Tuesday, May 19, 2009


The following is a write up on Indian Polls by MR.MAHENDRA VED, a well known journalist and columinist from India.

Era of governance by coalition continues:

SINGH is still the King. Manmohan earned a fresh term as India's prime minister after hard, closely fought, no-holds-barred parliamentary polls elected the 15th Lok Sabha last week.
He is the first to complete a full term and win another since Jawaharlal Nehru in 1962.

The worst was feared after parties and individual leaders broke ranks and the level of discourse took a plunge. Mercifully, the nation has been spared the much-feared horse-trading that would have been inevitable if the popular verdict had been fractured.

The most reassuring thing about the results is that one can hope the government will last its full five-year term, unless there is an unforeseeable mess. No need for a mid-term poll, with all its inherent uncertainties and expenses.

Equally reassuring is the perception, based on the last five years' performance, that the government will provide political stability and steer the nation's economy, buffeted by global recession, on the right course.

The reaction of the silent majority and the middle class was recorded in the form of votes. That of the business and industry has been ecstatic, more so as they think the new government need not take diktats from the communists.

But being pragmatic, even they would acknowledge that with or without such diktats, pumping in billions in rural employment and poverty alleviation projects has helped.

The new government can now concentrate on a myriad problem at home and those impacting its security and foreign relations, particularly in this highly volatile neighbourhood.

The multifarious partnership with the US, a politically unstable Nepal, an imploding Pakistan and conflict in Sri Lanka remain immediate challenges. So does watching Bangladesh from where militants of various hues pose a serious threat.

The five-year arrangement of division of labour will continue: Manmohan runs the government while Sonia Gandhi runs the Congress and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). It augurs well for democratic functioning.

The era of governance by coalition continues. Any attempt by the Congress to act big could isolate it. The UPA stays with its sulking constituents, both winners and losers.

Chances are that Manmohan will offer ministerial posts to some like the vanquished Bihar satrap Lalu Prasad Yadav. Ever pragmatic, Yadav admitted his "mistake" in not taking Congress along in the key Bihar state.
Yadav's fate may be better than another rebel, Ram Vilas Paswan, who aspired to be India's first Dalit (the most oppressed class) prime minister. He had entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 1977 for winning with the highest vote margin in history. He lost in the same impoverished Hajipur in rural Bihar.

Another prime ministerial aspirant, Mayawati, chief minister of the most populous Uttar Pradesh state and a one-woman army, failed to emerge as a queen or a kingmaker. She must slog it out in her state and stay friendly to Delhi. Wily and ambitious Sharad Pawar, who also has a big stake in cricket, would have thrived had the UPA fared badly in making inter-alliance arrangements. He must bide his time.

Ailing octogenarian Karunanidhi spoilt Jayalalithaa's party. He performed a remarkable repeat that Tamil Nadu does not generally allow. Political pundits and astrologers had predicted a key role at the national level for "Amma", as she is called. She fared badly despite advocacy for Tamil Eelam in neighbouring Sri Lanka.

It is too early to determine if the raging conflict and the influx of Tamil refugees from the island played any role. The defeat of Vaiko, the lawmaker who threatened Tamil Nadu's "secession" from the country and Pattali Makkal Katchi would suggest that it did not.

The real loser is the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). It may be end of the road for Lal Krishna Advani, his party's and the alliance's official nominee for prime minister. The next time on, in 2014, he will be 87 years old. It would be time for a new generation to take over.

NDA contested without the liberal Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who is ailing. Advani, despite his attempts to shed the image of a "Hindutva" hardliner and to appeal to the young, could not fit into his shoes. The BJP will now have existential problems, despite being in power in eight states. With Vajpayee out and Advani weakened, the second line of leadership may step up in-infighting.

The communists, too, are in a total mess. Their number dwindled in Parliament and the Red bastion was seriously dented in West Bengal and Kerala. The Left Front's supremacy in Bengal has ended after 32 years. But their bete noire, Mamata Banerjee, who brought it all about, has a record of erratic behaviour. She could unwittingly help the Left recover.

What worked for Congress/UPA? The Rahul factor -- his appeal to the young while campaigning across the country and his go-it-alone strategy for the party have obviously added to mother Sonia's unrelenting campaign and backroom parleys.

Rahul could debut as a minister, but perhaps not at the cabinet level. A minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office, maybe.

Manmohan himself proved a doughty campaigner. No orator and recovering after a complicated heart surgery, he undertook a punishing campaign, blasting his principal rival Advani who had needled him for the last five years. His campaign was the surprise of the poll.

Not only Punjab voted for a Sikh prime minister -- other religious minorities too have noted the quiet work of India's first prime minister who does not belong to the majority Hindu faith.

Beyond individuals, parties and alliances, it was the people who rewarded those who performed: Manmohan at the national level and in the states, chief ministers like Narendra Modi (Gujarat) and Navin Patnaik.

Writer-turned-politician Patnaik's stake-all gamble of breaking from BJP over anti-Christian violence in Orissa state yielded good dividends. This is but one example of people being tired of strife in the name of religion and caste.

Ironically, people responded well to BJP's slogan of "su-rajya" -- good governance -- but chose not to elect it for fear of social disharmony, ranging from attacking religious minorities to those visiting pubs or dressing the way they like.

This goes to underline that the individual does matter in a democracy.


(Malaysian politicians must take note that the individual does matter in a democracy and voters are deemed to reject parties which exploit race and religious sentiments in politics).

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