A battle is lost, but not the war

Kanchan Gupta / Analysis

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was given to moments of jocular frivolity at times of great stress, for instance on the eve of election results. At the fag end of the 1999 election campaign, a senior journalist asked him what would rate as one of the most banal, if not asinine, questions: “Mr Vajpayee, who do you think will emerge winner?” Without batting his eyelids, Mr Vajpayee replied, “Of course the BJP.” That was contrary to what opinion polls, including one commissioned by his party, were saying: The Congress, according to pollsters, had an edge over the BJP. Later that evening, I made a passing reference to the ease with which he was predicting a BJP victory in the face of a concerted Congress assault. Mr Vajpayee laughed it off and then said, “Nobody can predict the outcome of an election, never mind what politicians and pollsters say.” Placing three fingers of his right hand face down on his left palm, he added, “Any election is like a game of ‘teen patti’ (three-card game). Till such time you turn the cards and see them, you can only guess what has been dealt to you. Similarly, till the votes are counted, nobody can say with any certitude what lies in store for the contestants.”

On the face of it, such wisdom may appear commonplace. After all, veterans of electoral wars would be the first to agree that no battle is won or lost till the last vote is counted. Yet, come election time and every politician and pollster tries to outguess the voter, more often than not coming to grief. The 1999 opinion polls, including the one commissioned by the BJP, turned out to be way off the mark. The BJP and its allies were returned to power with a majority of their own; the Congress had to eat humble pie. So also with the exit polls that were telecast 72 hours before the results of the 2009 general election were declared on Saturday — they didn’t quite forecast such a stunningly stupendous performance by the Congress and the BJP’s astonishing failure to meet its own expectations, fuelled by internal assessments that failed to reflect the popular mood. Whoever predicted on the basis of an ‘exit poll’, and thereby made the party look silly on Saturday, that the NDA would get 217 seats compared to the UPA’s 176 owes more than a mere explanation.

The Congress, no doubt, has won a splendid victory; not to accept this fact would be sheer cussedness. Having said that, it would be equally incorrect to subscribe to the view that at the moment the Congress is riding the crest of a tidal popularity wave which in the coming days will turn into a tsunami of support for the party. Yes, the Congress has made stupendous gains, but a close scrutiny of the results will show that they are not entirely at the expense of the BJP. Nor have the gains accrued to the Congress on account of either policy or programme. For instance, the Congress has picked up a large number of seats in Kerala and West Bengal for reasons that are entirely different. In Kerala, the Left has paid a huge price for infighting within the CPI(M) that has spilled into the streets: A divided cadre couldn’t get their act together. In West Bengal, the Left has been decimated because popular resentment with the CPI(M) for the various sins of omission and commission of the Marxists reached tipping point in this election, helped in large measure by the alliance between the Trinamool Congress and the Congress.

In States where the BJP has lost seats to the Congress, the credit largely goes to saboteurs within the party. It is no secret that a section of the BJP worked against the party’s nominees in certain constituencies in Madhya Pradesh. In Rajasthan, the reasons that led to the BJP’s defeat in last year’s Assembly election remain unresolved. In Uttarakhand, infighting has led to the BJP’s rout. In Jammu & Kashmir, the BJP could have won in Udhampur and Jammu if the local party units had not abandoned the candidates whom they saw as ‘outsiders’. In Maharashtra, the BJP failed to correctly assess the strength of Mr Raj Thackeray’s MNS which has turned out to be a spoiler in Mumbai’s urban constituencies where the party stood a good chance of winning. By default, the Congress has benefited on account of the BJP’s deficiencies. Nowhere is this more evident than in Uttar Pradesh where the BJP clearly failed to sense the shift in voter preference and ended up under-estimating its ability to pick up additional seats which have now gone to the Congress, swelling its national tally.

These reasons apart, at the end of the day what emerges is that the Congress has reached where it has on account of four factors whose impact could not have been predicted at any stage during the campaign when popular mood is palpable. First, the ‘Chiru factor’ has put paid to the TDP’s hopes of staging a comeback. The Congress has gained in the process. Second, the ‘Vijaykant factor’ has spiked the AIADMK’s electoral prospects. The ‘Black MGR of Tamil Nadu politics’ has turned out to be a classic spoiler. Third, the ‘Mamata factor’ was never seriously factored in, especially by the Left, while calculating the possible outcome of this election. Ironically, the amazing collapse of the Left has worked to the detriment of the BJP. Fourth, the ‘urban factor’ continues to elude logical interpretation. If the voting trend is any indication, we must come to the conclusion, and regretfully so, that India’s middleclass is no longer guided by the moral compass. Nothing else explains why corruption should cease to be an election issue and the brazen exoneration by the Congress of those who have looted India fetch no more than a cynical, couldn’t-care-less response. It is equally surprising that the middleclass should have chosen to overlook the mishandling of the national economy by the UPA Government and the pitiable state of internal security. We would have thought that these are concerns that agitate the middleclass the most since they shout the most about corruption, price rise and terrorism.

