Saturday, June 27, 2009

General Elections 2009- An appraisal

It is probably too late to give my 2 cents on the outcome of the Indian General Elections. But it is never late to do a post mortem on the epic event. First of all , I humbly admit that my prediction in a previous blog ( June 6,2008 , " Some politics") that the NDA would return to power has proved wrong. While I admit that I went off the mark, I would defend that my predictions were atleast 9 months before the first votes were cast. A lot of things changed between June 2008 and April of 2009 and I was presumably wrong in a predicting the outcome of such a complex political excercise so early in the game when even the best psephologists are left scrambling for answers. I am not claiming that NDA would have returned to power if the elections were held in August of last year. I am just suggesting that the NDA lost its track running into 2009.
The absence of a core identity was the biggest handicap for the coalition. To be fair to the UPA, they won mainly due to the absence of a viable alternative at the Center. True, the UPA did some good things during their tenure. But, did they do anything substantial that India could be proud of. I would rather say that UPA was a one man army with Manmohan Singh proving to be the biggest " batsman" for them. Be it the Nuclear deal, the way he dealth with Pakistan post the Mumbai attacks, Manmohan was seen as delivering. The middle class India could relate to Manmohan as one among them and as a person who had the best interests of the nation in mind. The left parties did a grave mistake by attacking Dr. Singh on the nuclear deal issue and withdrawing support on this. ( Even the CPI leader A.B Bardhan admitted the folly the left parties made with respect to the deal. The CPI(M) could not even earn the trust of the leftist voters on this issue. When the Prime Minister repeatedy assured the nation that the nuclear partership is hugely beneficial to India , everyone except some left leaders believed him. Though the nuclear deal was not a decisive issue for this elections ( thanks to the illiteracy of a large section of the populace), I would say that this episode was the game changer. This proved to the educated Indian middle class neutral voter that Manmohan is for real and that he is a true and decisive leader.
The BJP , on the other hand, was left without any strategies. Have realized the limitations of playing the Hindutva card, the part chose the worst strategy they could ever adopt- that of attacking the personal integrity and leadership skills of Dr. Singh. That would have perhaps eliminated even the slightest chances of a BJP revival. Be it the Varun Gandhi episode or the BJP/BJD clashes in Orissa, BJP was largely seen as a party with " no difference"- that of internal squabbles and age old " ideologies". Moreover they were considered as favoring only a certain section of the population. They proved too much of a burden for a young, vibrant, secular, democratic India. Apart from Karnataka, BJP was seen as losing ground everywhere.

Now where does this end up to..? Well, I won't commit the same folly of giving exact predictions. However, I feel that the Congress will regain its past glory under Rahul Gandhi. The future of India belongs to the Congress party. As for the opposition parties, the BJP might meet the fate of the erstwhile JanataDal of the late 1980s. It might splinter into different groups and in the absence of a young, charismatic leader it could well be curtains for the party. Regional parties would still play their part, but none will have the ability to pose a threat to the Congress for a long time to come. Rahul Gandhi is the trump card for the Congress now and it may not be surprising if the party on its own reaches 300+ seats in 2014.
Again, a week in politics is more than a lifetime- goes the old adage and I have five solid years to defend my territory......

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