in many cases – such as the Food Security Bill.

What if the parties stopped politiciking for a moment and decided to become statesmen? What if they could have a joint press conference on such issues, where it is apparent to all who see it, that, whatever differences the two may have, on many issues, there is undisputed alignment? What if the party in power could be gracious enough to share the limelight with the leading opposition party?

What if the Congress and the BJP sit together and agree on the way forward to stem the rupee’s slide as a first step?

It’s possible. If the parties truly care about the voter. Sadly, that’s not the case.

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