Election results analysis – what people say! Dr. James Kottoor

Mamata & Amma  are top Scorers

dr. james kottoor

                Election results announced are from four states – Kerala, Tamilndu,  West Bengal, Assam and Union Territory of PuducherryResults  are a verdict of people, at once on past performance and hopes in the new ones people voted to take over. It is public opinion in black and white.

             CCV is publishing here eitght Editorials from various national and regional dailies like  Times of India, The Hndu, Deccan Chronicle, New Indian Express, Rediff com etc. Dailies are expected to reflect like mirror the pulse as well as the hopes and aspirations of their readers. They represent group thinking like the judges who give their verdict on the performers of a cultural competition or a cricket match. They ought to reflect public  opinion better than a collection of individual opinions.

           So what is their assessment of five prolonged election matches? Who is the man of the match among the five contesters? The Man here is a WOMAN, nay  a pair of women, the tale of two matchless Matriarchs in politics, not in equal measure, but one Matriarch better than the other – Mamata better than Amma at 68. In any case, this election has proven that women are better performers in Politics in India even though the demand to give 30% reservation for women in parliament, (or women’s ordination in the Church) is still vehemently opposed by a male dominated corrupt parliamentarians or patriarchy.

           As for a bit of Manly performance the BJP, which did poorly everywhere except in Assam, for Capturing Assam after 15 years of Congress miss-rule and  making the party’s debut in Kerala through 86-year-old. O. Rajagopal, not a votary of Hindutva but a man like Vajpai loved by all and who unlike the ordinary run of BJP, builds bridges with all .

A Religious Caste, Class Diversion

           What is true in politics is also true in religion, especially in Churches. CCV does not make a vivisection of humans into political, religious, cultural, economic groups.  These divisions exist only  in human minds not in reality, one influencing the whole rest. If one is caste or class obsessed in one area, he/she will  be so in all other areas. Hence the assertion of CCV   that  Churches in India are carbon copies of the corrupt and corruptive divisive politics in India.

             We see it like daylight in all the reports published about  the caste, class and blue blood politics operating in the recent kidnap and  torture of Cuddapah Bishop. We saw it equally in the pure-blood marriage discussion (Endogamy practised in Kottayam Diocese) that went on for two years, yes, all through the two years of Vatican synod  on the family and the adamant refusal on the part of all nearly 180 bishops to open their mouth on it for or against,  either in the national media or at any of the sessions of the two Synods held in Rome. They resorted to silence, both to cover up their own hypocritical stand (proof. The Chicago circular of September 2014 and Bishop Kidnap of April 25th)

                   In the instance of Cuddapah Bishop Kidnap and torture, though it took place on April 25, to  this day May 24th  nearly a month, not a single  key Catholic Cardinals or Bishops have come out to accept openly the deadly cancer  of caste, class and blue blood politics eating into the vitals of  Catholic Church in India. Of course Cardinal  Oswald gracious  of Bombay was the first to contemn it openly and briefly. But even he has never spoken openly about Caste or Endogamy disfiguring the face of Catholic Church. He has spoken defending Gay proclivity in humans which has nothing to do with belief in one Fatherly God. Caste and Endogamy breaks up universal brotherhood taught  by Jesus.

                 But about Cardinal Mar Baselius  Cleemis of Syromalabar Church, Trivandrum the Chairman of the CBCI (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India)? No word has come out of him till today which some is already described as “criminal insensivity” and   “totally un-Christian” by various lay people. It is clear proof that no clear Christian institutional family structure  exists in  India. There are many preachers canvassing for membership  for their respective churches, like the ever so many political parties, but   there are no practitioners of one close knit human family  taught by Jesus in his prayer “Our Father”.

               This divisive caste, class and blue-blood politics practised both in Religion and Politics is ruining the Country and making India the world’s biggest laughing-stock  democracy. Equality  of all is the core and substance of Democracy.  Without that basic, central element how can any political party in India   claim to be democratic?

Political Performers

                To come back to the political scene, now take the Case of Mamata who won a stunning 211 seats, the highest ever by a single party in recent memory and Amma who did a similar feat in Tamilnadu. Both together exhibit the bewildering spectacle of Women-power as vote-catchers single handed (not through coalitions) and their capacity to win elections against all odds. Both are  also terribly  concerned with the poor, the needy living in the margins of society, especially to help them  burn their Kitchen fires. The bulk of the freebies they offer are all the essentials needed in the  kitchen starting  with Rs.2/- per kilo rice and almost all utensils in the Kitchen given as freebies. Of course they are not all corruption free. Besides they are  given at the cost of the state exchequer.   There is no corruption free section in politics in India. Then what is the difference between the two women?

