Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Indian State Elections: Setback for Mayawati and for Rahul Gandhi

The results of five state elections in India has been depicted as a defeat for the ruling Indian National Congres (INC). However, results show that it was not a total defeat and in some cases they have even gained ground.

The elections in Uttar Pradesh, a state with a population of 200 million, received the bulk of the attention. The people have decided to remove the government of the enigmatic and eccentric Dalit leader Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Samajawadi Party of the ageing Mulayam Singh Yadav has swept the polls with 226 seats out of 403, much better than what the BSP won (206) five years ago. The BSP has fallen to 80 seats. The Indian National Congress has remained in fourth place with 38 seats; almost double that of their number of seats (22) in the previous assembly.

Rahul Gandhi, son of the party leader Sonia Gandhi, personally led the campaign in Uttar Pradesh for four months. He hoped that the INC would win 100 seats in the assembly. Therefore the result is seen as a personal setback for Rahul Gandhi, a fact he himself has acknowledged. He has taken full responsibility for the defeat. However, it should be noted that without a strong local organization and leadership, even a charismatic leader will not be able to create an electoral miracle. Gandhi was not contesting the election and with no credible local leadership to turn to, it is not surprising that the INC failed.

In Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance has won almost the same number of seats the two parties individually held before the elections and the INC has also won almost the same number of seats, winning 46. The status quo has not been changed at Punjab, the first instance where an incumbent government held on to power in the state. In Uttarakhand, the INC has inched pass the ruling BJP winning 32 seats against 31. The 7 other members will decide the government which will be formed in the Northern Indian state.

Meanwhile in Manipur, a small North Eastern state bereft with armed insurgencies, the INC has increased its share of seats, winning 42 out of 60. Earlier, it had exactly half the seats in the Assembly. This victory has been largely attributed to the popularity of the local Chief Minister, 64 year old Okram Ibobi Singh, who has been in power for 2 consecutive terms from 2002.

The election in Goa has been a setback for the INC. Their share of seats has fallen to 9 from 16 in this liberal state where a quarter of the population is Christian. Therefore, the BJP’s achievement is all the more surprising. It has won 21 seats out of 40 and therefore will be able to form a government on its own. In Goa, the INC has been dealt with the most severe blow in the State Assembly elections of early 2012.

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