Saturday, May 16, 2009


Congress the grand victor of the 2009 Indian elections: Reforms should get back on track

So, the bitterly contested election results of the Indian Lok Sabha (Parliamentary elections) are out, and it is the incumbent party, the Congress Party that is the decisive winner. During the course of the campaign and even during the month long multi-stage voting process, it seemed that there was a tight fight between the Congress and the BJP led camps. It was also projected that there would be an incredible fight for support from the smaller parties all over the country. This prospect saw these parties salivating over the prospect, and over the demands they would make from the major parties for this support.
So there was a constant tussle about whether existing partners are viable or not, and some parties made gambles. The Biju Janta Dal gambled that it would come back to power without the support of the BJP, the Congress gambled that it would need to build long-term in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (and in Bihar, it did not have much of a choice, since Lalu gave the party only 3 seats). The Congress gambled about going with the DMK even though Jayalalitha seemed to be the one riding the victory wagon. However, as the election result day came closer, nervousness gripped the Congress and it talked about changing partners, soliciting the support of the Left, looking to Nitish and Jayalalitha for support, and even trying to get closer to the Samajwadi Party.
The exit polls that started getting published once the stay on them was removed after the 13th (the last phase of election) were again off the mark, since they all projected that the Congress will have a narrow lead over the BJP and would need support from many parties. The BJP of course refused to believe such polls and stood fast in projecting that they will be the victors.
And then came the election results - and they were shocking to everyone. The Congress led poll, the UPA, is almost at the point of having half the seats, while the BJP led alliance, the NDA, is way behind. The Congress gained seats all over the country, with the party looking to reach 200 seats on its own (its best result since it started declining in the 1989 polls); it trounced the BJP in many states that the BJP should count as core constituencies such as Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi, Uttranchal, and made gains even in states such as Madhya Pradesh and Gujrat. The Congress made real good in states such as Andhra Pradesh, with the partners, the DMK, in Tamil Nadu.
However, the major surprises in this election happened in multiple states; in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress needs to get back its core constituency and it seems that the gamble it took seems to have paid off (it has got 20 seats on its own), in Maharashtra, the MNS seems to have bitten into the seats of the Shiv Sena and the BJP and led the Congress to victory. The biggest surprise has been the Left strongholds of Kerala and West Bengal. Kerala frequently changes between the Congress and the Communist, and in this election, the fight between the different factions of the Communist party propelled the Congress to victory. The biggest surprise seems to have been in West Bengal where the Congress combination with Mamta Banerjee blew away the Communist party in the state where the Communists have held sway since 1977.
What are some of the conclusions from this election:
- Manmohan Singh re-emerges as the Congress Prime Minister with a much stronger support and with less interference from supporting parties
- The BJP leader LK Advani will slowly fade away - he is already 81 years old and unlikely to be the leader in the next election
- Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi are the unquestioned leaders of the country now - even people such as me who do not believe in dynastic based leadership have to acknowledge that they have led their party to a genuine victory
- Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik are new emblems of victory, with strong shows of performance and low individual corruption levels
- The Left, having been used to a much stronger influence in the last Parliament will be a pale self with questions about the leadership becoming much stronger
- Mayawati has faced a severe setback in her quest for national leadership; the same goes for former influential leaders such as Mulayam Singh Yadav (who suffered after inducting Kalyan Singh), Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan
- Economic policies and world related policies should remain the same and in fact become more clear and without the holding back due to the Left

This is great news, and the hope is that stock markets (and in due course), the overall economy will welcome stability news and more economic reforms. The negative influence of the Left will go away now.

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