Let’s not come to policy issue but analyse whether the BJP-led coalition or the Third Front when they come to power in New Delhi would differ from the governing Congress-led UPA2 coalition. The fact is that there are host of issues over which the BJP and the Congress agree in private and many times in public too but agreeing inside the Parliament depends on what those issues are and what their respective roles in the Houses are.
If the BJP-led coalition comes to power it would probably be more committed towards the principles of federalism as compared to the Indian National Congress (INC) but at the same time it may not support much dissent because of intra- and inter-regional conflicts and most certainly not support any possible veiled secessionist demands, just like the INC.
On the recent divisive issue of Telangana its behaviour, when in power, would be almost like that of the INC, with it agreeing to conditional bifurcation of a state. Mind you, unlike oppositions, the ruling alliance has to think about budgetary constraints as well and therefore, the government’s hands are many times tied depending upon the fiscal conditions of the country.
At the same time the government, unlike the opposition, has the option of making populist policies of its choice because it has monopoly over printing and ability to seek loan, within and outside, and aid and investment, mostly from outside. One should not expect either the extended NDA or the possible Third Front to follow lesser populist polices than the governing UPA- 2 but those in case of the Third Front would be remarkable. Both the fronts are more likely to continue many populist subsidy schemes, in whatever forms, initiated by the present coalition government at the Center.
The fact is that despite of differences with the INC over Nehru-dictated policies on Kashmir and China, the BJP may find it very difficult to outrightly change them, without it facing any trace of external pressure. It is also true that on many counts over foreign policies, the BJP-led coalition may continue the recent UPA-2’s policies. The policy of the hypothetical extended NDA government over Kashmir would be to continue the status-quo without talking much about abrogating Article 370.
On China, Narendra Modi may appear more flexible and forthcoming when in governance as compared to his present position in public. In addition, Modi would try to better relationship with the US. The relationship with the Islamic world would get more or less same priority in Modi’s vision for India as it is there in the present government.
The fact is the BJP-led coalition coming to power in New Delhi would not make India any lesser West-staked than what it is. Only thing is that Modi may be able to contain and level off non-economic inflation to correct value despite of being leader of the biggest nationalist party of India.
This should be considered the most important aspect of the BJP-led coalition under the leadership of Modi. I hope and believe that Modi is distinctly capable of rescaling hopes and inflations to correct values and consequently would have the ability to taper off, to some extent but only as much as is required, the Western influence on Indians’ minds.
But if the BJP manifesto promises pulling out FDI in various fields, unlike the INC which is more open to the idea of seeking investments from the Western nations, then it would be difficult for it to immediately reverse the promises made in the manifesto. Sure, in Gujarat the Modi-government is considered very investor-friendly but then he should sustain it at national level as well for the betterment of India, should he become the Prime Minister of the nation.
But becoming more positive towards seeking foreign investment at national level may make the BJP leaders appear lesser nationalistic and indistinctive from those of the INC. This is particularly true in this hot political season.
The Indian government is a leading member of global economic community and it has treaty obligation and commitments towards freer trade, lowering of tariffs and farm and fuel subsidies and freer flow of capital and labor under the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement. India just cannot exit the trade treaties and negotiations, formally or even informally.
But nobody should believe that this is a catch 22 situation for the BJP as the interactions with the outside world, particularly with the Western one, help dominant people in India moving towards irreversibility. Nevertheless, it should be cautious about its promises in the manifesto.
Now if the Third Front government is formed at the Center then it is a bit difficult to predict its behavior in and outside the Parliament as its composition is not certain neither its leader. But the fact is that despite of being supported or partnered by the Leftists and Communists it would be mostly compelled to follow various policies of the incumbent, particularly those in relations to its dealing with the foreign countries.
The fact is that whether it is the extended NDA or the Third Front, both will face almost same pressure and lobbying, both at the domestic fronts and in the international arena. What would change are the priorities, efforts, targets, and fund allocations accordingly. Now there is some possibility of the UPA having the third stint at 7 Race Course though this is not of major concern in this article. But one thing is certain that such a possibility would challenge all theories and models on Indian demography and polity. Another thing that is certain in that case is that a hypothetical UPA3 would make Nehru-Gandhi family more arrogant than what they should be.
The fact is that different governments; principally in non-Western democracies but many times even in authoritarian regimes and oligarchies, when they face similar situations; problems and opportunities, in economics, politics and international relations, may many times behave similarly. This is called principle of convergence about governance.
Various nationalisms support this kind of behavior. In India there is related idea of secular convergence, whereby all political parties, including many times the BJP, behave just like the INC on host of issues when in power in New Delhi. This has to do with the INC being the oldest party and West’s unending support to it. In the passing remark it must be mentioned that the BJP in power at Union would definitely behave in a more secular way than expected of it.
Also, when in power all political parties in India would understand that their commanding heights and constraints are more or less same. This does not mean unbecoming of political identities. But then there is something called ‘Bharat Sarkar’; the Indian Union government, above and over the narrow partisan concerns. This is most certainly true of future in India, if not of the past. The passage of time will make this a more striking reality.
A kind of nationalism in the West feeds upon similar aspirations in the non-West, ultimately leading towards the end of nativity and autochthons. All concerned and aware people should understand that liberalism has as much coerciveness and evangelical intents as conservatism has.
In India, in spite of huge proliferation of political identities, the ways to govern at Center are limited: Centrist, Rightist and Leftist. There is big overlapping among the three at the Union level.