Sunday, May 31, 2009

India Elects '2009

The marathon Indian election has finally come to an end. It was done in five phases, and over a month and half. Now the electorate has finally delivered. May 16' 2009 was another one anscious day for every citizen in India, that will decide who is going to rule the country for another 5 year term. The opinion polls and exit polls were banned, which i feel was the right thing to do, and the suspense was there till the end, as no one knew the trend. Even though popular television channels came up with opinion polls after the final phase of polling on may13, the results was always when its out, its not true until its true. Previous polls were way of the mark before and there was no reason why it would be any different this time. The pollsters failed again, i should say. In a huge country as diversified as India, it wouldn’t be honest to ask someone judge the trend and come up with right numbers, when there is no wave across the country. There were some violence in the initial two phases, mostly in central India because of Maoist groups. Overall the election was peaceful with minimum incidence. The election commission of India has proved, one more time. The opinion polls, from New Delhi based television channels, predicted advantage to the Congress party, but didn’t predicts the numbers right. In other words, they predicted the trend and didn’t predict the numbers. It wouldn’t be fair to ask them predict numbers. That is mainly attributed to the fact that India still lives in masses, and talks only in Ballots. The round-the-clock news channels reflect the mood of Urban India rather than rural India. As Jawaharlal Nehru said 60 years before, that India lives in its villages, is still true. In the late 90s, the former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Digvijay singh had a five-year term and was running for re-election. The polls suggested a verdict against him. He was asked by a reporter after voting his ballot in the elections on what he thought about the election, now that the opinion polls has suggested that his government may lose. He replied, "Hum ko vote dena valaa, mike mae bath nahin kartha" (people who vote for us, do not talk in mikes). when the results came, he was proved right and won a decisive second term in office. The ordinary Indian electorate has once again kept the results to him till the end, and has emerged victories. The congress party with their allies had cruised towards victory, just falling short of majority. The Congress by itself managed to get 206 seats, which is the highest number of seats by a single party after its own performance in 1991, post Rajiv Gandhi assassination election. The opposition really failed to create space for themselves in the number game, and the results are decisive against the incumbent congress government. There was no anti-incumbency among the mood of the people. Congress emerged victorious in Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and with its allies in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu. This election will be remembered for ever, because of the surprising victory for Congress in Uttar Pradesh. No one expected that including the Congress party. They allies just left the congress in the cold, before the elections. The major UP allies like Samajwadi party was willing to give only a few seats as part of its pre-poll agreement, and the Congress decided to go it alone. It was Rahul Gandhi's decision to go it alone. It was a bold decision, which turned out to be a good one. Congress vote share in UP, has been steadily coming down for over two decades now. UP sends the highest number of MPs to the parliament, and the Congress or the BJP cannot afford to slide in this crucial state. The regional members here, had split through the main vote bank of the national parties in Congress and BJP. The Congress has won back the hearts and minds of the people in this crucial state. Congress has once again became a leading political force in UP. In future elections, the regional parties like SP, BSP has to now depend on Congress for any central elections. However Congress party's favorability in the state election needs to be seen. Unless the state management is cleaned up with renewed with performing leaders, and avoiding political infighting within the party, it has minimum chances of regaining its supremacy. SP and BSP have really taken a shock from the results. Their unconditional support to the congress government at center, says that they have no where else to go. The anti-incumbency factor in the state of Kerala ensured a sweep for congress in the state. YSR has ensured, Congress is re-elected in the state of Andhra Pradesh, a phenomenal performance both in state and central results. YST deserves lot of credit for his performance. The Chiranjeevi factor ensuring the vote against the congress is split. YSR is the clear winner. Tamil Nadu has been a real interesting state, particularly after the UPA members walking out of alliance and forging ties with opposition AIADMK, and more importantly the Sri Lankan issue. The opposition alliance was huge, and the majority perception was the ruling alliance would be reduced to just a hand full of seats. On one point, even a