(Politics II) (
Won some, lost us
General Elections 2009 have proven to be baffling to almost all observers. No one had guessed the results as they came in on May 16th. While everyone was waiting for a hung parliament and the outgoing government prepared for a graceful exit, Indian electorates threw up a surprise.
A quick thinking on what issues helped Congress/UPA retain power, and what issues harmed BJP’s chances of a breakthrough. On the backdrop are these other posts: In the name of Gandhi, An exceptional economist, and the Last five years and some political myths.
Some issues which proved to be non-issues:
1. Manmohan Singh as a weak Prime Minister.
Some people believe that BJP’s strategy to brand Manmohan Singh as the ‘weakest PM ever’ backfired and harmed the goodwill among the electorates. I don’t agree. Even the strongest supporters of Congress would accept that Dr. Singh is merely engaging the chair till the dynastic successor Rahul Gandhi takes it over, and is given full support by the party because he is toothless. But the BJP’s campaign pinched the Congress supporters hard, who in turn took a violent resolve to oppose the BJP all out. As we know, negativity is more immediate and influential on surface than positivism.
2. Congress too old to lead us into future.
Frankly, how many of common Indian electorates really know what could be done to take us into future? Many… But how many care about it? Almost none… In any case, Congress strategy of keeping Rahul Gandhi as the Youth face of the party succeeded. The electorate didn’t care for the old, older, and oldest ministers who actually run the government while the young Congressi faces would only be on the TV. Whether BJP accepts it or not,
3. Congress too corrupt to give us a good governance. (Issues like Govt’s manipulation of CBI to get Quattrochi free)
It is sad that the Indian electorate see corruption as a non-issue. The credit goes to Congress of course. While growing up in the license-quota raaj of Nehru days, and then facing day-to-day corruption in all public offices, Indian masses have stopped seeing corruption as an issue. A large proportion of our MPs have criminal backgrounds. People don’t care about what they do for their selfish interests. They would even support a gangster get elect if he builds a public road or clears some pending municipal projects. Harsh reality of great Indian democracy as seeded and cultivated by Congress governments.
4. Congress is communal. (Congress deciding to give tickets to party sponsored anti-Sikh riot accused, and then after a shoe-throwing drama, deciding to take the decision back.)
It seems the Congress hype is working. People have started believing that communalism means pro-Hinduism, and secularism is synonym of minority-appeasement. Since Hindus are so called ‘majority’ in
5. BJP’s support to Varun Gandhi
Well, at the height of the controversy, even the most liberal Hindus used to accept that Varun Gandhi was paying the price for boldly speaking on behalf of Hindus, his comment was not that communal, and most importantly he paid for carrying the same surname as that of the self-certified ‘Gandhis’. No wonder why Varun Gandhi won by about 2.88 Lakh votes! But, the issue was tricky. I believe Varun won because he went from home to home in his constituency and convinced people that he was right and asked for their support. BJP workers didn’t do enough ground work in other parts of
6. Congress is soft on Terrorism.
Terrorism proved to be a non-issue. One, Indians were convinced that terrorism was because of
7. Rahul Gandhi’s strategy of contesting alone in
I would say: lucky by chance. The strategy to contest alone was primarily to make sure that the Congress wins more number of seats individually, when compared to BJP, so that it gets the first right to make a government in a hung parliament. Secondly, and more visually, the decision was to break the ego of Lalu Yadav and Paswan. If it was so, then it was a wrong and ego-driven decision. As expected, Congress lost in
Some issues which actually helped Congress win:
1. Farm loan waivers
Do you know what % of our population depends on agriculture? At least 60%! And you know how much agriculture contributes towards our GDP? Maximum 16%! No doubts, farmers are poor. And it pays for politicians to keep the farmers poor. It is a game: you prosper and educate them and they may get out of your hold. Its best to keep them sick and then send them medicines. The obligation and gratitude keeps the dynasty strong – only BJP wallas call it exploitation. Huge farm-loan waivers made sure that the poor farmers of
2. Very high support prices of farm procurements
In the last year of UPA rule, the government increased the prices at which it buys wheat and rice from the farmers. This sealed the fate of the elections. The decision was unethical because the govt purchased excess grains which would rot in the warehouses, the high prices paid was coming from tax-payer’s money, the decision was uneconomical and a poll-gimmick, and these high prices made sure that the food prices remain high even at the time of recession! But, it did benefit the farmers, even if unfairly, and they paid the govt back, in the form of their votes. You can read this editorial to know more about gravity of the problem: [Link: In the larder, not on the plate]
3. Muslim Votes
This time, some traditional political parties which used to get large share of Muslim votes were weak. Samajwadi Party, BSP, or Laloo’s RJD, and Paswan’s LJP, these smaller parties had lost their goodwill from Muslims due to taking-for-granted attitude. And then BJP’s projecting Narendra Modi as future-PM, and Varun Gandhi’s case made the Muslim votes unite under safer hands of Congress.
