14th Indian Election: A Critical Analysis

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The Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee has tendered his resignation to the President of India, which has been accepted. Sonia Gandhi has met with the president of India to form the government at the center. The Congress-led coalition had nominated Sonia Gandhi as their candidate for the next premier Ship of India. Sonia Gandhi, 57, would become India’s next prime minister, following her late husband, Rajiv Gandhi, who led India for five years in the late 1980’s. The family’s almost uninterrupted dominance over more than half a century of Indian politics broke down over the last 15 years, and ended in 1996. But in an interesting move Mrs. Sonia Gandhi decided not to become Prime Minister and indications are that Dr Manmohan Singh (pioneer of economic reformers) could head the new multi-party coalition government. It is estimated that her reluctance to take up the post is on account of her "deep hurt" caused by the sangh parivar campaign against her on her foreign origins.

Disproving every opinion survey carried out over the past several months, the Indian National Congress-led alliance has stormed to power in India. While the Congress is still short of a simple majority on its own strength, with its allies it is strongly expected to cobble up the number required forming a new government. Some weeks ago Sonia was the Congress’ big liability now she has become wining charisma/asset. Many secular Indians were considering voting for the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, if only because they did not want a "foreigner" to rule the country. But foreigner origin is no more an issue in India.

Name of the Party No. Of Seats Total
Congress 146
Allies 71 217
BJP 139
Allies 48 187
Leftists 62
Others 73 135
Total 539

The Congress victory in the 14th elections has put to rest somewhat some of these fears. Sonia Gandhi led the Congress election campaign. She has led the Congress to a victory that nobody expected. The Congress party has emerged as the single largest party in the recent elections. She has traveled some 42,000 kilometers and even campaigned in parts of the unsettled upper regions of Assam where militants have been carrying out anti-BJP agitation.

The Congress and its allies are ahead in 222 seats and the BJP-led alliance is leading in 189 constituencies, far short of the 250-272. Other parties, including the Left Front which will support the Congress and which is ahead in over 60 constituencies and smaller but influential parties like the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party are leading in about 128 seats. Financial markets, which had tumbled on fears that an unstable coalition would be re-elected, reversed early losses as the size of the Congress win became clear. The benchmark Sensex rose 41 points to close at 5,399.

The BJP’s "India Shining" and “Feel Good” campaign appeared to have struck a chord, especially with urban India. Vajpayee’s personality and stature commanded support across classes, generations, castes, religions and even political affiliations. This winning combination of veteran Vajpayee’s leadership and the promise of economic prosperity held out by the "India Shining" slogan were expected to propel the BJP back into power. Initially it was predicted that the prospect of a hung parliament loomed large. But even then, the BJP was expected to form the core of the new government. The only uncertainty was over how many seats it would have and which parties outside its alliance would jump across to support it.

The Assembly Elections in Andhra Pradesh were the greatest set back to BJP-led coalition. The Andhra assembly election saw the Telugu Desam Party, a major BJP ally routed. The Congress victory in the general elections is a huge surprise. It has gained ground across the country. The BJP has done well in states like Rajasthan, Uttaranchal, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Punjab. Good news for the BJP in south India has come only from Karnataka. It was looking to this Congress-ruled state to break into southern India, and has done so in this election. Its ally has been routed in Andhra Pradesh and wiped out in Tamil Nadu.

The biggest surprise in the election has come from Gujarat, the western Indian state that was witness to ugly communal riots in February 2002. The BJP was expected to sweep the state. After all, it swept to power decimating the Congress in assembly elections in December 2002. While the BJP is the party with the largest number of seats in Gujarat, the Congress is a close second. Nobody expected the Congress’ fortunes in Gujarat to be revived in the recent 14th general elections. It is salient majority of Muslims & Christian and others lower castes minorities that have taken their revenge from the BJP of its earlier state sponsored/controlled Gujarat’s massacre. It is also victory of secularism over communalism. It is also victory of common people over personal dynasties.

In the recent elections Mrs. Sonia Gandhi pushed for a secular India and strongly rejected the communal policies of the BJP. The Gandhi dynasty dominated Indian politics since independence from British colonial rule in 1947. Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister headed the country from independence until his 1964 death. He was followed by his daughter, Indira Gandhi, who was killed by her own bodyguards in 1984. Rajiv, her son and Sonia’s husband, took power and ruled until 1989. Two years later, he too was assassinated.

