Since everyone and his grandmother has taken to predicting the results of the forthcoming general election in India, I thought I would get into the act too. The difference is my guesstimates are totally unscientific. They are not based on surveys or scholarly research, but purely based on my gut feeling. If even half of them turn out to be accurate, no one will be more surprised than me. Anyway, here goes.
Let us start with the BJP. According to the pundits, Narendra Modi’s ascension to the throne is inevitable and preordained. This is probably true. The dichotomy is that the challenge, if any, to Modi will come not from the Congress or the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), or the regional parties, but from within the BJP itself. Here's one indicator. Modi has announced his intention to contest a second seat, besides in Gujarat, from Varanasi or Lucknow. Why an irresistible force like Modi feels the need to hedge his bets is for him to say. Anyway, neither of the incumbents, Murli Manohar Joshi or Rajnath Singh respectively, seem to be eager to take a bullet for the King-Emperor. Modi may eventually get his way, but it will be messy. Also word is that the other two aspirants to the BJP throne, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj - as well as veteran L.K. Advani - would not be averse to the Great Leader taken down a peg or two.
The Congress is universally regarded as the underdog, which has its advantages. Since expectations are so low, no political outfit is expending much energy in taking the Grand Old Party down. Moreover, I’ve always felt that Modi peaked a bit too early. he has been giving essentially the same speech for months now; and it is getting a bit stale. Even the digs at the Dynasty are becoming monotonous. Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, is just hitting his stride. He has wisely decided not to compete with Modi in terms of massive rallies and rhetorical speeches. He is instead talking to disparate small constituencies which unexpectedly could coalesce into a significant vote bank. The BJP is giving him free rein because they have already written off the Congress as irrelevant and no longer threat. This indifference is beneficial to the Congress, as it leaves them at liberty to spring a few surprises.
The new kid on the block, the AAP is very adroitly playing the spoiler. Their grandstanding and sensational "disclosures" are alternatively evoking feelings of outrage, dismay, and admiration. It is to Arvind Kejriwal’s credit that of all the political leaders, he alone has been able to rattle the omnipotent Narendra Modi. The BJP may attempt to dismiss Kejriwal’s "16 questions" and attempts to dispel the myth of a Gujarat paradise as mere pinpricks, but they are resonating with a large number of voters and chipping away at Modi cloak of invincibility. Do not be surprised if the AAP emerges as a significant block in the new Parliament.
To conclude then, the BJP will be the single largest party, but will have to scramble to cobble together enough allies to get a majority. The perception of the Congress being reduced to double digits may be premature and they may yet give a respectable account of themselves. The regional satraps will reserve judgment about alliances until they observe which way the political wind is blowing after the election results are announced. So will the joker in the pack, the AAP. If it gets 40-plus seats - which is not as far-fetched as it seems - they may shed their broadcast neutrality and align with the Congress. They will justify it as a necessary compromise to fulfill their duty to keep out the "communal" BJP. That is my throw of the dice anyway. Place your bets.