Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Breeze of Change


Mukund P Unny
And a yet another election season got over!.. But this time around..the word that struck the minds of voters, more than anyother is "CHANGE". This word is assuming tremendous power these days, worthy enough to overthrow mightiest of governments. It was initiated in to the political parlance by Barack Obama, after which it caught the imagination of almost every opposition parties.

What happened in WB, was something really unbelievable (atleast till 2-3 years ago). Mamata Banerjee, in fact steamrolled over the Left, in that state. Her victory is significant considering the the organizational foundation the Left has managed to build there in the past 40 years. And you saw even the sitting Chief Minister getting uprooted by the storm of change. That phenomenon was something that happened in India after 40 years or so. The Left should have seen its debacle coming right after the Nandigram incident happened, where it all started. As Communist Party of India General Secretary, A.B.Bardhan said in a recent interview (Devil's Advocate, CNN-IBN), Nandigram and Singur made the opposition realise that Left can be won over. Some say, it was "arrogance" of the Left leaders that led them to its present state. True?.. Yeah partly, though it was the arrogance of the local leaders of the Left. Infact, the state leadership of the party was known for their spartan lifestyle and their pro-people approaches. No one could save the Left, even Somnath Chatterjee, who came down to campaign for the party that nurtured him. That was a complete defeat, where the people commanded the Red leaders to sit in the opposition and yell, though they are yet to know how to act as a sound Opposition for the reason that they have not been in Opposition since1967. (They boycotted the legislature untill they finally came to power in 1977).

Lets go to another place where "change" happened, Tamil Nadu. Here, Change is constant since 1990. (I think, they are becoming another Kerala). This time, the vote was against corruption, nepotism, and family politics. Jaya saw a setback in the Loksabha polls. But it was then when you saw the 2G coming. That wave swept the Dravida state. People saw A. Raja behind bars, and the CM's daughter caught in the same scandal. Special mention has to be given to the "freebies", that the parties offered (things including laptop and grinder etc to cite as examples). Karuna's offer of Mixer Grinder has not gone well with the masses. They might have seen the offer of 'laptops' by Amma to be more attractive. This election also saw the dominant emergence of Captain (Vijayakanth). He rose from a single seat to 29 (out of 41 he contested) seats this time. The victories by Left candidates under the shield of AIADMK alliance would have come as a breather to the Left leaders. Though they have lost their strongholds, these wins by the Left are impressive especially since they are in a desperate pitch to claim a pan-Indian appeal. Amma has sworn in with a mammoth council of ministers (33 ministers). Interestingly, the Left and Vijayakanth has opted not to join the ministry.

Coming to Kerala from Kolkata via Chennai, I will have to contradict my earlier statement that states voted for change. In Kerala, this time, they voted for stability, however, UDF emerged victorious. This was the most closely faught election in the history of Kerala. The state, that adopted the coalition set up much before many other states, saw the Congress-led UDF winning a thriller. The LDF and UDF was evenly poised throughout the counting session and the Congress sealed the race with a last-minute stride. But the UDF Government is surviving with the oxygen given by the regional religion-backed parties. If one ally pulls out, then you will see a Karnataka-like situation emerging in Kerala. Like how the analysts pointed out the religious polarization was felt across the state. That is a negative trend in a state that claims to be most progressive. In minority dominated areas like Ernakulam, Kottayam, Malappuram districts, UDF saw themselves victorious, primarily riding on the fortunes of the small allies of the Front. When JSS, CMP, Congress (S), drew a blank, the powerful Church-backed Kerala Congress (Mani) featured a superb performance. The IUML also displayed a splendid performance winning 20 out of the 24 seats it contested. The Left exhibited a very good fightback after the Loksabha and Municipal polls and it won back the hearts of nearly 50 percent of the voters, though they fell 2 short of the required 70 mark in number. Last minute truce within the Front and the various archaic corruption cases emerging late came in handy for the Left here. But, it is again important to note that the VS' governance was exceptional compared to his predecessors. VS is still the favorite CM, as showed by various Exit poll surveys. The VS government was not tainted by any major corruption scams when all other state governments were facing one scam after the other. "You cant say anything bad about the government", that was the general opinion, though the Left was left losing their previous elections mainly owing to their own infighting.

We have to admit that Indian electorate is becoming more matured and demanding. They have started voting those who perform and vote out who do not. This is a transition that is very significant. Let us hope the CM-designates in these states to bring their best and put up a good governance to enable the voter to vote them again after 5 years.