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Mainstream, Vol XLVII No 24, May 30, 2009

Verdict 2009 Interpretations: What Lies Ahead?

Tuesday 2 June 2009, by Amna Mirza

As we sit to ponder about the verdict of the Lok Sabha Election 2009, a tough battlefield lies ahead for the churnings in the Indian political domain. For the Congress, there seems to be no room for complacency that it has performed in a splendid way. With Rahul Gandhi as the star campaigner, the road is not going to be smooth in the coming days. He has given tickets to the scions of dynasty in the name of unleashing youth power, the party is yet to regain its strength in Bihar, Jharkhand, and the internal dynamics of the Congress are still far from being called disciplined and professional.

The Left—CPI, CPI-M, RSP, FB—is being dubbed as the sinking ship with the Trinamul Congress sweeping all its bastions in West Bengal. The Left was responsible for sensible pro-poor policies of the UPA like NREGA, subsidies on petrol, diesel, and prevention of privatisation of banks. Being an ally of the UPA, it did arm-twist the government on the nuclear deal, but unfortunately the same Left did not even talk about this issue even once during the election. The Congress, which is being seen as the new harbinger of economic reforms with the return of the UPA alliance to power, has a tough trajectory to follow. It sought votes in the name of ‘aam-admi’; it has to create its own internal ‘Left’ so as to evolve policies which should not increase the divide between the rich and the poor, and must ensure inclusive growth.

The BSP, with its leader’s thwarted ambition of becoming the first Dalit Prime Minister, has to learn that the idea of going alone to the poll was a wrong game-plan, as India is marked by its heterogeneity. Sheer emphasis on caste proved to be bad politics whereas its opponent, the Congress, was following the line of good economics being the cushion for good politics. Mayawati, being bruised, has to think as to why she was relegated to the third position. The vote was not for the Congress but it was anti-Mayawati, as the very promises on which she came to power—good governance, purging the State of Goonda Raj—are yet to be translated into reality in the State.

For the BJP, the idea of pitting the majority against the minority using the guise of religion, focusing on the sheer failures of the government, while itself failing to offer any viable alternative, interpolating Modi vis-à-vis Advani amidst the electoral battlefield exposed its weak electoral strategy. The voters drifted away from the BJP’s very own prognosis of a stable government and able leader and moved towards the UPA. The same Manmohan Singh, who was termed a weak Prime Minister, returned to the seat of power, with his name going down in history after Pandit Nehru returned as the Prime Minister in 1962. However, mere losing an election does not mean the end of the road for a party which has given such leaders like Vajpayee to the nation. As the party is engaged in soul-searching, it has to give a new brand to itself—other than Hindutva, as this agenda has led to its doom in 2004 and now again in 2009. A healthy democracy needs dissent and constructive Opposition, and the BJP needs to adopt a meticulous policy on these lines to revamp itself. New India would refuse to adhere to the Murli Manohar Joshi-type of leaders who have nothing credible to offer other than beating the religious bogey and talking of temple, Article 370, whereas at the other end is the man who showed India the benefits of open econonmy, money, good economics.

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This election proved as to how State-level alliances failed and the entire paraphernalia of elections was centred around national issues. The credibility of the stable government by the Third Front was doubted by the electorate; thus they voted for an alliance which they thought would offer a stable government. On a good note, this election marked an end to the practice of ‘big knives, hefty pockets’, as the Congress was in no mood to bargain with petty shopkeeper-type of politicians who would offer support for getting a Cabinet berth.

Politics is the art of the possible. The verdict of Election 2009 testified to it with the UPA coming to power overcoming the anti-incumbency wave. However, what needs to be learnt from the Sonia-Manmohan-Rahul trio is how good politics is based on sound economics and meticulous manoeuvring. We hope that the political domain of India has lots in store to offer to Amartya Sen’s argumentative Indians to deliberate upon.

The author is a Ph.D student, and University Teaching Assistant, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi.

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