The message from these state assembly elections
The results of the assembly elections for five states were out yesterday. As expected, most of the pre-poll analysis didn’t make much sense once the results started coming in. And the pundits quickly swung into action to provide post-facto justifications for the results. But that is understandable. It is their job. What really irks is the morning-after effect — the desperate manner in which some pundits try to find an overarching theme after every elections. Of course, this may be true in case of some elections (1977 or 1985) but is otherwise mostly all hot air. Let us look at a few such themes.
Look at Amethi-Raibareli. This is a vote against dynastic politics. And what about Badals and Yadavs?
The mandate is a forward looking one, from people who have transcended their caste and religious identities, and voted for development. Take a look at the Samajwadi Party manifesto. How is it different from anything you heard in the 1980s and the 1990s from socialist parties? Is this the development people voted for?
This is a vote for governance. Manipur, where the incumbent Congress government was unable to keep national highways open for months, has been voted back into power with an even greater majority. Even Punjab, with its perilous economic state, agrarian crisis and social conflict, would not be held up as a model for governance to have pushed the Akali-BJP government back into power.
This is a clear verdict for stability where people do not want any horse-trading after the results. Did anyone try and catch a glimpse of the results in Uttarakhand?
This is a vote for a new Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, which is headed by Akhilesh Yadav. Even if you were to dismiss the horrendous incidents last night at Jhansi and Firozabad, the winners list of Samajwadi Party shows us the same old faces. People like Raja Bhaiya have won by thumping margins. A more detailed breakdown of Samajwadi Party’s winners will show us that it is the same old wine in the same old bottle, with a new sticker.
People have transcended identities while casting their votes. Really, and that is how Mayawati’s Bhaujan Samaj Party has won 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh without appealing to its core voters on the base of their caste identity. Or even Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal winning 9 seats in the Jat belt of western UP. Those following UP politics know pretty well that caste identity remains the bedrock of all election strategies in that state. Everything else can only be an addition to that. To deny the reality of caste and religion is to clutch at straws where none exist.
Of course, there are a few observations which can be made on the basis of the elections. One, the huge participation of the electorate across the country proves people have faith in the power of the vote to bring change. Anna Hazare and his promoters in the media may like to take note of this phenomenon.
Two, the results are a slap in the face of the Congress party’s policies. The election in Punjab was for the Congress party to lose, and it lost. It seems to have barely scraped through in Uttaranchal. It lost Goa to the BJP. Despite all the efforts of the Gandhi family in UP, it finished a poor fourth.
Three, all politics is local. It is perhaps hyper-local when it comes to state assemblies now. To try and weave them around grand phantasmagorical narratives is an exercise in futility.
Finally, the message from these elections is clear. There is no one message from these elections.