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Assembly Polls – Mood of the Nation

May 14, 2011

All political pundits got it wrong. None had gone to the ground and did a real survey. The armchair critics have had to eat crow. Embarrassed, they are not even referring to the pre-poll surveys. In West Bengal Trinamool Congress and Indian National Congress have come to power with a sweeping majority. It was Mamta Banerjee all the way in West Bengal. Congress piggy rode Trinamool to success. The Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya lost from Jadhavpur. The Red Sun has set on West Bengal. Mamta Banerjee called this a new independence.  West Bengal has decisively thrown out the CPI(M) after 34 years of uninterrupted rule. Mamta and Congress have got more than two third majorities! This is a watershed of sorts in the political history of West Bengal.

Mamata Banerjee demolishes the Left in West Bengal

The much talked about ‘poribartan’ (change) promised by Mamta Banerjee has happened. Writers Building has turned green, the color of the Trinamool Congress. The indefatigable crusader against CPI(M)’s rule has finally has had the last laugh. Many say this is the end of the Left in India, but I am not so sure.

Jayalalitha wins in a landslide

Jayalalitha wins in a landslide

The surprise of surprises was however the election in Tamil Nadu. DMK and Congress combine has lost heavily to Jayalalitha’s AIADMK and her ally Vijay Kant, also known as the dark MGR in Tamil Nadu. No one had expected such a complete rout of the party in power. Karunanidhi and his clan tried all tricks in the book to get back to power. Money was thrown like water and this was perhaps the most expensive election campaign in any assembly election. Money power failed in front of people’s power. Amma prevailed and people voted with their feet. There was a heavy turnout with more than 80% and it was a vote against the misrule of DMK and Karunanidhi. It was a vote against family fiefdom and for governance. It was a vote against corruption and for accountability. DMK and Congress were in complete disarray. AIADMK has won 202 seats out of the 234 seats on offer. This has come as a surprise for many. But those in Tamil Nadu saw this coming. The TV channels and pre poll surveys predicted a close fight. It was only Cho Ramaswamy, the editor of Tuglaq who predicted a sweep for Amma, rest everyone else saw a good fight between the two arch rivals. Personal barbs by Karunanidhi against Jayalalitha also went against the DMK. The 2G spectrum scam and the granite scam were like red flags to the electorate. The pathetic power situations no solace either. The lone lady won in Tamil Nadu as in West Bengal. Again history has been made. Sycophancy will reign in Tamil Nadu again as it always has. It will be a spectacle and the queen of Poes Garden will be back at the helm.

Kerala was the one saving grace for the psephologists. Kerala again was predicted to be a close fight and close fight it was. United Democratic Front lead by the Indian national Congress and Muslim League were supposed to come to power. And they did with the skin of their teeth. Of the 140 seats on offer 72 went to the UDF and 68 to the LDF. It could have been a very easy run for UDF but they under estimated the resolve of the LDF leadership lead by V.S. Achtanandan. V.S. was given a ticket to fight election after an uproar from the grass root workers of the LDF. The man showed he still had a lot left in him at the age of 87. Rahul Gandhi made the cardinal error of taking a pot shot at the veteran of Kerala politics pointing out the age of the veteran Leftist. VS retorted by calling Rahul Amul Baby and that caught the imagination of the masses. What should have been a cake walk for the UDF turned out to be a close fight – so close that it was difficult to predict as to who would win till the very end. UDF still managed to reach the post first but it was too close for comfort. Muslim League won 20 seats and that helped the UDF immeasurably. The norm of change every five years has been maintained with UDF coming to power in Thiruvananthapuram. The Left has lost both its bastions – West Bengal and Kerala and that has been a big blow to the Marxists. Is this the end of Left politics in the country? It is a difficult call to make but this surely has been a huge set-back for Left politics in the country, especially of the Marxist hue.

The best result for the Indian National Congress was however from the North East. Tarun Gogoi in Assam has managed what most politicians have not. He has come back to power the third time consecutive time. Asom Gana Parishad and the Bharatiya Janata Party were the main opposition parties in the state. Asom Gana Parishad unlike last time decided to go alone. They have barely managed to reach double figures. The Congress lead by Tarun Gogoi has managed an easy victory. BJP and AGP split votes and this benefitted Congress. The other big player was AIUDF of Maulana Badruddin Ajmal. This is a party that has Muslim migrants from Bangladesh as their main constituency. AIUDF managed 20 seats and is the second highest winner in these elections in Assam ahead of AGP and BJP. Ajmal will be the leader of the opposition in the Assam assembly. The Bodo National Front has also done well with 12 seats. For Tarun Gogoi this has been an amazing win and one that will give him a chance to serve the people of Assam for another five years. The rise of AIUDF in the border districts is surely a very disturbing development as their politics is divisive and not in national interest.

