I realized five years ago, when the Congress Party came back into power after everyone had seemingly given them up for dead, that Indian politics is way too complicated to try and predict, especially from the outside.
Still, I wonder if readers have been coming across insightful articles or websites that explain what is happening in individual states or regions of the country, or analyze trends in a useful way. If so, could you put your recommendations in the comments below?
Here are two things I’ve read in the past day that I thought were interesting: the New York Times, on Narendra Modi, and Soutik Biswas, at the BBC, on why the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai is not likely to be a national election issue.
This time around, it seems impossible to read too much into what is happening on any given day. Nor does it seems necessary to pay all that much attention to the to and fro between the Congress Leaders, the BJP leaders, and third front leaders. It doesn’t seem particularly consequential in terms of how people vote. As far as I can tell, there’s nothing remotely similar to the glut of daily tracking polls we had in the U.S. with the elections last year, nor are there websites like 538.com, which synthesized all the polling data coming in. (Are there such polls and websites? Have I simply been missing them?)
It does seem clear that the steady, incremental shift from national to regional politics is continuing in the current election. On the one hand, that is bad, because it means that whatever government comes to power at the center will be inherently weak and coalition-based. On the other hand, that weakness at the center can also be a good thing in terms of maintaining overall stability — not always easy in a country with 1 billion people. Even if a far-right or far-left party comes into power next month, they will not be able to do anything too drastic for fear of losing coalition support.
Second, it seems like “Hindutva” has seemingly lost some of its force as a national issue. The BJP and its allies might still prevail, but they’re playing the “nationalism” card more than the communal card.
Third, caste politics seems to be more prevalent than ever. I find that to be one of the most depressing and deadening things about Indian politics.