Now, Congress can heave a sigh of relief as political atmospherics was heated by issues of corruption, inflation
Posted On Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 02:21:01 AM
Assembly elections in five states have reconfigured political power in east and south India. In West Bengal, CPM-led Marxist government has lost power after 34 years of continuous rule. With her single-minded strategy, Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee struck deep by capturing two third of the assembly seats. Even chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee lost his seat.
Only Mamata Banerjee has maintained her modest profile of a grassroots leader. She skilfully exploited the opportunity given by her bete noire, the Marxist rulers
In Tamil Nadu, Jayalalitha of AIADMK returned to power with three fourth majority after 10 years. In Puducherry, AIADMK defeated Congress-DMK alliance. But Congress Chief Minister of Assam Tarun Gogoi led his party to the third straight term. In Kerala, Congress regained its morale as voters favoured it with a veneer-thin majority. Overall, Congress has heaved a sigh of relief because the overall political atmospherics was heated by the issues of corruption and inflation. The prime minister, home minister and finance minister were on the defensive. It was a coveted consolation prize for Congress-led UPA.
It is more than a coincidence that two states, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, have positioned two forceful female leaders as chief ministers. In West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee has formed government by dint of her focus and mass appeal. In Tamil Nadu, Jayalalitha is the chief minister again because of her charisma and political pull. People there seem to have rated DMK and Karunanidhi’s favourite former Union minister A Raja more evil than Jayalalitha.
At present, four female chief ministers – Delhi, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu — rule important states though their profiles are quite different. Sheila Dixit (Delhi) belongs to an elite family and tunes in well with the metropolitan she rules. Mayawati (UP) has successfully managed caste arithmetic and used corrupt administration to her benefit. One has to see if her grandiose projects of huge statues and memorials costing crores of rupees haunt her in the next election in UP. Only Mamata has maintained her modest profile of a grassroots leader. She skilfully exploited the opportunity given by her bete noire, the Marxist rulers. The latter annoyed Maoists in Lalbaug on farmland problems. Ratan Tata dramatically shifted his prestigious Nano project from Singur to Gujarat that brought in focus the pro-industry policy of Gujarat and made the CPM government look like sloth and disoriented to investors. Mamata won the support of the traditionally Left bases in such cases. The Left was left behind.
Voters preferred AIADMK to DMK as the latter was bearing more muddied and dirty image with Raja as its brand image.
The worst loser is the vocal BJP. The main opposition at the Centre could not defeat Congress in Assam and make any dent in Kerala. Voters in all these states doused the fire power of BJP which aspired to carve out second or third place in the assembly polls. The party lost out on all fronts, vote share, legislative presence, image and morale. BJP strategy of carving out a niche in the south has again failed.
These assembly polls have confirmed the dominance of regional parties in states. The national ruling coalition like UPA or NDA will have to continue power sharing with regional parties to work up a majority at the Centre. Atal Bihari Vajpayee had successfully worked out a functional cooperation with regional parties like DMK and Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party for 12 years to give NDA government stability at the Centre. Manmohan Singh worked out a functional arrangement with DMK, Trinamool Congress and in his first term with Left parties despite occasional irritations on issues of price rise and labour policy. A pragmatic political culture will help to manage politics of coalition in the new dispensation and in this election also. The equation between Sonia Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee is a pointer to this trend.