People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 11

March 11, 2012

Assembly Elections:

Results and Implications


WHILE a plethora of analysis seeking to interpret or comprehend the recent results of elections to the state assemblies will continue, the one thing in common that emerges is the following: the growing discontent amongst the people over the economic burdens that continue to be mounted on them, particularly through price rise, has found reflection in the verdict where the electorate has held the central government and its leader, the Congress party, responsible for their miserable plight. 


This seems to have overreached the anti-incumbency advantage that the Congress should have derived in Punjab. Similarly, it almost overreached in Uttarakhand as well where the Congress will form the government but with a razor thin one seat lead over the BJP.  Manipur is the sole exception to this trend.  This, however, does not negate the commonality of voting behaviour in the other states but must be attributed to the specific local conditions that have plagued the people of this state. 


The remarkable victory of the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, which will see the triumphant return of Mulayam Singh Yadav as the chief minister, is a testimony of the growing maturity of the voter.  Clearly, there was a groundswell of opinion to rid the state of the Bahujan Samaj Party rule despite the fact that in the last elections, the electorate had given it an unprecedented mandate.  In a primarily four-cornered contest, the voter opted for the safest way to achieve this by giving an unambiguous mandate to the Samajwadi Party.  This put to rest all speculation on the possibilities of a hung assembly and the possibilities that would have opened up for realignments both at the centre and state level.  It would, however, be presumptuous and far-reaching to come to the conclusion that the voter in Uttar Pradesh has finally moved beyond the caste and communal barriers, at least to some extent.  Undoubtedly, the issue of governance and stability has dominated. This was admirably aided by the often conflicting and contradictory pronouncements made by the Congress party leaders on post poll  alliance combinations in the case of a hung assembly. 


Though the BJP managed to capitalise on the strong anti-incumbency trend in Goa, its performance in other states, particularly in the all-important Uttar Pradesh confirms the fact that the people, burdened by economic miseries, see it as being no different from the Congress.  On the issues of economic policies, the BJP has supported all major neo-liberal reforms brought forward by the Congress-led UPA-II government in the parliament.  On the issue of corruption, BJP’s credibility has correctly been perceived as being no different from that of the Congress.  The indictment of its leaders in various corruption scams, particularly in Karnataka where it has its state government, has irreversibly eroded its moral authority.  Even its pretensions on this score stand exposed today. 


However, it would be a grave mistake to conclude that communalism, as represented by the BJP (the political arm of the RSS), has taken a back seat.  The fact that the efforts to rouse communal passions did not successfully translate into votes only suggests grim prospects for the future.  Detrimental to the interests of the people and to the secular democratic foundations of modern India, the RSS/BJP may well resurrect its core communal agenda.  The country and the people, thus, must be prepared not only to face such prospects of sharpening communal polarisation but must rise to defeat it. 


Once again, these results have shown the utter unreliability of all opinion polls particularly the exit polls.  In early days, when exit polls emerged on to the scene, the indomitable R K Laxman captured  the perils of such polls in the Indian situation in one of his cartoons.  A husband comes home to tell his wife that he had mistakenly stamped the wrong box on the ballot paper (those were the days before electronic voting machines were put into use). He, however, assures his wife that he had corrected the mistake in the exit poll that was being conducted outside the polling booth!  However, in these times of widespread prevalence of `paid news’, it should be investigated in the interests of Indian democracy if any of such polls were influenced by this phenomenon. 


The moot question is, whether the Congress-led UPA-II draws any lessons from these results?  Unfortunately, it does not appear to do so.  In case they do so, it must surely be reflected in the forthcoming budget.  Through these columns, we had repeatedly shown in the past that instead of giving whopping tax concessions to corporate India and to the super rich, if these monies were spent on massive public investments to build our much needed infrastructure, then this would have generated greater employment, increasing the purchasing power of the people.  This, in turn, would have vastly increased the levels of aggregate domestic demand in the economy putting India on a path of a sustainable but more inclusive growth pattern.  Unless this is done, the people are bound to electorally continue to reject the Congress and its pretensions of concern for the aam admi.


As of now, both the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party continue to support this UPA-II government at the centre from the outside.  Unless this changes, no immediate threat to the stability of the UPA-II government exists. The BSP may well seek to be both prudent and pragmatic of trying not to antogonise  both the state and central governments at the same time. The SP may well find it convenient to have a better disposition from the central government. 


Having said this, it must be clear that the UPA-II government will not have an easy sailing in the forthcoming budget session of the parliament.  This, however, will crucially depend on whether this government and the Congress party draws the correct lessons from these results and reverses the anti-people neo-liberal economic policy regime.  With all indications to the contrary, it is, thus, incumbent upon the Indian people to mount a greater offensive of popular pressures on the government to change this disastrous economic policy direction. 

(March 07, 2012)