Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A bunch of elections with positive take aways

After a long while saw reasons to be happy at the end of a bunch of elections...

Abhishek Mishra
To start with the early impressions from the three states that gave a clear decisive mandates are higher voter turn outs. In the case of UP (Utar Pradesh)  for possibly the first time a higher turn out of women voters, which could augur well for the Indian polity. Looking at the results in UP, Goa, Punjab and Uttrakhand the old divides of caste, regional groups seem to be factors on the decline, old traditional bastions seems to be going away. Goa where the BJP has swept the polls seem to have had the support of a wide cross-section of the society, the same goes for UP and the Samajwadi Party and in Punjab for the Akali (shiromani akali dal). There seems to subtle change in guard, Akhilesh Yadav, Sukhbir Singh Badal add to that an  Omar and a Naveen Patnaik.... are positive signs (not necessarily the dynastic part of it). Add to that an IIT grad in Manohar Parrikar as the CM of Goa and a MLA in UP Abhishek Mishra, who is PhD from Cambridge and a faculty in IIM A

Sukhbir Singh Badal
UP is most heartening given they are a large state and without debate one of the more backwards states. When one sees signs of old divisive factors taking a back seat, the woman coming out to vote and the mandate seeming to reflect a wider cross-section, they are all a positive take-away.

Punjab from most reports, it seems without much debate, that the Akali did not use the religion (the panths) again possibly for the first time. The mandate seems to be clearly one for development and governance. Indian legislative governments have struggled to fight the incumbency factor (given their lack of work one would assume) they being returned to power with the support of a wide cross-section with out the influence of religion is more than welcome.

Goa once a again a clear mandate with a leader (Manohar Parikar) who is believed to be capable of delivering good governance and known to be not corrupt. Once again a mandate from a wide cross-section including a strong catholic christian base. That is a support base the BJP would cherish given their communal tag (Rightfully or otherwise, a tag that exists). 

Manohar Parrikar
Uttrakhand to does not seem to have voted along the traditional 'phari vs plains' patterns. Only state where one did not see a decisive mandate. An element of sadness / disappointment given that B.C.Khanduri (who was undeniably clean / anti-corruption) lost and Nishank (clearly corrupt) won. Khanduri to his credit had his hands tied. BJP replaced Nishank (who had done significant damage) with Khanduri.  He took charge around the same time as the Election Commission's model code of conduct kicked in, which ensured he could make no drastic changes or carry out any significant welfare initiatives. The irony apart of the good man loosing it is a wonder that the BJP did as well as it did. complete credit to Khanduri. One is hearing reports that his campaign was internally sabotaged given the feud with the Nishank and the band of corrupt. If by some chance they do form the govt will be good to see Khanduri back on the seat. At any rate not Nishank or the likes..

Manipur: a clear mandate a story of not too many viable options yet a point ot be noted (not sure happily or otherwise) is the early signs of Trinamool congress there. They went it alone, choosing to stay away from any political grouping the seven seats they won would sure bring cheer to them. Another regional party with pan India aspirations which Derek Obrien (TMC) seem to articulate.

These apart also was refreshing to see many leaders on the electronic media, display  humility and being civil. the lack of arrogance was a refreshing. Here the trendsetters were the young leaders. Some of the older folks sure found it difficult to shed their age old habits. Stand out was Akhilesh the message was clear that they were grateful for the mandate, was generous to looser (when asked specifically about Rahul  and cong liked his response where in he said they (SP) too had lost earlier and today they had won implying one had to take it in the stride with some level equanimity.) The assurance that return of SP will not mean return of 'gunda raj' (rule of the mafia), the message that the focus would be development and not a witch hunt of Mayawati. Overall the man came across well. Even if they  do manage to to walk the talk a 50%, they will have done an impressive job. More so given the complexities of UP both social and political.In terms of connecting to the people.

 Rahul 'G' might not have done as well. His interaction with the press was graceful, he made it a point to give credit to SP and acknowledged and took responsibility for the failure. which I thought was the right thing to do. Though i am no big fan of Rahul or the Nehru family one does see  the fix Rahul is in Damned if he does, damned if he does not. Until the moment he took responsibility you had the BJP (a party i tend to support) baying for his blood saying he had failed, and that the congress was protecting him by having others a la Digvijay singh taking the fall. Once he did come out and take responsibility one saw a Chandan Mitra (BJP) say, he did not have much of a choice. why can not a simple "it was the right thing for him to do" kind of statement be made, why do our leaders tend have a negative tilt.

Khanduri's address to the press was quite refreshing the same thread of gratefulness and the lack of arrogance stood out (including him starting with an apology for having the kept press waiting). 

Of the two national parties the congress and the BJP - where ever the congress put young face on the tube they came across reasonably well, acknowledged flaws and the need to work (Pilot jr, Scindia jr) the old guard were just as boorish as always. As for the BJP their performance and their attitude both were sickening. All their faces who came on the tube were very happy to talk about the woes of the congress, there were very few who wanted to acknowledge or face their own decline in seats and vote share in UP, Punjab(though as a coalition what they lost Akali won). They seemed to rejoice from congress's poor showing in UP rather than be worried by their own. Every time a TV anchor directed a question to the congress and BJP about their performance, pat would come the reply from BJP on how badly congress had done ( and that to a long never-ending tirade) the least they could have done was accept their poor showing. (Sudhindra Kulkarni - might have been the exception - had not a badly articulated statement on regional parties vs national parties kind of  diluted and also got his message misinterpreted). 

Overall the decisive mandates, higher voter turn outs, early signs of a reducing influence of divisive factors such as caste and religion, the younger faces carrying reasonable voices, which were articulate, said the right things,lacked the arrogance one has got used to seeing in politicians... were all reasons to be happy..

The cynic in me is saying that all of this is a hog wash, it is all lip service, they are far far away from walking their talk... the eternal optimist says, so be it, even that (the lip service)would be a start, a worthwhile start. 
We are the first to raises our voices (rightfully so) when things go wrong. So let us rejoice for however short a time at a few positive signs and hope they go farther than the cynic in us will have us believe.

Ps: Come election time NDTV still rules - though IBN was not bad, also their phesologist significantly got  Punjab right

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