4. A month-long election process
It contributed towards Congress goals. Since the Congress has presence in all parts of
5. Election Commission on Congress’ terms
The appointment of tainted Navin Chawla as the Chief Election Commissioner in between the election process generates a natural suspicion. Then the government could make lots of reshuffles and settings, keeping Congress interests in mind. In Mumbai for example, there were two Police Chiefs working; since the original one was not allowed to take up the election duty on corruption charges.
6. Regional parties on the downward trend
These elections saw the reduction in the clout of regional parties. It happened because these parties are family managed, and like all family managed business, they would loose focus in second generation. Public too tend to lose their interests in such parties after a period. Congress did very well in grabbing these opportunistic votes. Normally, when a voter shifts his loyalty, one would first go vote for the time-tested party and then look for alternatives. The grand old Congress was the newly shifted voters’ first choice.
7. Internal conflict within opposition
These elections started with a bad note: there was a conflict between Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh. Then the communists were at their worst these days. So were SP/BSP. DMK got through with its blind support to Srilankan Tamils and love towards LTTE, while AIADMK lost due to loss of focus. Shiv Sena was troubled by complacency and rift with MNS and BJP. BJD had broken off from BJP in Orissa. In fact, almost all political parties were in their worst shape during these elections. The outgoing govt benefited from this.
8. Economic Recession
A single very important factor was the global recession. The outgoing government had taken lots of wrong decisions in the last 5 years which had impacted our industry and economy (failure to combat inflation for example). But due to global recession, the Indian electorates were ready to pardon our own government from any charges. Recession and poor financial planning had done us much harm. People were scared of what lied in the future. In such condition, Indians thought to keep the government and economy in the safe hands of Congress: they still remember Dr. Manmohan Singh and P. Chidambaram when they think of economic reforms.
Did BJP do badly?
Well, these elections were not at all gloomy for BJP. The party did extremely well in states where it had a strong base and government. For example, sample this:
· BJP won 10 out of 11 parliament seats in Chhattisgarh. The lone seat went to Congress in a newly created constituency.
· BJP won 19 out of 28 seats in Karnataka, increasing its count by 1 seat.
· BJP-JDU won 27 out of 40 seats in
· BJP won 8 out of 14 seats in Jharkhand. Congress could win only 1; it had 6 seats in the last parliament.
· BJP won 15 out of 26 seats in
· BJP won 3 out of 4 seats in Himachal Pradesh.
· BJP doubled its seat count in
The message is: the places where BJP is governing strongly have shown good faith in the party. The party can still see light at the end of the tunnel. Congress too has won surely at places where it has done good development works; e.g.
What lies ahead for
After the election results, we hailed the Indian democracy. But isn’t it ironical that
Even 12 days after Dr. Manmohan Singh became the new Prime Minister, there was no government in place! Congress was taking its time, relaxing, and in no hurry to make the ministers take oath and start the governance. This is the peril of having served the throne on the platters.
We can only wish that the Congress government understands that the strong faith that the public has bestowed on them has not come for free. We can only wish, because it seems actually have come to them for free. I can see that the government would go on their relaxed attitude towards everything. It is ironical that most of the issues which couldn’t make it to be poll-issues will affect us more than those which made it to be real poll issues. In all senses, elections 2009 proved to be largely a futile exercise. With a single political party enjoying power for so long, and a single family still holding the reigns of the party, we are definitely not living in a healthy matured democracy. We could see a good functional democracy in the
Due to some technical problem on iland, comment page doesn’t get displayed properly. I am putting the comments on moderation to check if it helps. You can write on my GB if you like, or copy the same comment on GB too…