The past three elections have always seen the people of the country voting categorically for an alliance. Each election was unique in its own sense, and this time too, it was in no way different. The people voted for UPA overwhelmingly, and the unique point of this election was the Congress party won 206 seats on its own! With a vote share of 28%, this sure is a huge shot in the arm for them. This was the unexpected part of this election. I think the Congress primarily won because of 4 things –
- Farm Loan Waiver,
- The Prime Minister’s personality,
NREGA and the Farm Loan waiver benefited those who needed it most desperately now than ever. With NREGA guaranteeing employment for atleast 100 days an year, this turned out to be a boon for the large rural populace. Simultaneously, infrastructure development can also take place. I am still not sure about the nature of work given to these people, but if it is aiding in the development of infrastructure, then it sure is an advantage.
The farm loan waiver did come as a fresh lease of life to farmers who were drowned in misery. This program was much under-publicised but the actual effect of the under current it created was evident only in the results we saw.
Clearly, the Prime Minister seems to have emerged as victorious in the “weak” vs “strong” leader debate. Though I still think the office of the Prime Minister lost its traditional sheen and importance, the message was not effectively conveyed. People did not like the fact that someone like Manmohan Singh is being criticised in a language not acceptable to them. And Advani’s previous record and his flip-flop did not help either.
Another major reason for the Congress victory is the kind of campaign the BJP led. To begin with, Advani did not have the kind of image that Vajpayee possessed (discussed in detail in my first blog ). His constant attempts to come off as a person that he is actually not, did not pay off at all. Narendra Modi did not seem to enjoy the pan-india image that the BJP hoped he would have. His popularity is restricted to Gujarat so far.
The BJP concentrated more on reaching out to its cadre and activists than compared to the average voter. Varun Gandhi’s hate speech made sure they lost lakhs of votes, and more importantly the damage done to the image of BJP is just irreparable. So much so, that the relevance of the ideology of BJP is being questioned. Though the speeches of leaders talked about development achieved in various BJP ruled states, the message did not go out on a national level, partly because the media too was keen only on reporting sensational matters.
While it is too premature to write off the BJP completely, they have an uphill task to achieve before even thinking of returning to power. For starters, they have to behave like a very responsible opposition. No more blocking of proceedings, and no more boycotting of sittings. Only when the people of the country see and know their views on various issues will they start to take them more seriously again. Next, they seriously have to start looking for their next Vajpayee and Mahajan. I am consciously not mentioning Advani here. Mahajan has the organisational abilities of Advani but does not carry his hardliner image. That is very crucial for the BJP. They need a young leader who can be projected as an icon. Only when that search ends successfully will they be able to rise back to their earlier prominence. Tough luck until then!
The Left parties have been completely left out by the people! They sure have lost their relevance this time around! The Indian voter completely voted only at the national level, and not at the state level. Many people thought that these elections are essentially a sum of 28 different elections (like last time), but clearly this time the vote was more towards the national parties.
The curtain has come down on the most vitriolic election we have ever seen. It is now time to move on for better things. Politicians have to live up to the mandate that be best summed up as - Crystal Clear.