Multidimensional Factors of BJP Defeat in 14th Elections

a). Anti-Incumbency Vote. (AP, Karnataka, Kerala, Punjab, Haryana) Rural Voters have rejected the shining India Claims of BJP, Congress and IT Craze of Chandrababu Naidu

The result of the Indian elections has proved that slogans are not enough to win votes. The BJP told the electorate that India was shining, economy was booming with a growth rate of 8 percent, foreign exchange reserves had reached 140 billion US $ and there was peace with Pakistan. The Indian voter has dealt a humiliating defeat to the incumbent government of Atal Behari Vajpayee. To be certain, India was shining but only for the one-third of its population. The rest 700-800 millions were not touched by the shine. To them India was only shining on the rich. The rest of the population felt neglected and they have avenged the gross neglect of their needs by uprooting the BJP and its allies.

The past five years might have seen some of India’s cities shining, but ultimately that was not enough to bring in the required votes. The Indian farmer, who has suffered under BJP rule, has signaled his discontent through the ballot box. Eighty percent of India lives in villages, and the farmer has signaled that his interests need to be protected too. The results indicate that rural India cannot be taken for granted. The angry rural voter has asserted himself not only against the BJP but against the Congress too. The poor performance of the Congress in the southern state of Karnataka testifies to that. Prosperity was limited to Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka and India’s "Silicon City", while much of rural Karnataka reeled under severe drought for four continuous years.

The defeat of India’s IT czars the chief ministers of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka in assembly elections stands testimony to the power of the rural voter. Chandrababu Naidu was feted in the business dailies and praised by corporate India for his IT miracle in Andhra. But the voters in rural Andhra felt he had not done enough to prevent the suicide of small farmers, and threw him out of government for this. The Congress government in Karnataka has faced a similar fate.

On the whole, India’s less privileged the rural masses and the urban poor appeared to have found the BJP’s "India Shining" campaign unacceptable and offensive. There is no doubt that the Indian economy has done very well of late, but the primary beneficiaries have been the rich and the urban middle class. The less privileged outnumber the middle classes by a big margin. The BJP-led coalition’s defeat showed the government had followed "anti-people economics" with its programme of reforms.

Andhra Pradesh State (Total Seats 294)

Name of the Alliances Year-1999
Year-2004
TDP-BJP 192 49
Cong-TRS-Left 91 226
Others 11 19

Karnataka: Total Seats 224
Name of the Alliances Year-1999
Year-2004
Congress 132 65
BJP 44 79
JD (S) 10 58
JD(U) 18 5
Others 20 17

b). Superior Art of Alliances, Seat’s Adjustment and Power Sharing Formulas of Congress

Another factor that contributed to the Congress wresting power from the BJP is the pre-poll alliances it entered into. A late convert to coalition politics, the Congress appears to have mastered the skill of putting seat-sharing arrangements together.

Name of the Party Name of the Region Result
Rashtriya Janata Dal, RJD Bihar, Victory for Congress-Led Coalition
Dravida Munetra Kazhagam, DMK &Others Tamil Nadu, Victory for Congress-Led Coalition
Nationalist Congress Party NCP Maharashtra Victory for Congress-Led Coalition

An over-confident BJP at one stage it seemed confident of winning a majority without allies neglected and even dumped some of its old allies. In alliance formation, it appears to have not read the writing on the wall. Although the Congress and its allies are short of a simple majority, with Left support they will easily reach the magic number. She has proved that like other Indian politicians she can cobble together alliances and shake hands with former enemies.

c). Communal Riots of Gujarat and other Places have sunk the titanic of BJP-Led Coalition

The secular philosophies of the Congress have rooted out the communal policies of the BJP. The massacre of Gujarat has brought bad name to the government of BJP and now has become one of the key factors of its drastic defeat in Gujarat. The split verdict in the BJP stronghold of Gujarat, which was rocked by one of the worst bouts of communal rioting since Independence, is also significant. The BJP’s setback in Gujarat is one of the redeeming features of this election. It is a clear rejection of communal politics. The average, pragmatic middle class Gujarati does not want a perpetual civil war in the state People of India have clearly given their verdict that now there is no place of temple or mosque in the politics of India.

