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Mainstream, Vol. XLVII, No 34, August 8, 2009

Andhra Pradesh Elections 2009: Some Reflections

Sunday 16 August 2009, by Kadempally Sudhakar

In our so called democracy, it does not matter how many votes you have got but what matters is how many seats you have got by hook or crook. In nutshell this is the outcome in the 2009 Andhra Pradesh elections.

The Congress party is lucky, particularly Y.S. Rajashekar Reddy, for the simultaneous elections for both the Lok Sabha and Assembly in April 2009. Analysts say that these were the most expensive elections in the history of AP and India. It is alleged that each Assembly candidate spent an average of Rs 2 crores (pessimistic estimate) in 294 constituencies. If we take an average three main parties contested. That means 294 x 3 x Rs 2 crores = Rs 1764 crores. Similarly AP has 42 LS constituencies. This means 42 x 3 x Rs 5 crores = Rs 630 crores. Both put together spent Rs 2400 crores—this amount was blown up in 20 days time! Thanks to elections in India in 2009, we have not felt that the economic recession affects India compared to other developed countries. It is estimated that with this money one could start new 24,000 schools in the State or 15,000 new primary health centres could be opened. Now the basic question for all parties and candidates is: where did this money come from? And why did you spend? What are the high stakes involved in getting elected? Political parties and elections have become an industry on which economists have to work seriously to define its structures, scope and profit-and-loss analysis. The simple rule of investment is to get returns by tripling the capital over a five-year tenure. This means our Netas have to generate returns on investment, that is, Rs 2400 crores x 3 times = Rs 7200 crores, which can fund three medium irrigation projects in the State till they are completed. Till 10 years back business and industry people used to do indirect investment in elections but now they have realised that they could do direct investment in elections. This may be the best example of economic reforms of Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh and company.

Coming back to why the Congress party, and particularly Y.S. Reddy, were lucky in the 2009 elections. It is crystal clear that Reddy’s schemes and policies did not help the Congress coming back to power in the State. The Lok Sabha mandate is clearly for Manmohan Singh’s image and the Opposition’s failures like 5 and 20 candidate parties like those of Deve Gowda, Mulayam, Laloo and the BJP’s internal squabbles. Voters were intelligent to give the mandate for a stable government; hence they sent 33 MPs from AP to the LS but whereas they sent only 155 to the Assembly—just over simple majority. This is the first time in AP’s electoral politics a government with a slender margin is ruling. It is also clear that people voted decisively for the Congress in the LS but not for the Assembly. If the mandate was for Reddy he should have got in the range of 220-240 seats in the Assembly. The thesis is that the votes and seats the Congress got for the LS are of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi and the Opposition’s failure, not vice versa. The Congress High Command is intelligent enough to grasp this point.

LET us look at some figures to substantiate the above thesis. The Opposition parties in the Assembly elections got two-thirds of the votes. The Congress just got 36.5 per cent in 2009 and 48.6 per cent in 2004—down by 12.8 per cent. In terms of seats 155 in 2009 and 186 in 2004—down by 31 seats despite Reddy’s pet schemes like Arogyasree (free medical treatment to the poor), fee reimbursement to the BCs, housing for the poor, Rs 2 kg rice. You ask: was anything of these given? One interesting and startling fact is that when Reddy took over as the CM in 2004 the liquor income was Rs 3000 crores and in 2008 it is Rs 12,000 crores. What a development indicator! Reddy also fully utilised the TRS and its leader’s histrionics in Rayalaseema and Andhra elections in the second phase by saying they would all become foreigners if the TRS comes to power and also divided the Opposition in all respects. It is also alleged that the Congress manufactured new Opposition parties to divide the negative vote. Despite all these strategies the party escaped narrowly.

In the 2009 Assembly elections so many Congress stalwarts, Ministers were defeated very badly including the PPC chief, Speaker, Home Minister. The high-profile Irrigation Minister just won with less than 250 votes. What does this indicate?

There are many allegations against the past and present government relating to financial frauds in irrigation projects, selling government lands, favouring kith and kin, mining, forest projects and SEZs. A classic example was the Mytas deal and Sridharan was threatened by the AP Government for his observations on the project. The Congress High Command’s credentials and credibility are in question over the AP governance.

According to Harish Khare, a senior columnist (now the PM’s Media Advisor), the Congress and BJP are sheltering and nurturing two top corrupt governments in India, that is, of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka respectively.

The above issues pose a serious threat to governance, democracy and the election process in this country. Hence we need to debate on electoral reforms (in the next election we may be ruled by a party that has secured 20 per cent votes!) on the basis of proportional representation and smaller constituencies.

The author is a freelance writer.

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