                There is one stark difference. One – Mamatha, lives a Spartan personal life both in public and in private.  Her ordinary white Sarry with blue boarder is almost a replica of the dress of Mother Teresa, the saint of the gutter. But the pompous, imperial, royal   life stile of Amma  with all sorts of people, even state officials, fawning, bowing, kneeling before her, or touching her feet slavishly or reverently  is an eye-sore to any civilized human. In spite of it one remarkable thing she achieved in Tamilnadu was that she was able to rule the state successively for two terms in 32 years, which never happened ever since her Mentor MGR did it while recovering from Illness in New York.

           For the sake of brevity we touch upon only the best and the worst. The worst performer in this 5-state election was the Congress which received the worst drumming everywhere, now at its lowest ebbas is clear from the results. It won only one, the least important politically, the Union Territory of Puducherry, that too in alliance with the DMK, a very small consolation.

                      Reacting to it Sonia Gandhi comforted her dejected followers saying:   “No defeat however big or small is not permanent.” But this one is, and it will be, as long as the government machinery is in the tight grips of a totally incompetent mother-son  duo,     that is, as long  as it is kept as the preserve, privilege and private property of Sonia and family. She has thus become the first and foremost collaborator with the BJP working for a “Congress Mukth Bharath”

                    A note of comment on each editorial could  be very enlightening. We shall not attempt it here, for not stretching this  already too long piece beyond the capacity of any one to read. So the  readers are kindly requested to read through various editorials and  act as a responsible citizen booting out the corrupt and criminal and voting in the honest and service minded politicians for the benefit of the needy and defence of democratic values.

Contact:  jameskottoor@gmail.com,   Mob.09446219203


Election Editorials


BJP, Jaya, Mamata share the spotlight


Congress ended up the biggest loser on May 19th


 Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK Supremo J Jayalalithaa, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, LDF leader Pinarayi Vijayan and BJP's Assam chief ministerial candidate Sarbananda Sonowal. (Photo: DC)


                    The three clear highlights of the Assembly election results are the BJP winning in Assam, Jayalalithaa creating history in Tamil Nadu with a consecutive victory, the first in 32 years in the state, and Mamata Banerjee riding the crest of an even greater wave in West Bengal. BJP’s triumph, its first in a north-eastern state, is worth far more than the numerical value of one win in the five states that went to the polls. Congress ended up the biggest loser on May 19 as the BJP, which has spelt out its clear political aim of creating a Congress-free India, and the regional leaders displayed their clout.

While the Congress-led UDF’s defeat at the hands of the Left-led LDF is a given considering the 20-year history of Kerala, its win as the leader of the combine in Puducherry brings it some consolation. Other crumbs of comfort for the Grand Old Party are that it finished ahead of the Left within its Bengal alliance arrangement as it picked up a few seats in Tamil Nadu, courtesy the DMK, with whom it mended fences after getting wiped out in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

The principal lesson for the dynastic Congress is that it must go about getting its alliances right if it is to remain relevant in the coming polls in UP and Punjab or face extermination at a time when its national stock is hitting its lowest ebb. Apart from anti-incumbency, what made its defeat in Kerala more comprehensive was the resurfacing of accusations of financial scams, an invariable experience with Congress-led governance and its propensity to blame it on coalitions.

On the other hand, the BJP, in allying with the AGP and BPF in Assam and projecting a chief ministerial candidate in Sarbananda Sonowal and not making Narendra Modi the sole campaign face, showed that it had smartened up since the defeats in Delhi and Bihar last year. While painting the whole country in shades of saffron can only remain an impossible dream, the party has at least shown that it is not a force only in the Hindi heartland.

In terms of seats, it may not have achieved much more than a minor breakthrough in Kerala, but it has certainly taken an impressive vote share in the southern state. The latest round of results may also mean that the mahagathbandhan type of political alignments might become a definitive national trend with most other parties joining up to take on the BJP, which has had difficulties in finding alliance partners. The first half of the year represents a political turnaround for the Narendra Modi-led party, which is soon to celebrate two years in power at the Centre and now rules nine states and runs four in coalition arrangements.