The Indian voter found Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s persistently offensive campaign against Sonia distasteful. Besides, the voter has indicated that he has more important issues to worry about than the place of birth of his country’s prime minister. The issues of Ayodhya, UCC and the last not the least article 370 are other broad issues, which have contributed down fall of NDA in the recent elections. The BJP thought peace with Pakistan would take care of the shame of Gujarat. Not so, said the Muslims in India. The party apparatchiks thought Atalji’s skillful politicking would wash Narendra Modi and his bloody legacy away. Not so, said the Muslims.

d). Fail to Deliver Its Promises

The BJP being unable to fulfill its election promises, particularly its less savoury ones of building the Ram temple on the disputed site of the Babri Masjid or banning cow slaughter. This was especially important to the Hindu communalists who formed the BJP’s vote bank.

e). Issue of Illegal Immigrants of Bangladesh

There are millions of illegal immigrants of Bangladesh settling in the different sates of India. Many states of India are facing many multidimensional problems from the continued inflows of illegal immigrants of Bangladeshis. The BJP failed to resolve that issue which is one of the key factors in some states.

f). Rise of Hindutva

Another factor working against the BJP was its affirmed vow to Hindutva, which translated into a policy of saffronization of every sector of national life. This alienated the non-Hindu minorities, especially the Muslims, who constitute a substantial vote bank in India.

Multidimensional Challenges for the Congress

1). Keep balance between the interests of corporate India and to the demands of its allies in the Left for labor reforms.

2). Swift solution to looming poverty, unemployment, poor schooling, housings and merge facilities of health in the rural areas of India. The Congress will also have to respond positively to the unambiguous signals that rural India has sent out in this election. Sonia Gandhi’s real battles might only have just begun.

3). Continued cordial bilateral relationships with Pakistan, scope of free trade with all the neighboring countries of the region.

4). Good and sustainable relationships with USA

5). Functional coalition to give stable government at the center and in many states.

6). Reduce the intensity of horrible wounds of communalism etc, etc.

7). The Sonia government will be under greater pressure to keep some distance from the US and Israel, although the Congress would like to take advantage of the strategic partnership the Vajpayee government built with Washington.

8). The Congress-led government in India will turn back to its pro-Palestine position while opposing the ongoing Iraq war. The Secular Progressive Alliance will be consistent than the BJP on keeping the peace process on track with Pakistan. With Laloo Prasad Yadav, Mullayam Singh Yadav and DMK, on the one hand, and the Left Front, on the other, the Sonia government will be more enthusiastic towards the normalization process.

Different Options of the Formation of Government at the Center and in different States for Congress-Led Coalition

Option I

The Congress alliance can form a government on its own with help from smaller parties. This is one scenario Congressmen are fantasizing about but I think that Congress will have to rely on different smaller regional parties to form a stable government. In this regard, Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav has shown some sympathies for Congress-led coalition at the center. The Bahujan Samaj Party is also support to a Congress-led front at the Center even if it has the Samajwadi Party as one of the constituents.

Option 2

The Congress may shake hand with the Left parties to gain clear-cut majority to form government at the center. But there are some severe reservations of Left parties on the issue of disinvestments and privatization policies.

Option 3

The Congress alliance could get the depressed members of NDA and may get magic numbers of forming government at the center through a strong combination of regional allies with outside support of the Left, Mulayam or Mayawati. There are strong traditions of outside support in the political history of India and the Congress-led coalition will be benefited with it.

The Regional Parties Formula

Option 1

Congress may agree to support from outside a grouping of non-NDA MPs and regional parties, in addition to the Left to form a stable government at the center.

It is a nightmare for the BJP and a wild dream come true for the Congress as the latter emerges the single largest party and with its pre-poll alliance partners plus the Left Front. The collective wisdom of Indian voters once again manifests the maturing, strengthening and, indeed, a ringing triumph of democracy. More than anything else, it is humbling to be confronted with the verdict delivered compared to what the various opinion surveys and analysts had everyone believe till the morning of counting. It is victory of Shining Democracy rather than success of Shinning India.

