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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 23, May 23, 2009

Election 2009 : The People For Ever


Saturday 23 May 2009, by SC


Five years ago, on May 13, 2004, it was written in these columns under the same heading “The People For Ever” following the results of the 14th Lok Sabha polls:

One of the famous poems of poet Bishnu Dey translated into English from the original Bengali by Harindranath Chattopadhyay is entitled “The People For Ever”. As the results of Election 2004 came in one was reminded of that poem as it had brilliantly projected the remarkable resilience of our immortal people in the face of heavy odds and their capacity to articulate their sentiments at the opportune moment.

Five years later, the results of Election 2009 have also compelled one to turn to that poem and the same caption. If five years ago it was a political earthquake to strike the Indian polity shattering the dreams of the leaders of the then ruling NDA at the Centre to once more return to power in the South Block as they had in the wake of the victory in the Kargil war in 1999 after being voted out in Parliament, in 2009 the ruling UPA’s return to office due to a resounding popular mandate reflecting a distinct undercurrent of support that had eluded most observers cannot but be characterised as a political landslide which has not just removed the dross in the Advani-led NDA (replete with the Narendra Modis and Varun Gandhis) from the centre of attention but also swept away the juvenile delinquents in the Left who had built castles in the air to come out with the remarkable formulation of an “alternative of a non-Congress non-BJP government” in New Delhi. Both have been forced to bite the dust. While the BJP and its allies, despite their successes in Bihar, Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal, have come a distant second to the Congress-led UPA (with its pre-poll alliance and post-poll backing of Independents, not to speak of “others” now extending “unconditional support”, it has garnered 274 seats to comfortably cross the half-way mark in the 543-member House), the Left—which had hoped to play the most pivotal role in the formation of the next government—has performed pathetically in its Red bastions of West Bengal and Kerala. Thus the Left strength has dwindled from 61 to 25 and with that its pretensions of playing the king-maker’s role have blown off with the wind.

One must necessarily pay fulsome tributes to the common people of this vast landmass for their maturity and wisdom in voting for the sturdiest secular combine represented by the Congress-led alliance (even if the Left leaders in their infantilism and senselessness chose to attack it in the typical Don Quixote-style of targeting the windmill) and thereby sparing the country of being ruled by either divisive forces out to destroy our secular fabric and pluralist ethos or a motley crowd of “Third Force” constituents who came together only to project their relevance on the national plane and somehow capture power without any consideration of principles and policies. The significance of this maturity and wisdom is heightened when one takes note of the current turmoil and instability in our neighbourhood.

The electorate indisputably voted this time for a stable government at the Centre but it was also something more than stability—or shall we say stability plus? The vote was for a dispensation which was wedded to help uplift the poor in general. In several States like Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan where the Congress is in power the State governments have conducted in an exemplary manner in this regard by taking bold strides to implement the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) in stark contrast to the prevailing situation in Left-ruled West Bengal (whose record in Muslim welfare too is dismal, as seen from the Sachar Committee report on the issue), and this helped them to reap rich electoral dividends. The farmers’ loan waiver scheme was also a factor that assisted the Congress to win popular support in the rural areas.

Of course the real surprise came in West Bengal where the Left Front, which is in power for 32 years, suffered its worst humiliation since 1977. The Left garnered just 15 of the 42 seats (and here too several were won by what can easily be described as the ‘looting of votes’ in several Assembly constituencies) with the largest partner or ‘big brother’, the CPM, collecting a paltry nine while the other three smaller constituents shared two seats each. At the other end Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress won 19 seats and its ally, the Congress, six. This was the net result of the CPM’s highhandedness, brutality, arrogance of power, pro-corporate sector and anti-farmer attitude exemplified in Nandigram and Singur besides the total alienation of the Left supporters in both the rural and urban areas due to maladministration, corruption and anarchy in every sphere of development.

In Kerala too the Left suffered severe reverses—though these were expected—due to rampant infighting and rank opportunism by seeking to court one of the worst Muslim fundamentalists for the sake of a few seats.

The Congress’ gains in UP have been most striking and for that lavish praises have been showered on Crown Prince Rahul Gandhi for his tenancious campaign as also ‘go-alone’ approach. Definitely Rahul did shine in contrast to his cusin Varun whose hate-speech found Muslims scurrying for shelter in the Congress and/or BSP since the SP’s marriage-of-convenience with Kalyan Singh of the Babri Masjid demolition ‘fame’ left them stunned, to say the least.

While Varun’s anti-Muslim tirade did not come to the aid of the BJP either in UP or elsewhere, the Kandhamal violence in Orissa mauled it in the parliamentary polls in the State.

If one analyses the outcome of Election 2009 dispassionately one comes to realise with what circumspection the people voted throughout the country—giving full marks to those who governed well (as in Bihar, Delhi, Andhra, Orissa), punishing family rule (as in Punjab) while conveying their no-confidence in arrogance of power (as in West Bengal) and misgovernance (in the case of the RJD in Bihar and BSP in UP).

Progressive forces of all hues must comprehend the essence of these results and extend constructive support to the ruling dispensation which has secured the clear mandate to rule for five years beyond all expectations embodied in poll surveys. This writer has no hesitation in admitting that he was forced to eat crow on hearing the results, and he did that with the least embarrassment since he was convinced that these—backed by popular will and based on the people’s wisdom—were in the best interests of the nation.

May 21 S.C.

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