Modi vs Rahul
Does Rahul Gandhi have an ace up his sleep to trump Modi?
Jawed Naqvi Delhi
A big race, probably the biggest that India is mandated to hold, was kicked off last week. It could usher Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi as prime minister in 2014 when elections are due, if not before. And since Modi has the unqualified support of major industrialists who know the art, shall we say, of financing parties, lobbying for MPs, and influencing key policies, there is little reason to doubt who the corporate media would be backing when push comes to shove. Gandhi, with his limited experience of NGOs in Amethi and Rae Bareli might find himself as the back-up. He is untested. Modi, on the other hand, has shown his worth to those who run democracy in India.
In any case no one is required to win a majority in Parliament any longer and nobody probably ever will in the increasingly disparate polity called India. The last time a single party had a clear majority it was the largest majority ever. In 1984, Rajiv Gandhi got more than three fourths of the Lok Sabha seats but that was in the wake of his mother's assassination and the communal wave which came with sympathy. No party has got a clear majority ever since. The task to make up for the shortages is left to post-electoral "arrangements" to be managed by veteran specialists with the needed wherewithal to make the right offer to get the arithmetic right. This has been the pattern since 1991.
That was when a handful of MPs representing the tribes people of Jharkhand - the kind who are rallying the war against Maoists today - accepted a small bribe to save the trust vote for Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao's minority Congress government. Only after his five-year term was complete and over were they jailed. He escaped of course by some legal callisthenics to hand over the reins of power to the Congress' most preferred upper caste alternative - the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), albeit for 13 days to begin with.
Without going into deep history, suffice it to say that just last week, the legislative assembly in the border state of Assam sent two Congress candidates to the Rajya Sabha by indulging in "cross-voting", euphemism for shady deals. The BJP suspended its MLAs for betraying its whip, but the deputies may yet remain members of the house because the majority and the presiding officer belong to the Congress who may reward the men, not punish them. This incidentally is the same assembly that has consistently elected Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as Rajya Sabha MP since 1992. After the Supreme Court changed the rules, he is no longer required to give an affidavit of being a permanent resident of Assam! He needed to do so in the past.