India’s assembly election results declared this week have stunned the country’s oldest political behemoth into stupefaction.
Its reaction after having been literally decimated in politically the most important and populous state in the country, Uttar Pradesh, is testimony to shock it finds itself in: it has said the results will make little difference to the party and its so called stalwarts – Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and blue eyed boy and would be future prime minister Rahul Gandhi.
Clearly, the party’s leaders are in a state of denial for it has rarely ever faced such a terrible result in state level elections in its history. Its senior functionaries are falling over each other to take the blame upon themselves in the familiar act of self-flagellation after defeats – both Digvijay Singh and Rahul Gandhi have held themselves accountable for the dismal results.
But the results resoundingly prove the vibrancy of the democracy in the world’s largest democratic nation. The people have spoken loud and clear against the Congress’ roughshod political style that had it presiding over corruption scandals of epic proportions in the past few years. This is not to speak of the endless chain of such scandals that were since the country’s independence since 1947 that previous leaders deftly buried using a mixture of charisma, political machination and brute force against democratic institutions including suspending them as in the nightmarish ‘emergency’ of 1975.
Humiliating as this defeat might be, the Congress will pull every trick in its wily book, deploy its cunning negotiators and dip into its considerable financial reserves to do everything it can not to face a similar fate in the national elections due in 2014. It is adept in employing the four ancient ways of administering saam, daam, dand and bhed to achieve its ends even though it finds itself greatly weakened in terms of authority and credibility to do so.
However, it can draw some hope from the fact that the Indian electorate is known to have voted differently in state and national elections even when they were held close together. It could possibly wait out the two odd years until the big poll and try to mollify the people – a thing which is increasingly difficult in this day of social networking and instant messaging, which social scientists will undoubtedly find went against it in the just concluded elections.
On the other hand it might decide to hold a snap election with an eye toward building political alliances with parties that have won the recent election – provided they are able to convince them and provided the victorious parties are willing to risk aligning with the Congress after the near total public opprobrium against it.
But one thing is clear: the voter has greatly wizened up and political parties can take them for granted only at their own risk. The average voter is not only well informed but has a dose of activism injected into them because of the greatly enlarged avenues for public discourse wrought on the nation by rapid strides in information and communication technologies.
A fall out of the string of corruption scandals that have rocked the nation has been that political parties dissociated themselves with known criminals, who were made candidates with impunity because of their hold over people in states like Uttar Pradesh in the past. This time round, political parties shunned them and have been proven right in this decision. Dozens of known criminals who were denied established party tickets bit the dust standing on their own independent party tickets, proving people are no longer afraid of their violent clout.
Whichever way one may look at it, the assembly election results declared this week go to prove that people are tired with India’s old style politics of power, muscle, pelf and brazen corrupt practice and are willing to dethrone seemingly Teflon coated dynasties that thought they were installed in power for life.