By Geeta Padmanabhan
You thought you had seen them all – candidates with criminal records, bucks-and-biryani for votes, pre-and-post-poll alliances, seasoned party leapers, horse trading, disappearing legislators, MPs winning while in prison, legislators who never enter assemblies through the term of office. The 15th Lok Sabha poll, however, is now “raising the bar” on the surprise quotient.
No one knows who the next PM of this great country will be. It is like watching a mystery play and still waiting for the “whodunit” after the curtain has come down.
The BJP, at the beginning of the campaign a couple of months ago, projected LK Advani as its prime-ministerial candidate. They expected to have the first mover advantage to show that their internal differences had been sorted out and the party stood behind Advaniji.
Just as you looked the other way, some zealots added: Narendra Bhai has the qualities to be a PM. No, clarified the Parivar, “he is PM of the future.” Modi said he was not in the race. Now Nitish Kumar in Bihar (alliance partner) has said, “It’s Advani or none.” If BJP got the majority, of course.
After catcalls of “Manmohan is a weak PM” from outfits across the nation, the Sardar pulled out his sword to prove that he “would continue to pursue the policies of the Congress.” That’s when Priyanka decided to do her sister act. “Rahul Gandhi has all the makings of a PM,” she said. Voices joined in and when this threatened to get out of hand, the young Gandhi “clarified” that he was not yet ready to be PM. Sonia and sundry supporters chorused that Manmohan Singh was indeed their first man.
Laloo Prasad wasn’t going to let this pronouncement go un-commented upon. “One day I will be PM,” he asserted and promptly formed an alliance with Ram Vilas Paswan and Mulayam Singh. He then allotted 3 seats out of the 40-odd in Bihar to the Congress unilaterally. He said, “I’m with the Congress but the PM will be decided only after the poll results are announced.”
Meantime, the grand Third Front [read earlier report] had been formed. This is a truly democratic set-up. Every party chief here believes he/she can be PM. They just need the right numbers. The Dravida parties of Tamil Nadu are the only ones who’ve not talked about PM ambitions.
Mayavathi is in a league of her own. Yesterday she reminded her audiences how confident she is about her ability to lead the country. “If Manmohanji can become PM through the backdoor Rajya Sabha), why can’t I?” she thundered.
In the middle of all this entertainment, Rahul Gandhi called a major press conference a few hours ago. Inspired by Obama’s consensus politics, he said “all options are open” adding that there were many able politicians Congress could talk to post-poll. He then mentioned Nitish Kumar, Navin Patnaik and – hold your breath – Jayalalithaa.
Result? Soniaji cancelled her scheduled campaign program in Chennai today citing Karunanidhi’s illness – don’t you visit people who are hospitalized?
Who will be PM? NDTV has announced a guessing contest. The prize is a Skoda. Another channel has put up pictures of 10 candidates on the website and has asked people to “guess who”.
Eggheads have now termed the elections “the semi-final”. So you can’t say Indians don’t “engage” in civic duties.
Update: Readers might be miffed that Sharad Pawar has been left out of the main list. This Maratha is definitely in the playing eleven. His supporters say it’s time a Maratha Manush sat in the PM’s gaddhi.