Monday, May 16, 2011

Indian Elections - Conquests and Upsets

The results of India’s general elections to legislative assemblies of several states have surprised many of us; expats, in Bahrain. Being away from India, we have completely missed the hustle-bustle of the election fever which India, the world’s largest democracy, usually offers; but could only grab the news bites from Satellite television channels, watching from here.

The states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam, Pondicherry and parts of Andhra Pradesh have all had some startling results with interesting upsets. And here is a quick short look on the election results, state by state.

In Kerala, the UDF victory had a margin that is wafer thin. Not a very good way to win for UDF. But Congress-led UDF alliance won 72 of the 140 seats, while CPI-controlled LDF got the remaining 68. And, it is interesting to note here that – with a difference of just 4 seats - the outgoing Kerala chief minister VS Achutanandan says that he would not try to garner a majority using disgruntled members from other parties and would choose to sit in the opposition. This win is a big improvement for UDF, from the 2006 assembly polls when UDF had won 42 seats while LDF had won 98. Now, in 2011, even with his hat-trick win in his constituency, it looks like VS Achutanandan cannot stop UDF’s new rule over Kerala; probably under the leadership of Oomen Chandy, the Chief Minister probable.

In Tamil Nadu, we see that, with her allies, the former Chief Minister Jayalalitha has victoriously gained 199 of the state's 234 assembly seats, trouncing the DMK-Congress alliance which did not even manage to garner 40 seats together. Obviously, the 2G telecom corruption scandal - in which DMK’s first family of Karunanidhi and daughter Kanimozhi, along with another DMK leader A Raja are seriously involved - could not have come at a better time for Jayalalitha. From what I understand, at every meeting, she kept reminding her electorate, based on the allegations, what a corrupt party DMK was. And the people could not have agreed with her better! Now, seeing the massive mandate she received the Congress party leaders who openly supported DMK must be, I am sure, privately slamming their foreheads, and cursing themselves, for siding with DMK.

In West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress and the Congress Party alliance, with a huge win, ended the long 34-year control of the state by CPI-M. Her party bagged 184 out of 294 Assembly seats in the state and made the communists bite the dust. But is this really her success? Or the communists’ failure? The journalist Anirban Roy, of India Today, blames the now outgoing chief minister Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee himself for this debacle for CPI-M. Unlike his predecessor Jyoti Basu, Bhattacharjee could not emerge as the patriarch of the Left Front, mainly because of his soft image and his failure to reign in "corrupt and oppressive" leaders in the grassroots level. Roy added in his article that : “after the death of Anil Biswas, the state CPM chief and a deft strategist, in 2006, a large section of the party cadre deviated from the party's principles, weakening the party's base”. Bhattacharjee had himself lost in his Jadavpur constituency with 16,000 votes; that is his very sorry state in the West Bengal state. But what we need to see is, if Mamata Banerjee becomes the Chief Minister, will she - who gave a dismal performance as the Union Railway Minister - give a greater performance in West Bengal after Jyothi Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee? Let’s see.

In Assam, Congress Party’s excellent performance, I am sure, was able to give some great sighs of relief to its leaders. Sweeping the polls with 78 out of the 126 seats, which are near two-thirds of the total seats, Tarun Gogoi is all set to be the Chief Minister for the third time.

In Puducherry, a union territory, AIADMK led coalition of NRC (N Rangaswamy Congress) Party has won 20 out of total 30, trouncing the DMK-lead Congress coalition. So, hopes that Congress will retain this little Old French territory are all now gone.

In Andhra Pradesh, there were by-elections in two constituencies – Kadapa and Pulivendula. Results from these two places were expected have a great impact on the overall Andhra Pradesh political scenario because, for the first time, a new party ‘YSR Congress’ was fighting with the traditional Indian National Congress. One particular seat to the legislative assembly had the focus of the entire nation, the Kadapa constituency, where Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, the son of late chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, who died in a helicopter crash, contested and won with over 545,000 votes, a stunning performance. Mr Ravindra Reddy, currently the State Health Minister, and Congress candidate lost his security deposit. And in Pulivendula constituency too, ‘YSR Congress’ won, with the window of the former chief minister winning over her brother-in-law who represented congress, with a record 81,343 votes! Congress has been making major mistakes in its dealings with the Andhra Pradesh popular sentiment.

So, it is a major setback to Congress in some places, while they got some relief from others, but with the political scene is changing like it never did before, if congress doesn’t work harder in the coming months, it could be the beginning of the end.

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