The Verdict

The results of the assembly polls in five states—Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry—have surprised many, many others have found it nothing unnatural. The results of the West Bengal Assembly Polls, which have given the ruling Trinamul Congress more than two-third of seats, 211 out of 294, have surpassed expectations as far as this party is concerned. The vote share of the TMC is, however, 44.9%, and the concept of the people's verdict in favour of Mamata Banerjee must be taken with grain of salt. It should be added that allegations of corruption, particularly those regarding Sarada, Narada and TET, are yet to be proved untrue, and the pre-election speeches of Mamata Banerjee clearly indicated her fright at these revelations. Yet she has won with a convincing majority. Opposition parties, however, have failed to make a case out of rigging and unfair poll. One possible reason is that progrmmes like distribution of food grain at cheap rates, or the Kannyasri programme, meant to give bicycles to schoolgirls, have largely overshadowed the infamy of the scandals. It may be recalled that after its ascent to power in 1977, the CPM-led Left Front too introduced some populist measures, such as the implementation of the Operation Barga, partial land reforms, limited empowerment of the village panchayets etc. This paid dividends, and there was no important allegation of corruption. Whatever complaints were there were confined to local levels. In 1982, the Left Front was returned to power with a thumping majority, and a larger vote share than Mamata Banerjee. And Mamata Banerjee has followed this populism and succeeded, although eight of the members of her cabinet have lost. Maybe there were some sabotage by some insiders as alleged in a section of press. The second reason is that the principal opposition party, owing to its deteriorating morals, and refusal to make any self-criticism about its pursuit of neo-liberalism, which finally pushed it to form an alliance with the notorious Congress, could not build up any movement worth the name against the ruling dispensation. The third reason is that the ruling party succeeded in creating a sizeable election machinery by means of various doles including expenditure of more than 40 billions of rupees out of the public exchequer on donations to hundreds of clubs. Besides, many erstwhile hands of the CPI(M) deserted to the TMC in the wake of the 2011 polls. What is in store for West Bengal in the coming future is as yet uncertain, and the political crisis, temporarily suspended by Mamata Banerjee's victory, is bound to deepen.

The plight of CPM in Bengal these days defies description. The leadership is incapable of any fresh thinking. Their limitless love for 'NANO' and slogans like 'bring back NANO' simply bommeranged. Unless they give up their fascination for big business-oriented industrialisation, there is no chance in hell for them. They are just waiting for TMC’s lapses but this type of negativity is unlikely to motivate their demoralised cadres. It seems like the be all, and end all of their strategic wisdom. They have not learnt anything from the tragedy of European Communist Parties—they are now all set to recreate the same tragedy!

The results of the Assam polls suggest something like a communal polarisation, which has enabled the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to come to power after forming an alliance with the Bodo chauvinists represented by the Bodo People's Front and the old Assamese upper-caste chauvinists represented by the AGP. This alliance has bagged 86 seats out of 126, although its vote share is about 42.1% only. The BJP has got 60 seats, while receiving the not impressive share of 29.1% votes. The Congress failed to arrive at an alliance with the AIUDF, predominantly a platform of Bengali Muslims, and paid the price—it received only 26 seats despite getting 32.1 % of the votes. The AIDUF led by billionaire perfume baron and Lok Sabha MP Badruddin Azmal has also lost the opportunity to fight the Modi menace effectively. The Narendra Modi-Amit Shah combine has temporarily succeeded in arresting the grievance within their own party, which was mounting after defeats in Delhi and Bihar, but how far they will succeed in promoting their agenda of Hindutva, combined with neo-liberalism, in this north-eastern state remains to be seen. There is, however, no doubt that it will be more aggressive there. But a share of only 32% vote may not be enough to pursue the agenda with success, just as Modi himself has stumbled with his pro-corporate agenda and Hindutva in the face of stiff resistance and protests.

In Kerala, which ranks highest among the Indian states in terms of the two indicators of development—the Physical Quality of Life Index and the Hunan Development Index—the CPI(M)-led United Left Front has come back to power with a sizeable majority. It’s a kind of dance of democracy and the musical chair syndrome! In the last polls, it was defeated by the winners, the Congress-led UDF, by a margin of 4 seats only. This time it has come back to power with a thumping majority, gaining 91 seats out of 140, Kerala is a state well-known for the operation of the anti-incumbency factor. It may be surmised that this factor has been strong this time too.
Surprisingly corruption was no longer a dividend-paying election plank in Tamil Nadu. All parties avoided corruption issue in their election campaigns. And it worked wonder for All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (AIADMK) leader Jayalalitha. The 68-year-old veteran, set for a sixth stint as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, has so far won 7 state polls, lost just one and her nomination rejected once. Her evolution as a leader and successor to M G Ramachandran's legacy and a formidable rival to M Karunanidhi, the patriarch of the Dravidian major DMK, has been dramatic and controversial as well.

In the 15th TN assembly election AIADMK has won 134 seats leaving 98 to the DMK-Congress–Indian Union Muslim League combine. In truth freebies worked fine for AIADMK.

Freebies offered by Jayalalitha did play a major role in changing the electorate's opinion as they are definitive, visible and quick, unlike long-term goals. Tiny Puducherry remains the sole consolation prize for Congress.

Vol. 48, No. 47, May 29 - Jun 4, 2016