In Pondicherry the ruling Congress has been overthrown and the AIADMK and allies have come to power. This is perhaps a spill-over effect of the elections in Tamil Nadu.  Amma has prevailed here too and this should give her confidence.

There is a common thread that runs through all five Assembly elections. While Kerela can be said to be a case of change for the sake of change but the mood of the electorate is very clear. The message that comes across is – deliver or perish. People want a responsive government and not one that is reactive to events or issues. They want a proactive government that reaches out rather than waits for the people to speak out or to assert. The aspirations of the people need to be met and no amount of slogans or promises impresses them. They want development and jobs. They want health care and education. They want electricity and clean drinking water. They have aspirations that are growing by the day. The electronic media keeps them abreast of developments. They are no ignoramuses anymore. They want a government that is corruption free, as can be seen from results in Tamil Nadu. They are also not averse to give someone who has honestly tried as in the case of Assam to give another chance. People do not want change blindly. In the case of West Bengal people were fed up of stagnation of the Marxists and their politicization at every level. The Ma, Mati, Manush slogan of Mamta Didi (sister) caught the imagination of the people. The rampant use of money power by the DMK and the Congress in Tamil Nadu boomeranged. Jayalalitha exhorted the voters to take the money being offered by DMK, give Rs 5 to charity to appease the Gods and then vote for the AIADMK. Her rationale was that DMK has looted so much of public money that refusing what they are giving will be foolish. This struck a chord and a silent tsunami saw complete annihilation of the DMK.

Tarun Gogoi of the Congress had reached out to the Assamese Hindu also this time and had worked for their betterment. He gave them clean drinking water and had hand pumps installed in every locality. This was such a boon to the people that they voted for the Congress. With AGP and BJP divided there was also a lack of alternative. People gave thumbs up to a government that had tried to reach out to the people and help their lot. The lack of imagination of the opposition was decisive in that it helped the people make up their minds. There was no alternative in Assam and that got reflected in the people’s choice.

The lesson that every party must learn from these crucial assembly elections is that people want a government that delivers, a government that is clean and understands the aspirations of the people. People want a better way of life. There are millions of people who can’t wait to get that elusive life of a middle class Indian who has a roof over his head, a steady income, kids going to schools and basic health care. This is the minimum that every Indian aspires for. The government that helps them achieve this dream will be rewarded and the ones that do not care for the aspirations of the people will be set aside, as has been seen in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. Corruption has also become a major issue and people are fed up of politicians misusing their offices. These lessons are vital for the politics of India of the 21st century.

It would be unfair if I failed to mention the role of the Election Commission. Election Commission is a Constitutional body and functions without fear or favor. The present Election Commissioner has shown that political parties and political leaders will have to adhere to model code of conduct. Neither West Bengal nor Tamil Nadu would have seen the kind of results that have emerged had it not been for the proactive EC. His fairness and firmness has seen elections being conducted as they ought to be. The fall of the Left would not have been possible without the firmness shown by Qureshi and his team. For the first time many people voted in West Bengal and all the Marxist goons were sent packing. In Tamil Nadu DMK’s money power did not work again thanks to the vigilance of the EC. It has been reported that more than Rs 50 crores was seized by the EC from DMK workers.

A note of caution on West Bengal!  Mamta Banerjee has come riding a wave. She was also helped by the Maoists in her election campaign. She has compromised with one devil to vanquish another. I am not sure whether she will be allowed to work freely by those who have helped her enter Writers Building. Her administrative skills will be on test. She has not excelled in the ministries she has headed. I hope she delivers on the aspirations of the people of West Bengal. The eclipse of the Marxists has few mourners. Their cadres will invoke Jyoti Basu but I wonder whether even the patriarch would have been able to withstand the tsunami that was the Mamta wave.  West Bengal can turn a new chapter. I hope Mamta Banerjee and her team will have the will and the means to deliver on all fronts, including peace and harmony and a better life for the common people of West Bengal.

With Jayalalitha and Mamta leading the charge, Indian women have shown again that they are a force to reckon with. Women have a sensitivity of their own. With another lady, Sonia Gandhi at the helm in the center perhaps these women will show the way to the nation as to how to govern and how to ensure development and to take the nation forward.

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