Party’s Position in 14th Indian Elections (2004)

Alliances: NDA:

BJP, TDP, BJD, AIADMK, SAP, JD(U), AITC, SHS, SAD, NCP in North East, AC, MSCP.

Alliances Congress-Led Coalition:

Congress +: INC, RJD, NCP, Muslim League in Kerala, DMK, PMK, MDMK, PDP, RPI, KEC(M)

Others:

AIMIM , Akali Dal (Mann), BBM, BSP, CPI, CPM, CPI(ML)(L), FB, INLD, JD(S), JKN, PWP, RLD, RSP, SP, SJP(R), IND

NDA RULED STATES (2004)
Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan

NON NDA RULED STATES (2004)
Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka.

Sr. No. Name of the Party No. of Seats
1 ABLTC –
2 AIADMK 1
3 AIMIM –
4 AITC –
5 BBM –
6 BJD 4
7 NDA (BJP-Led Coalition 188
8 BSP 11
9 CPI 7
10 CPIMLL –
11 CPM 21
12 DMK 13
13 FBL 1
14 HVC –
15 INC (Congress-Led Coalition 219
16 Independents 3
17 INLD –
18 JDS –
19 JDU 4
20 JKNC 1
21 KEC 1
22 KECM –
23 MKDMK –
24 MDMK 4
25 MSCP –
26 MUL –
27 NCP 8
28 PMK 4
29 PWMI –
30 RJD 9
31 RLD 2
32 RSP –
33 SAD 6
34 SADM –
33 SDF 1
34 SJPR –
35 SP 21
36 TDP 5
37 PDP 2
38 RPA 1
39 IFDP 1
40 UNS 1
41 AJP 1

As many as 25 ministers of the Vajpayee government, including such heavyweights as Murli Manohar Joshi, Ram Naik and I.D. Swami and the speaker Manohar Joshi, have been defeated. Likewise, the voters have gone in for change by refusing to elect Shivraj Patil and P.M. Sayeed, from Latur and Lakshadweep respectively, from where they had been elected consecutively for the last seven successive terms.

According to RSS and VHP that BJP’s moderate-line on Muslims, Pakistan and the Kashmiri terrorists are responsible for the party’s stunning defeat. They have also claimed that denial or betrayal of the "Hindu interests" is also one of the key factors for NDA defeat in the recent elections.

Change of Government in India and Its Implications for Pakistan and USA

It is the first time in the electoral history of India that Pakistan did not figure in the elections negatively. None of the party or leader criticized Mr Vajpayee’s hand of friendship that he extended towards Pakistan. In fact, Congress welcomed it. Congress leaders have assured that peace process will continue and talks on Kashmir would be held in due course of time.

No political analyst in the country could predict any change in the 14th elections of India. Now policy makers in Islamabad are busy to make alternative strategies to establish cordial bilateral relationships with India after the defeat of the BJP. Hindrance may occur in the near future between Pakistan and India. The election results will be a matter of concern for Pakistan as much was being put in store by a victorious Vajpayee taking the peace and normalization process to its fruition

1). Slow development in the ongoing process of normalization

2). Fears of uneasiness may prevail between the two countries

3). Our national policy towards Kashmir, free trade and normalization may change

4). President may not dress-off his uniform, (which he should not) in the changing geo-strategic trends and uncertain political scenarios in the country

5). The United States of America is very upset and will be worried for a while at the regime change in New Delhi not merely because of the obvious lessons it contains for the Bush crowd but because of what it means for the geo-politics of the region. USA is also very worried from the change in India and now will be looking towards Pakistan for more assistance to fight against terrorism. Americans wonder if the Congress foreign policy gurus will adopt a more strident stance on Iraq and Israel and go further in befriending Iran. The Indian markets are jittery and it could be some time before stability returns. There will be not much business will be transacted this year between the USA and India.

Conclusion

It is common’s man revenge against the policies of communalism, arrogance and coercion of the BJP. It is victory of ballot over bullet. It is victory of people. There are many lessons, which the rulers of Pakistan can learn from the outcome of the 14th Indian elections. Common people want necessities of life at his doorstep not oratory. They want peace, religious harmony and brotherhood and reject the politics of divide and rule. Although stock markets of India have crushed but it is hoped that downturn trend will be recovered after the establishment of government at the center.

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