At one level, the verdict seems to be a strong mandate in favour of the policies of the UPA and also some chief ministers who supposedly focussed on development. I cannot but agree with the second half of the statement with people like Nitish Kumar, Naveen Patnaik, Sheila Dikshit and Narendra Modi getting the strongest of mandates.
A lot of you are not going to agree with the reason I believe Modi has such a strong support base in Gujarat. The fact of the matter, as far as I understand, is that divisive politics works only for a short period of time. This was more than evident in the last Lok Sabha elections where Congress gave a decent fight to Modi's BJP in the state. This was the time when the public was fed up with the polarisation based strategy of the BJP and was starting to look towards Modi to actually deliver. And deliver, he did. In fact, there are people (including yours truly) who I personally know would not have voted for Modi in the 2002 assembly elections but now would not give a second thought about their support to him. Of course, its that much more difficult for the Muslim electorate to come around and forgive him for 2002 than someone like me.
This, however, does not mean that divisive brand of politics does not work at all. The Congress' clean sweep of Mumbai is an interesting case study here. The MNS, which has only been in the news for the filthiest of acts, cut very sharply on the BJP-Shiv Sena votes, which helped the Congress immensely. The policy of the state government to play along wid Junior Thackeray has evidently played off. These are incidents which seriously dent the assertion that the mandate is a positive one.
Another place where the electorate has disappointed me is Tamil Nadu. This is the state where politicians (and I mean every single one of them) have stooped to their lowest levels in this election by openly supporting the LTTE. I just cannot comprehend how India can seek international support in fighting Pak-sponsored terrorism while it does not stand strong against terrorism in other countries in the region. We are trying to play the same dangerous game that the USA played by ignoring terrorism in countries like India. 9/11 was a big price that Uncle Sam paid for the same. The worst part is that Sonia Gandhi, who lost her husband to these terrorists and her mum-in-law to another variant of extremism has befriended people who have traditionally been sympathetic to the Tamil Tigers. Of course, a certain Mr. Vaiko deserved to be hanged long ago. I hope the fact that these parties have been voted for is more because of the lack of options than the choice of the electorate. Because if that is the case, options are bound to emerge with time.
It is these parties which make us seriously ponder if India should actually be a two-party democracy like the other big democracy of the world. But, I believe that India is such a diverse country that the multiple opinions and aspirations cannot be represented by just a couple of parties. There is definitely a scope, and in fact, need for good responsible regional parties. In fact, the strongest message of this election is for the likes of Mayawati, Mamta, Deve Gowda, Jaya, Karuna and Lalu. The electorate has shown them that responsible regional parties like JD(U) and BJD are the future of Indian democracy.
There have been strong messages for each of the other big players as well. I would like to take this opportunity to contribute the current favourite flavour of Left-bashing. I will not say much , however because the statement made by none other than Prakash Karat in reaction to the results sums it up for them. He stated, "We will keep fighting. We have been fighting since the first general elections in 1952. We have even been fighting when we have been supporting the government. We have been fighting to make the people of this country understand our ideology. And we will keep fighting for the same." I think its high time he realised that there's a reason why the public has not understood their ideology for the last 57 years.
Another camp which needs to do some serious "Aatma Chintan" is the BJP. I think this party is facing two major problems: lack of leadership and ambiguity of ideology. Lets talk about the leadership issue first. L.K. Advani is not half as effective and atal as the venerable Vajpayee. The viability of Narendra Modi getting a wide support outside his home state is seriously doubtful. And there is no one else I can think of!!! I think BJP, under Vajpayee's leadership worked together as a party. A factor for the same was that it had decisively put its controversial (some of which like the Common Civil Code were highly desirable) issues on the back burner. The present BJP leadership is pretty much confused as to what issues it wants to pursue. In fact, the choice is not really between Hindutva and development. Development can most certainly go hand-in-hand in with some (only some) of the BJP's traditional talking points. The party however needs to decisively take a stand as to which of those issues is it going to fight for and which of them are going to be dropped from its agenda. Because the electorate, and the youth in particular does not know what the BJP stands for and hence does not feel appealed to vote for it.
The youth factor I believe was what made the BJP project Varun Gandhi as an icon. I think the BJP was somewhat shaken by the rise of Rahul Gandhi. The rise of Rahul can be attributed to nothing else but his last name, in my opinion. Apparently, the BJP also felt the same and tried to make Varun stand up as its youth face. Who better than another Gandhi to halt the rise of one. Of course, the youth of India is not looking for leaders like Varun (who, by the way, before these elections, was a nobody and hopefully will remain the same). The last time the BJP tried this trick was when it pitched the other Gandhi bahu Maneka against Sonia. I think the BJP would be better served if it tries to create leaders out of the Aruns and the Sushmas, rather than going on the look out for the Varuns to be the party's youth face. Needless to say, Pramod Mahajan is being sorely missed. I think the country needs the BJP to sort these issues out and not fight elections on Swiss bank accounts (always thought its going to be a non-issue for the Indian people), so that it could be the strong and responsible opposition the country so desperately needs.
Lastly, the Congress. It has every right to be euphoric over this victory and have a party for now. But the lessons to be learnt are most important for them as they are going to be the ones running India for some time to come now. First of all, they need to understand that the people have put faith in them to drive them through these tough economic times. And its time they took some action on that front. They do not have the luxury of blaming inactivity on the Left or SP or any of their allies (who have all been cut to size). Also, if at all this is a positive mandate, its for a UPA government led by Manmohan Singh. So, irrespective of the "feedback of the ground workers" on Rahul's contribution in this win and "their aspiration to see him as their leader", its Manmohan who should be the PM for the complete term. Because, I feel that the party is in power more because of the people's trust than the workers' committment. And it must not betray this trust. Also, I as an individual, hope that we would not return to the controversies of reservation and the "first right of the minority on the country's resources". The public has stated much more clearly than even Spiderman that with great power comes great responsibilty.
I know I am probably asking for waaaayyyy too much but I would love it if all these parties could do all these things. Of course, its much easier for me to write a blog about it then it being implemented, especially in the quagmire of Indian politics. But the fact remains that I can only express my opinions and the actual work has to be done by the people involved themselves. Over to the politicos now. Lets see how the next five years span out.