Daya Varma and Vinod Mubayi


Although the performance of Congress in the Assembly elections in five states including the most populous state of UP  were far from impressive, state elections still reflect regional and not national concerns. Congress can still hope to win the parliamentary elections due in 2014 and prevent Hindutva forces represented by Bhartiya Janata Party coming to power.


Assembly elections were held in five Indian states (Uttar Pradesh [UP], Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa) in  January-February of 2012. The combine of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) won in Punjab; BJP won in Goa; Congress won in Manipur and gained the most seats though it remained short of a majority in Uttarakhand.  In UP, the most populous state accounting for 200 million of India’s 1.2 billion people, the Samajwadi  Party (SP) of Mulayam Singh Yadav secured an absolute majority (224 Seats)  defeating the ruling Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP); the latter won only 80 seats. Both BJP and Congress were far behind.


The media and many political parties opine that the outcome of elections in these five states is a window on the forthcoming Lok Sabha (parliament) elections due in 2014. However, the Indian electorate has shown time and again that they treat all parties with the exception of Congress and BJP as regional parties and do not have identical choices during federal and provincial elections.


Of a total of 543 seats in the Indian Parliament, UP has 80 and Bihar 40 seats, almost one-fifth of the total. Samajwadi Party  has so far supported UPA (United Progressive Alliance) led by the Congress at the center, while  the Bihar Chef Minister Nitish Kumar of Janata Dal (United) has been an ally of BJP though he does maintain a facade of secularism. One cannot be sure if the support for SP  in UP and JD(U) in Bihar will adversely affect the performance of Congress in these states in  parliamentary elections.


Mulayam Singh Yadav’s decision to nominate his 38 year-old son Akhilesh Yadav as the Chief Minister and remain in federal politics is consistent with his long-held aspirations to become the Prime Minister of India; he invited and warmly welcomed leaders of the Communist Party of India (CPI) and CPI (Marxist) during the crowning of his son, which appears to reflect his tilt towards the Non-Congress Non-BJP Third Front.


The mounted opposition to the present Congress-led UPA government of Dr. Manmohan Singh  by left parties, trade unions, and  anti-nuclear energy enthusiasts as well as the amorphous anti-liberalization and anti-globalization activists is yet another challenge to Congress. If all this adds up to a political verdict, it is very likely that Congress may lose the 2014 parliamentary elections and National Democratic Alliance (NDA)-led by BJP will form the next government in Delhi. There is absolutely no chance of the Third Front winning a majority and Mulayam Singh becoming the Prime Minister of India unless he allies with BJP, which cannot be ruled out.


However, Indian politics is very complex, which reflects the complexity of the Indian society. A closer look into the voting performance in UP and Bihar does not support the claim that Nitish Kumar and Mulayam Singh Yadav have  lifted Bihar and UP out of caste-based  politics. Nitish Kumar replaced Lalu Yadav and Mulayam Singh replaced Mayawati. Undoubtedly, while the governance of Bihar by Nitish Kumar is superior to that of Lalu Yadav in almost all spheres of public polity except secularism, his base is the same as that of the latter. Although Mayawati’s defeat was spectacular, the decline in her popular support was less than 3 percent and Mulayam Singh’s victory was facilitated both by the absurdities displayed by Mayawati and an increased participation by the relatively rich peasantry most of whom belong to the backward castes thanks to the process of Zamindari abolition and nationalization of the banks done by the Congress.   The two parties led by Nitish Kumar and Mulayam Singh are still caste-based parties and both are regional because the economic base of these two states is not the same as the rest of India except perhaps for Andhra Pradesh.


UP is the home of most of the poor of India.  While Mulayam Singh and his star son Akhilesh Yadav talked about assisting quotas for backward castes and Muslims, the plight of rickshaw pullers, and the dictatorial and corrupt politics of Mayawati, they presented no program to alleviate poverty. Instead they harped on reservations and caste quotas that have become shields for poor governance since they seem to pay dividends in elections. The only one who addressed the issue  of poverty was Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who seemed to echo his grandmother Indira Gandhi’s call for ‘Garibi Hatao’ (eradicate poverty) and asked for a realistic ten years to solve the problem of UP.  However, Congress’s repeated attempts to keep playing the dynastic card decade after decade may now be reaching a dead end, if the UP results are a pointer.

Top - Home