clean sweep by the opposition was predicted. But when the results came out, the whole theory was proved wrong. The DMK along with the congress and smaller allies has won all but 11 seats including the union territory of puducherry. Just like Chiranjeevi in Andhra Pradesh, it was Vijayakanth's DMDK that split the anti-DMK/congress vote. If the DMDK wasn’t a factor, then the results would have been the other way around. DMDK would be a significant force, when assembly elections are due in 2011, and their stand to be an alternative to DMK/AIADMK would definitely resonate in the minds of voters. Biggest winner: Congress party is undoubtedly the biggest winner in the election. It managed to win the crucial minority vote across the nation. The minority votes moved to the Congress at the expense of regional players like Laloo's RJD, Mulayam's SP. Y.S. Rajasekar reddy is a winner for the congress, as he romped in the highest number of MPs for the congress from Andhra. Navin Patnaik in Orissa surprised the Indian electorate by almost sweeping the state and central for himself. His election as chief minister for the third time is an important indication of how the ordinary electorate is getting more and more mature as democracy evolves. Bihar's Nitish kumar almost sweeped the state Bihar with its allies in BJP. His governance was acceptable by the people of Bihar. Rahul Gandhi's decision to go alone in UP and Bihar has made him project as a wise leader who wants the build the party on its own strength and not dependant on alliance strength. He is expected to continue his good work. His image in the party and in the minds of the people has risen significantly. Sonia Gandhi in her own style still controls the party and is in transition mode for yound Rahul to take over. BUT the clear winner of ALL has been the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. People of India trust him, and his performance has been acceptable. His hard work and his dedication in work has gone well with the electorate. His honesty still remains impeccable. This is a verdict for him. Biggest Losers: Even though the main opposition BJP is perceived to be the biggest loser; i think there are others who lost more. The third front with the left parties just managed to get 20+ seats. Their tally got reduced from 60. Their formula for third front didn’t work. The alliance partners were found untrustworthy. Failure to promote a universal face for Prime Minister cost them. Every constituent has its own PM candidate. The third front was a misadventure. Laloo's RJD was a complete failure. As Laloo himself admitted, it was mistake not to align with the Congress. RJD reduced to just 4 seats, even the chief losing one of the two he cautiously contested. Nitish Kumar has simple outplayed the opposition by his governance. Laloo's comeback is a real question. He needs to go to his grass roots, and his rail bhavan life has come to an end. LK Advani is a loser. PM Manmohan Singh said during the campaign, the Advani is not a Prime ministerial material. It seemed to be true amongst the Indian electorate. His hindutva charisma and his track record as a divisive force failed to resonate in the minds of the electorate as a PM candidate. His polical life and his dream to be the PM has finally come to an end. Five years from now, he would be more than 86 and BJP projecting him again as PM is unlikely, particularly after this election results. Gujarat chief minister was projected to be PM candidate in the middle of the election and it didnt go well across the country. The 2002 Gujarat riots continue to haunt him, and his popularity will not improve among the moderate India, who form the majority of the electorate. It was a vote for stable government. It was a vote against the smaller parties, who were considered road-blocks to the Nations development. The recent bomb blasts across the country and eventual campaign by BJP accusing the congress of being soft on terror doesn’t seem to have had favor with the voters. The voters has given the Congress, the benefit of doubt, and now expect such acts don't repeat. The victory for congress in all those blast cities, like Delhi, Mumbai,Jaipur, Hyderabad is a classic example that people think congress can handle those issues better than a saffron BJP. Minorities did not want the communally polarizing personality like Advani to become prime minister, and that consolidated the Congress votes across the nation. The left was considered out of touch with reality with their economic policies. Their influence on the UPA government's decisions in the past five years was considered not helpful by majority electorate. Their defeat in their bastion like West Bengal, Kerala is pretty much reflects that. Time is running out for them and they have to come up with something extra ordinary to retain WB in 2011 assembly elections. Overall the people of India have won. The democracy has won. Huge challenges lie ahead for the new UPA government. With the verdict, the expectations from the UPA government have gone high. With a global recession around, things are not going to be easy for Manmohan Singh and his team. How they tackle the economic issues and at the same time provide good governance with development remains to be seen.