Drubbed at the Polls
Major national parties had a dismal showing in the recently concluded polls in 5 Indian states.
Between the publication of the February 2012 issue of Eastern Panorama and the current one the readers must have heard about the upheaval in the political map post assembly elections in five Indian states. While the country’s oldest political party has been able to retain power for the third successive term under the leadership of the same Chief Minister in Manipur, it has received a drubbing in four other states. One of the reasons for the people of Manipur recalling the Congress to power is that they are genuinely fed up with insurgency and long for peace and progress. They are the worst sufferers of non-development and had to bear the brunt of economic blockades which resulted in prices sky rocketing beyond their purchasing power. The opposition parties except the All India Trinamool Congress could not win their confidence although the AITC has won as many as seven seats in the elections to the 60 member legislative assembly in Manipur. Another factor for the unprecedented success of the ruling Congress in the state is that since most of the northeastern states have no revenue worth mentioning, these states have to depend heavily on Central assistance. Hence, the north east states try to remain in the good books of the government at Delhi.
However, the results of the elections held in Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state with a population of close to 20 crore, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa have confounded not only the political parties but also the media. The Congress and BJP leaders say the results of the poll is very significant in that several million first time voters, especially the youth, have exercised their franchise. The results therefore can be described as a reflection of their anger and frustration as well as their hopes and aspirations. They, like their elders, could not take the promises given by senior politicians at face value. In Uttar Pradesh, they have given a clear majority to the Samajwadi Party rising above caste and religious factors for a new government which is committed to usher in progress and development. As the days for the seven phased election from February 8th to March 3rd completed in the 70 districts of the caste ridden state with a total electorate of 112 million, it became clear that SP has been overwhelmingly supported by the Yadav and Muslim communities and also backed by Non-Yadav OBCs and upper castes to dislodge the Mayawati regime.
Voters had been polarized by the Congress as it vociferously and repeatedly announced that it would ensure sub quota to the minorities. All other castes had apprehensions about their future and decided to vote against the Congress. However the BJP could not take advantage of the apprehension in the minds of the non-Muslims as it also failed to read the people’s mind like the Congress. A sizable number of Brahmin, Thakur and upper caste voters preferred the Samajwadi party after getting disillusioned with corruption, maladministration and misuse of public funds by the Chief Minister. It is the upper castes alongside the Dalits who had voted Mayawati to power five years ago with a thumping majority. The upper castes in the recent elections have taught her a lesson for the chaotic condition on the law and order front.
How can one build her own statues and garland these in public at the cost of the national exchequer besides diverting the much needed funds from other activities for the common good? The disgusted voters in UP have expressed a massive anti incumbency wave against the Dalit icon Mayawati and voted for the SP with 225 seats in the state assembly. It is the largest number of seats captured by any single party since 1972 when the now defunct Janata Party had secured 272 seats.
In Goa, technocrat turned politician Manohar Parrikar has led the BJP to a resounding victory upsetting several predictions and making inroads in the Congress party’s bastion. The Congress and the NCP will now sit in the opposition after losing more than half of their seats. Hindus, Christians and Muslims have driven out the Congress Government in an unprecedented move. It is for the first time that BJP, which is in alliance with the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Parishad (MGP), has got a clear cut majority and got as many as six Christian MLAs elected. Its victory is indeed praiseworthy.
Shrewd politician Prakash Singh Badal has rewritten history in prosperous Punjab by coming to power with a thumping majority and defying incumbency. After Punjab was reorganized in 1966, this is for the first time that an incumbent government has retained power in the border state. The SAD-BJP alliance has got exactly the same number of seats - 68 in the house of 117 seats as in the last poll five years ago.
While SAD has increased its tally from 49 to 68, BJP has secured 12 compared to 19 seats last time. SAD has also debunked the theory that high turnout in the polling booths indicates that the electorate are for a regime change. The SAD BJP alliance should not be complacent and must take remedial measures to find out the cause of the people’s disenchantment and tackle growing rampant corruption with an iron hand.
Both the ruling BJP and the Congress are baffled by the assembly results in Uttarakhand where there was a neck to neck contest for the 70 member assembly. When BJP along with other regional parties fought for the creation of the state which was part of Uttar Pradesh, the Congress had doggedly opposed the movement. The erstwhile NDA Government at the centre took the initiative in the creation of the hill state endowed with innumerable places of historical and religious importance.
However, the ruling BJP leaders at the state level have been indulging in self promotion at the cost of economic development resulting in the increase of unemployment and corruption. Therefore, in many constituencies, the people voted against it resulting in a hung assembly where the Congress has bagged 32 seats and the BJP 31. BSP has got 3, one seat has been secured by the local UKD and the remaining three MLAs are independents.
With the BSP, independents and the UKD, Congress is trying to form a government under Lok Sabha Member Vijay Kumar Bahuguna who is a lawyer turned politician and son of former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Hemawati Nandan Bahuguna. But some other grassroots leaders including Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Harish Rawat along with several legislators are opposing Bahuguna who has been nominated by 10 Janpath. Dissidents are being won over and the Congress is expected to rule the economically backward state for the next five years.
After taking oath in the absence of most of the MLAs, Bahuguna on March 13th Bahuguna is trying his best to win over the disgruntled newly elected legislators. Both BJP and the Congress should learn a lesson from the results of the elections. They must not go roughshod with people and try to understand their problems and sentiments.
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