Lok Sabha election 2014 is a fight between the Lexus and Olive Tree

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India's general election of 2014 is interesting in many aspects. This is an election in ages which is seeing a battle between an individual and a system and it is difficult to resist the temptation to compare the situation as a fight between the Lexus and the Olive Tree, something which journalist and award-winning author Thomas Friedman has spoken about in his best-seller with the same title.

Lexus versus Olive Tree in India's general election

The Lexus represents, according to Friedman, "sustenance, development, prosperity and modernisation" while the Olive Tree represents "everything that roots us, anchors us, identifies us and locates us in this world". It is essentially a debate between the demands of modernity and the inevitable importance of identity. The battle which is getting heated up ahead of the Lok Sabha poll this year also resembles a similar tussle and this makes the election this year unique. But given the era in which we live, this was always on the cards, isn't it?

Modi represents Lexus, others the Olive Tree

The Lexus in this poll is Narendra Modi and his ilk. It is, irrespective of what his critics and the media say, immaterial what Modi as a person is or thinks. The man, contradictory to what his 'secular' opponents are preaching, reflects renewed hopes and aspiration of the billion people of a nation which is not in the best of health. The rest of the forces contesting this poll represent the Olive Tree as they want the upcoming election to remain a traditional affair in which political identities and ideologies clash and a struggle for power follows, leading to an unstable polity. It will be interesting to see what India chooses this time, the Lexus or the Olive Tree.

Individuals gaining significance in Indian democracy, a welcome development

The rise of the Lexus in Indian politics has been facilitated by the growing importance of individuals, an anti-thesis to the prominence of the community factor in Indian democracy. The election of 2014 has seen individuals, whether leaders or candidates, gaining weight over issues or community voting behaviour. For example, we are seeing leaders like Rahul Gandhi are compelled to defend their parties against hate speeches propagated by some lesser face to appease a community and he is doing this despite his party not projecting him as its face officially.

Parties are now are forced to react to people's voice, thanks to 'Lexus' factor

It shows how individuals are gaining the centrestage in Indian politics and this is happening mainly because a large section of the Indian electorate today is empowered, thanks to education and global exposure, and it acts as a constant pressure on the leaders and parties, with the help of a forceful media,to correct their courses regularly. It is not without a reason that the BJP was forced to retreat after inducting the likes of Promod Mukthalik and Sabir Ali because the Lexus factor can't be overlooked at will now. In Bangalore South, people are welcoming Nandan Nilekani's candidature even though his party, the Congress, is not the flavour of this season. This is happening because India's democracy has learnt to give importance to individuals, even if they are not regular politicians.

The Mulayams and Nitishs want to continue with the old game of identity politics

Leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad, Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee are upset with Modi because they represent the Olive Tree. They are not ready to practise politics that helps in inclusive growth and prefer to draw a line of division to rule. While Mulayam loves to polarise the society on religious lines in the name of secularism and Mayawati on lines of caste identities, Nitish and Lalu do the same in the name of social empowerment and Banerjee does it in terms of party politics. She has also started the politics of religious polarisation in Bengal of late.

The Olive Tree leaders rake up communal-secular debate just to stop the Lexus

These leaders have little concern for global exposure and sustenance for the people as a whole and feel extremely threatened when a Modi rises to prominence. They naturally import a hollow debate of secular versus communal and pretend to be the keepers of the nation's secular credo in an effort to negate the Lexus factor. These politicians have so far built their empires on the ruins of the Congress. Now, leaders like Modis and Shivraj Singh Chouhans have arrived as counter-threats to them.

The Lexus verus Olive Tree fight in this election will decide the future course of the Indian democracy in days to come.

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