Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Jaipur, Bhopal Delhi .. this is the headlines

Note: The title is a slight rejig and english version of this song.

The so called semi-final is now over.

The recent election was influenced by wide ranging issues on both the national front and the local front. While in state elections, national issues seldom come to the fore, this time it seemed likely to be a totally different scenario because of the enormity of the national issues, terrorism and price rise. The local issues included pricing of rice(Chattisgarh) to Meenas(no, not the actress' fan club) vs Gujjars (Rajasthan) to deaths caused by Blue line buses(Delhi).

Democracy in India keeps challenging the so called obvious patterns and theories and this time was no different. The so far highly safe Anti-Incumbency factor thrown out of the window with three out of the five state's populace retaining their existing governments.

One another point which has been emphatically made is that however big the national issues might be, in a state election local issues gain a lot more predominance. Case in point are the results in Rajasthan and to quite an extent even Chattisgarh. In both the states experts did not give Congress much of a chance. While they went on to claim Rajasthan, they also put up quite a fight in Chattisgarh. If the national issues had been at the forefront then BJP would have done even better in MP and Chattisgarh.

Development and Mr.Clean images are becoming more and more prominent in the eyes of the public. There is a new crop of Chief Ministers coming up who are increasingly being seen as corruption free, a refreshing change from the times of the past when the point of debate was who was less corrupt. BJP has benefited heavily from the good image of its chief ministers (Modi, Raman Singh and SS Chauhan) and Congress has its own trump card in Sheila Dixit.

A trend which has not been possibly highlighted enough in the mainstream media is the rising clout of the BSP. It is starting to make its presence felt in almost all North Indian states. What is more significant about its victories in this set of elections is that four out of the five states (barring Mizoram) have been bipolar states since the emergence of the BJP in the late 80s. So, to be able to make the kind of inroads that it has indicates a growing clout and meticulous planning and execution. With a maverick leader who is a past master at social engineering, we can expect more of a role for BSP in the upcoming LS elections.

Extending on the above point, it'll be interesting to see how the BJP builds its relationship with BSP. With a bitter past, relations will certainly not be cordial. However, the BJP needs the BSP more than the BSP needs BJP, considering that BSP is capable of garnering 40 - 50 seats in the past stronghold of BJP, UP. What will possibly go against the BSP joining hands with BJP is BJP's anti-minority(primarily Muslim) image given that BSP in itself does not have a presence in those communities and Mayawati will be trying double hard to gain a footing there.

The biggest winner from this election is possibly Sheila Dixit. To make it a hat trick of wins in the national capital is no mean achievement and to do so given the general tide against the Congress at both state and national level is even more extraordinary. A margin of 43-23 is the icing and the cherry on top of the cake. But come general election, one may expect the BJP to sweep the seats in Delhi given the totally different issues on hand and that it will possibly be much better prepared by then.

Vasundara Raje would have probably realized that charisma and an urban centric image does not help winning elections. Her handling of key issues left a lot to be desired, especially the Gujjar agitation which also left her alienated from her core constituency, the Meenas.

As stated earlier both SS Chauhan and Raman Singh benefited from their clean images and the anti-incumbency at state level was stemmed a bit by the anti-incumbency at the national level barring which the scales might have tilted in favor of Congress, atleast in Chattisgarh.

Rajasthan and Delhi in particular. present the first setbacks to Arun Jaitley, BJP's golden boy when it comes to election management. Having seemingly perfected the art of micro-management of elections , he now has to sit back and analyze what went wrong. Even their previously successful strategy of maximizing the number of fresh tickets to avoid public backlash against non-performing sitting MLAs has failed them in Rajasthan.

Congress, on the other hand, will be forced to retrospect more on the lack of strong second rung leadership. The only state they managed a convincing victory, Delhi, was due to the charisma and the larger than life image of Sheila Dixit. While the Congress has already started trumpeting Rahul Gandhi as the next great Gandhi and the man with the midas touch, it has to hasten the process of finding strong regional leaders and resolve the issue of infighting which is costing it majorly. Sonia Gandhi will now have to start taking concrete measures on finalizing possible alliances for the LS elections because not many of its current partners would want to carry the 'risk' of being seen as the partner of this government, come election time.

Let the games begin!!


S Balaji Srinivasan said...

A few points.
1.I believe that local issues played a very crucial part in these elections and the national issues have not been a deciding factor for the voters. Be it 1Re rice by Raman Singh, developmental plank in MP, infighting in Rajasthan or 'Sheila factor' in Delhi, I think they are all local factors.
2.On closer examination, BSP has not done exceedingly well, certainly not enough to play alternative to the two biggies. Even in Delhi, where the BSP has about 13%, they have not actually managed to push either of the BJP or the INC to the third place. So, I would remain skeptical about the role of the BSP in the LS elections. As you have said, tying up with the BJP is no longer a good idea for BSP.
3. Just like Delhi, MP results are also huge interms of the context. A low profile leader who realized that no one can actually put grow the party has almost single handedly led the BJP to victory.
4. Sheila Dixit's victory is perhaps the most significant of the 4 (or 5) given the fact that this is her 3rd.
5. It's interesting that the INC has started tom-tomming about Rahul, after all this is its first victory after he took over as their 'star' campaigner.
6. The fact that you have chosen not to mention Uma's name only re-emphasizes the fact that she has truly been pushed into oblivion!!!

Hariharan Sriram said...


1) Agreed. Local issues played much more of a role but then the role of national issues in ensuring BJP did much better than if considering local issues alone.

2) At the bird's eye view you'll possibly find that the number of seats for the so called others(non UPA,NDA) has remained constant. On a closer look you'd find that BSP is pretty much won most of these states meaning that they are emerging first amongst the lesser equals.

3 & 4)Pretty much matches my view that in this election the leader's clean image has done the trick.

5)Guess both the Congress grassroots and Rahul were much in need of some confidence and are using this opportunity to play each other up to the maximum.

6) Personally I believe her leaving the BJP was a very big positive for them. Saved them from a lot of needless in-fighting.