The Election Commission announces the date for 2014 elections ..

Finally, something that everybody has been waiting for finally came to be. The elections will be spread across multiple phases, as many as 9 phases, starting from the 7th of April and going upto the 12th May 2014. This is a mega election, with the scale not seen in any other country in the world. This is a mega achievement for the country on an ongoing basis, with these elections being mostly peaceful and minus rigging (score one for the Election Commission and its assumption of power over policing and administration effortlessly). All of these make the elections something well worth being proud over. On a humorous note, with the coming into force of the model code of conduct, the deluge of advertisements related to Bharat Nirman and others will stop clogging up the TV space.
However, this same election process still has many problems that need to be handled. One of the biggest problems to do with election is about the financing of these elections. There are spending curbs per constituency, but everybody knows that inspite of the claims by the EC, candidates spend many times more than these limits, directly by the candidate and by the party to which the candidate belongs. This is an ever increasing problem, with parties having to scale upto their funding requirements. And with the funding requirements being so high, it is also clear that political parties will have to mobilize fund raising; a lot of which is then sourced from sources that are anonymous in terms of reporting (the only party as of now that is doing full apparent transparency with respect to their contributions is the Aam Admi Party). Most people also believe that this sourcing is either through corruption where the party gets a kick out of financial transactions, or in terms of contributions from corporates who in turn will provide money and later want their returns based on the money that they spent, which is through tweaking of policies or contracts. And the EC is not really putting in the effort to streamline this part and ensure that the parties do transparency (they had a proposal of ensuring that no anonymous donation could be more than Rs. 1,000, as compared to Rs. 20,000 right now; but am not sure where that proposal is right now).
The election also is one of the biggest chances of the BJP to come to power nationally. The 2 Governments of the UPA are now being seen as a disaster time, although UPA 1 did show a better economic performance; the problems in UPA 2 totally destroyed the growth momentum of the economy and the scams that come up at regular intervals cause a deep sense of disgust at the Congress specifically and at parties generally. This disgust needs to be harnessed by an effective political force, and Modi (leading the BJP as of now) is trying its best to take ownership of the disgust vote and show a contrasting mode of development. This would have been easy (although the BJP is not strong in many parts of the country, specifically the Eastern and Southern parts), except that other parties are leery of showing support to the BJP under Modi; Modi still carries a stain of the Gujarat 2002 riots, and any political party that supports him has to take into account that there will be sizable sections of the population (minorities and others) who will not want to vote for him. In the end, it all boils down to whether he can sweep the states where the BJP has not really done well in the past, and the primary such effort needs to happen in the states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, and other states in these regions. If he can make the BJP+current allies get close to 230-240 seats, then there is no stopping Modi from becoming the PM. If less, then it gets tougher.
The Congress is in a bitter fight. It really does not have any major campaigners; Manmohan Singh was never a strong campaigner, but if he does come out to campaign for the Congress, he is likely to remind the people about their problems and cause electoral problems for the Congress. The Congress has to depend on Rahul Gandhi to ensure that the party remains in fighting spirit, but the conflict between what he is trying to do to the Congress and how the party has in terms of internal processes is high, and it is taking time to change the party enough to again start being attractive for people. Maybe he is not the right person for this, but there is nobody else in the party right now.
What else could stand in the way of the BJP ? Plenty – many states have strong regional combinations that can stand in the way of the BJP (such as Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, and many others); Karnataka remembers a rule of the BJP that was highly corrupt, and the forming of alliances also has internal issues within the party. And of course there is the increasing presence of the Aam Aadmi Party. This is a new party that anybody would have ignored before December, but the crushing of the Congress by the AAP suddenly made everybody aware. The AAP has the potential to claim some of the disgust vote, and its aim to decrease corruption has the potential to attract a large number of the poorer classes as well as some among the middle class; at the same time, the agitation mode that it employs (and is proud of it) pushes away a number of people who want a reduction in corruption but are not comfortable with the agitations methods that are employed by the party. Right now, the proposed impact of the AAP is not clear, but it is also clear that there is an undercurrent, but whether this goes to the AAP or the BJP is not clear. The next couple of months will be very interesting.

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