Elections in India are always an interesting time for me. No matter what I think of the state of affairs in the country, the state of my favourite party and my political opinions, this has been the best way for me to understand the country. This is the time when all the media outlets go out and try to cover each and every constituency and try to make sense of its demography, development, political players and how are the parties trying to engage with the voters.  I get to understand the issue of the illegal migrants in Bangladesh and some of them are actually Hindus or how the Tamil Nadu chief minister is going for the jugular of the DMK party which is besotted by corruption scandals and family strife. It is a pulse taking of my country like nothing else. If it was left to me the elections would happen once every two years, although I am not quite sure what that would do to the already weak financials of the media organisations.  The elections results are due tomorrow and this post has been a long time coming and if I don’t write it today then I might as well not write it all!

As much as I am interested in the politics of it all, it is hard even for me not to begin this post by not talking about the incumbent government and the state of affairs in India. I remember the first time I heard of the term ‘demographic dividend’ was during an alcohol fuelled conversation with a senior bureaucrat in 2005. The gentleman was clearly drunk but was still giving out pearls of wisdom, one of which was that the decade of 2010-20 will define India’s long term future and her place in the world as her demographic dividend will be at its most favourable in the decade and it is extremely important that India gets the right governance in that decade.  It is with this thought in mind that I welcomed the UPA 2 back in 2009. I thought to myself that this is a centre left government, headed by an economist prime minister who now has 5 years of experience of learning on the job, no Left parties in the coalition and he doesn’t even have to bother with the politics as that is managed by Sonia Gandhi.  Five years on and not only is the economy is in tatters, but from an economic perspective I feel we have regressed as a nation. The citizens of the country who expect a decent life, jobs and public servants who work for their benefit are disappointed and frustrated. A lot of them have either travelled abroad, or have family and friends outside or have access to international media now understand that to have these basic things is not rocket science and a lot of countries around the world have delivered this to their citizens. It is increasingly unclear to them why the government is unable to do it in India. It is in this context that I see the national players setting out their stalls to attract voters.

First of the blocks was Narendra Modi. Ever since his nomination about a year ago as the prime ministerial candidate for the BJP he has run this election on an anti-corruption and development agenda. In response to his agenda, the Congress sets its agenda to be a secular agenda and development in woolly terms such as a women’s empowerment and other social issues. I say women’s empowerment is a woolly issue because the Congress has no agenda of advancing issues – like passing the women’s reservation bill, having a strong women’s minister, giving more seats to women candidates or even a competent national commission for women. The congress stall is an anti-bjp stall. The BJP is saying that we are going to do this and that, the Congress is instead saying that we are not going to do that but not really spelling out what it is going to do. In my mind the Congress lost the election last year when it failed to put up a strong candidate and its best hope was that Modi would collapse under his own ambition through either a riots conviction or some other controversy. The government spent its energy trying to get foreign governments to deny a visa to Narendra Modi a policy that has so much backfired that the US ambassador to India has left her position. The other controversies happened and Congress is staring down the barrel of a shot gun. They have lost touch with the common man and the Gandhi family, quite like the British royal family, looks increasingly out of touch with the Indian electorate. I personally despise the temerity of Rahul Gandhi to stand up and take credit on behalf of his party for the independence movement.

As things stand now, BJP alliance will be the single largest party tomorrow and will look to form the government. Its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has sold himself and his party as a pro-development and anti –corruption party. He is as much anti-corruption as Congress is secular which is not much.  Indians look up again to a new government in the hope that he will give the country a sensible and credible government that they deserve.  The stock market is at a record high on those expectations even though the economy continues to stagnate and there are forecasts of a below average monsoon.

India has one final shot for getting something out of her demographic dividend. I wouldn’t bet on a BJP government doing that but I have been wrong before and I sincerely hope that I am wrong again. But it is hard not to agree with The Economist – Barring a few exceptions, India deserves better than the current crop of leaders.

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