The 16th Indian General Election will take place on 16 April 2014. Most pollsters are currently predicting that the likely outcome will be a hung parliament, no single party winning more than 50% of the cast votes required to form the government.
The Hindu nationalist BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), are expected to win most seats but not enough to form the government. The incumbent ruling Indian National Congress (INC) are predicted to be relegated to second position. There are 37 parties who have at least one or more MPs in the outgoing Indian parliament of 567 MPs. The BJP or the INC and their natural allies will need support from the other parties. The party who can muster the minimum requirement of 284 will form the next government.
Of the 67 years since independence in1947 the Congress Party in one name or another, ruled India for 52 years, and most of that time under the leadership of the Nehru/Gandhi family. Mr Manmohan Singh has been Prime Minister for the last ten years but the rein of the party is in the hand of Mrs Sonia Gandhi who, by marrying the late Rajiv Gandhi assassinated while he was Prime Minister, became a member of the Nehru/Gandhi family.
The only other party that ruled India for a full parliamentary term is the BJP, during the Prime Ministership of Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The name of the Congress Party has changed several times and since 1967 it has been weakening. Meanwhile, the Hindu Nationalist Parties such as BJP and Shiva Sena have been gaining in strength.
Regional parties are also proliferating and there are currently ten or so significant ones. Political leaders are nowadays concentrating their efforts in the states or regions they come from. It seems that they are incapable of taking the national leadership, leaving it only to the communal BJP and the diminishing INC. This can hardly be good news for Indian politics.
Under these circumstances there are several options facing those looking to form the next Indian government. First, Mr Modi of the BJP with its partner the Shiva Sena could seek a coalition government with some of the regional parties. This does not bode well for minority communities including Muslims, Christians and Sikhs. The charismatic BJP candidate Mr Narendra Modi is the Chief Minister of the state of Gujrat. He has already gained the approval of the Indian business communities and industrialists for his ability to take efficient and quick decisions. But he is suspected as the prime instigator, conniver and perpetrator of the 1998 Gujrat riot, which led to thousands of Muslims being killed, their businesses torched and families homeless.
Several investigations have taken place. Though some of his ex-ministers and many party members are rotting in jail he could not be charged for any serious wrong doings. Shiva Sena also has records of causing riots, killing or burning Muslims on several occasions. Mr Modi, like Chameleon, is of late, changing the colour of the Sangh Pariwar's Saffron robe. His aim is to attract Muslim votes, without which he is unlikely to become the Prime Minister of India. He is shedding crocodile tears by asserting that he did not condone the killing of Muslims in India. He is also trying to tempt the small but well organised Muslims of Gujrat who are efficient businessmen for possible concessions.
It is unlikely that the blood in his hands would wash so easily. The funny thing is that the possibility of Mr Modi's becoming the next Indian Prime Minister is influencing America's attitudes to him. Feelers have already been sent to India for possible mending relations with Mr Modi. That is why Nancy Powell US ambassador in India paid a courtesy call to him though he is still banned from visiting the USA since the atrocities in Gujrat.
The Second possibility is a similar coalition by the INC, Mr Rahul Gandhi as Prime Minister, who is the baby-faced son of the party leader Sonia Gandhi and her late husband Rajiv Gandhi. Master Gandhi seems to be growing up fast without reaching maturity. It is hard to imagine him as the Prime Minister providing leadership of the country and represent her successfully in international forums.
The likelyhood of a Third Front is being discussed by ten or so smaller party leaders. This would require those parties coming together against the INC and the BJP. This would also depend on how many seats they manage to win, their attitudes to each other and cooperation of the other 24 minor parties. This is wishful thinking as without the support of one of the two major parties they are unlikely to reach the magic figure of 284 MPs.
A fourth and a novel form of government has been mooted by an Indian exforeign secretary, Krishnan Srinivasan: a coalition between the INC led by Sonia/Rahul Gandhi and the BJP leader Narendra Modi. The interest of the country will have to be their prime motive. If these two antagonistic parties can forgo their parochial party interests and can form a grand but unlikely coalition it will be a holy alliance, developing a new trend of politics in India.
If that happens a new era will be ushered in, creating the utopian possibility of untold benefits to India. This is only a forlorn hope!
Mohammad Soukat Ali was educated in the sciences and embarked upon a career in agricultural economics in West Bengal, India, before working in the UK civil service. He writes articles and essays on Islamic reform and history.