There is, however, no percentage in looking back. The BJP remains a national alternative to the Congress, more so after this election which has pushed regional parties and their identity politics to the margins of national politics. The BJP’s tally is nothing to scoff at. There is no shame in sitting in the Opposition and preparing for the next battle. Elections come and go, but parties remain. It is for their leaders to use the interregnum to reflect on mistakes, regain organisational strength and revive hope among the faithful. There are, after all, no full stops in politics, and life does not come to an end with the declaration of results.

From: kanchangupta.blogspot.com

Significance of 2009 General Election Results

The results of the General Elections 2009 are out. The results we must say are indeed very surprising and may be on unexpected lines. United Progressive Allaince under leadership of Congress has won on 256 seats while NDA under leadership of Bhatiya Janta Party has won 164 seats. This election has been significant in many ways. I see election results as the new dawn in Indian Politics.

The results of the election are significant in following ways.

1> The people of the country have shown greater faith in Dr Manmohan Singh to revive Indian economy and put the growth on track. There are no doubts on his intellect and honesty.

2> There have been debates that regional parties are paralysing the central government policies. This was not perceived as the right signal. The large number of seats to UPA with congress winning 205/206 will provide the stable government and the required reforms can be carried out easily without the brakes from the regional and communist parties. This is the most brownie point of this result.

3> The most significant part is that the Fourth Front has bitten the dust. This break away alliance of Lok Janshakti Party, Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janta Dal from UPA was created to have better deals post poll results. But all the dreams have been shattered with LJP getting wiped out and RJD managing only 4 seats. Samajwadi Party lost 10 seats and was able to win 25. The dream of bargaining for crucial portfolios is hanging dead.
Thus this has been lesson for opportunistic politicians.

4> The Left dream of forming non BJP/non Congress government is crushed. People of the country have rejected the idea and now it is clear that people prefer only two alliances in the central politics. The fate of other third front partners has met an end similar to that of Left Parties. Maya’ elephant will have to walk miles before it can reach Delhi. :)

5> The big mafias/dons and their family members have also lost badly in the election result of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. It is also a big achievement of this election result. The names include Mukhtar Ansari, DP Yadav, Shahbuddin’s wife, Pappu Yadav’s wife and mother, Surajbhan’s wife, Rizwan Zaheer and Afzal Ansari.

6> The people of Bihar have voted for development and good governance.
The Muslim-Yadav-Dalit alliance has been broken and caste factor has been diminished to some extent in UP and Bihar.

Overall, the people have voted for stable government.

Now it is up to Dr Manmohan Singh and his team to deliver and meet the expectations of the people.

As a citizen of this nation, I am happier with the stability at the center and would love to see India’s economy booming once again!!

Regional Parties Paralyzing Centre

IS THE dominance of regional parties holding back India’s emergence as a global superpower? This is one of the most important question that one must ask because small regional parties have a potentially dangerous control over government policies of all kinds. The regional parties emerged in the political arena because national parties failed to satisfy the needs and requirements of the people belonging to different states. This led to the emergence of regional parties, which claim that they have a better understanding of what the voters want, in contrast to lumbering national parties.

So, in a way, their emergence can be attributed to negligence of the national parties. But when these small regional parties aspire to become national parties, then they pose a potential threat to our nation. Their emergence does reflect the good health of Indian democracy but when they stall a national policy for the sake of their ’narrow’ agendas then they become a danger to the same democracy.

In last two decades, regional parties have paralysed the central government and we have witnessed so many elections due to political instability. In this era of coalition government, it has become very tough for the government to carry on various foreign, economic and social policies due to hindrances caused by the regional parties. These regional parties have deviated from their path and their reason of emergence also seems hazy now. When it comes to central government, these regional parties have no clear ideology and they can alienate with anyone for the sake of their personal interests. As the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) faces the floor test on July 22, we are witnessing the number game being played between the government and the opposition.

Indian Parliament

Both the UPA and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) headed by two major national parties – the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – respectively, are trying to woo the Members of Parliament (MPs) to include them in their camp. With the game evenly poised, these regional parties with three to four numbers members are having a gala time and are looking for the best ’deal’. The Congress and the BJP are also leaving no stone unturned to attract them.

The independent MPs are demanding high price for their vote and AB Bardhan from Communist Party of India – Marxist (CPIM) has quoted that price to be Rs 25 crores. Imagine one vote can make you richer by 25 crores rupees! So who cares for ideology, policy etc as long as my pocket is getting heavier! There are 25 members in the Parliament who have still not decided and must be looking for some bigger offers.

Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) has three MPs and he has been offered a ministry in the government. Congress has also decided to rename the Lucknow Airport after his father Chaudhary Charan Singh’s name. The Left has also explained to him its stand and urged him to vote against the government. Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) Chandrasekhara Rao has decided to vote against the government because the UPA had failed to pass a resolution giving a commitment on the issue of forming a separate Telengana. The regional issue has overtaken the national issue. Samajwadi Party (P) has decided to support UPA (it once described the Congress as its worst enemy) in order to save itself from Mayawati. Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader Shibu Soren is asking for cabinet berth in return for his party’s support. There will be some MP’s who may go against the party whip on the date of voting.

So overall, we get the picture in the process of saving or toppling the government, regional parties are not paying any attention towards the concerned issues. There is an open market where MPs are being bought for some cash, cabinet berth, personal favours etc. I know there is no space for conscience in the politics.

This sort of politics is totally unacceptable. Instead of thinking collectively towards the betterment of the nation, regional and national parties are indulging in selfish games. Power without responsibility is a dangerous thing and I think regional parties and formations must realise this. The regional parties need to be more accountable and thoughtful. They should be ready to compromise on the national issues or should be barred from the Central politics. The immaturity and irresponsibility of regional parties makes them act as impediments to India’s development.

Image Courtesy: www.diehardindian.com/demogrph/democrac.htm

Budget 2008: An Overview

Budget 2008 will the fifth and final budget of the UPA government.With both UPA and NDA gearing up for the general elections in 2009,the demands to make the budget compatible with the ruling party’s political calculations are natural. Political compulsions to present a people-friendly budget will deter finance minister P Chidambaram from taking far-reaching measures.

BudgetFM will be doing everything to make the aaam aadmi happy. One of the most common demands made by the common man is that the working class should be given greater tax relief.Women want that there should be no discrimination in the tax structures based on gender.People are okay with the current taxation rates on auto spare parts,oil,cng but there should be no further increase in rates.Traditionally, the perception in the middle class has been that they are a much-neglected lot as far as getting a voice in budget making is concerned.So they are expecting that atleast this time there will be something in store for them.The disaffection of middle class can be quite dangerous for the Congress.

The government must think twice before announcing schemes like National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme because a recent CAG report found that only 3.2% of the registered households could avail of 100 days of employment guaranteed by the above scheme between February 2006 and march 2007.It highlighted corruption, inefficiency, diversion and misutilisation of funds.So, instead of creating more and more centrally-sponsored straitjacket schemes for the entire country, the Centre should transfer funds to the states to undertake such development activities which suit the specific requirements of a particular state.

The rupee has risen sharply against the dollar with deleterious impact on exports.In the textile sector alone 1.3 million jobs have been lost as a result of declining exports.So the government should either sterilise or slow down the inflows.

Talking about petroleum sector,FM may hand out a few small concessions to the oil PSU’s.There has been no revision in petroleum prices for a year now and those in the power circles believe the Budget won’t throw up anything beyond some exemptions and tinkering in duty structure.

India is growing by 9% annually and needs a good infrastructure backbone to support the current boom in the economy.However,creating infrastructure is a long term phenomena.Infrastructure companies dont want any kind of tax holidays but want the Reserve Bank Of India to offer differential interest rate structure for them.They want that credit should be available at a cheaper rate.The current investment in infrastructure is around 5% of GDP.India needs $490 billion to touch the figure of 9% by 2012 as targeted by the government.For that the companies require two components-financial and physical resources- and both are inter-related.The main concern is physical resources and for that they require advanced technology.They require foreign tie-ups,joint ventures and more of imports.So,the budget should aim at cutting down import duties along with policies to encourage foreign participation.

Corporate India wants the government to do away with taxes like fringe benefit tax which they feel is unnecessary.Indirect taxation of goods and services should be integrated into the Goods & Services Tax(GST) plus the tax on luxury goods should be increased.Retail industry wants that service tax on rental properties should be rationalised as it is hurting them.They also want clarifications in the FDI-related issues.ITeS and outsourcing sectors are expecting that once again they’ll not be brought under the service tax net.

The hospitality industry wants the government to increase the budgetary allocation for tourism.They want that the recent tax holiday incentive granted only to hotels coming up in the NCR region be extended to all categories of hotels.

The Budget could be more populist than the earlier Budgets of Mr Chidambaram, given the Congress needs to spruce up its voter base in the wake of losses in recent state elections.

But,the need of the hour is to take firm and bold steps to control fiscal deficit,rein in inflation,provide growth impulses to the faltering economy and take steps to face global recession.