Didi looks at wider horizon –Shika Mukerjee, in DC 20/5/16

The Trinamul won a stunning 211 seats.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (Photo: PTI)

SHIKHA MUKERJEE (The writer is a senior journalist in Kolkata).

Mamata Banerjee has won. She won against her negative image projected by the Opposition and made manifest in possibly the ugliest campaign ever in West Bengal. It is not just the Trinamul’s victory, but her personal achievement. Ahead of the polls, the Trinamul looked more than ever a ragtag bunch. Investing her personal political capital and stamina, Ms Banerjee then dragged the dubious and desperate along the bumpy poll track and secured a decisive victory. It was not easy. The Trinamul won a stunning 211 seats. This is the highest ever by a single party in recent memory.

But it’s also an election where the BJP emerged as a potentially important third side, winning six seats and garnering over 10 per cent of the vote, less than the 17 per cent it picked up in 2014, but more than it has won in recent elections. The unthinkable alliance of the Congress and the CPM-led Left Front imagined it was a formidable challenger. It found it was a damp squib; the CPM was weaker. Whether this scale of defeat makes it irrevocably weaker is the question.

In contrast, the Congress has done better and has once again made itself an attractive proposition in West Bengal’s revolving-door politics. There were two squeaky clean images in this election; Ms Banerjee’s and CPM boss Surjya Kanta Mishra’s. And one bad egg. Ms Banerjee won because she was a viable leader. Mr Mishra lost as voters clearly don’t feel confident about the CPM and the alliance in general. The only jailed candidate from the Trinamul, Madan Mitra, lost as West Bengal isn’t indifferent about the criminally corrupt; it’s a defeat for Ms Banerjee as he was her biggest gamble. He was kept in jail by the CBI for his links to the Saradha chit-fund scam, he was also seen in the Narada sting video with cash in hand.

And there was the Election Commission. On one hand, the extraordinary lengths to ensure free and fair voting certainly made it difficult for Trinamul’s unruly bunch of election managers in different locations, but on the other, these measures rescued Ms Banerjee and salvaged her reputation as a vote-catcher as she won a fair election. The significance of this election is not limited to West Bengal; it confirms the Trinamul as an independent power centre in national politics, a status Ms Banerjee craved but was unable to achieve till now. In contrast, the CPM’s bid to revive its fortunes has bombed.

It is Ms Banerjee’s false modesty that she claims to be a “simple person” from a “regional party”. She knows fully well she is perceived as a phenomenon in Indian politics. She can join the small independent group that ostensibly keeps an equal distance from the Congress and the BJP, or the front of regional parties that gang up against the BJP, or she can, hypothetically, join forces with the BJP. But it’s clear she has set her sights on weaning the Congress away from the CPM and keeping the BJP dangling by offering issue-based support as and when it suits her.

The preliminary estimates indicate the Trina-mul has improved its voteshare to 45 per cent, up from 2014 when it secured around 44 per cent. This victory is a positive endorsement for Ms Banerjee. Ms Banerjee is no statesman. Nor is she forgiving, generous or level-headed, no matter what she said at noon on Thursday. She has promised to avenge whatever she perceived as an insult or injury in the just-concluded poll campaign.

Her campaign mood was ugly. She has given no indication that it has changed. She has promised to send “sweets” to those who didn’t offend her in the campaign or polling process. This is not a message of building a bridgehead across the political divide she has nurtured and advanced. Episodic turbulence could become the norm now that she is back


Amma sets new records – R BHAGWAN SINGH,May 20, 2016,

Jayalalithaa Jayaram, 68, is not new to setting records.

AIADMK chief J. Jayalalithaa flashes the victory sign after her party emerged victorious in the state Assembly polls in Chennai (Photo: PTI)

The lone ranger has won yet again. A 93-year-old general had led the main rival force along with his son, hailed by his followers as thalapathi (commander), criss-crossing the state with promises that were hefty and incredible. A former Union minister was taking a shot, promising to clean up the mess created by the two Dravidian majors in the past five decades. And a khichdi of six parties led by a former Kollywood hero had also jumped into the fray. Jayalalithaa Jayaram, 68, is not new to setting records. But this one must truly be the sweetest of them all.

When she first won the AIADMK throne despite a stiff fight from mentor MGR’s wife Janaki, party stalwarts had hailed her as Niranthara Muthalvar (CM for ever). Later she won the sobriquet as Tamil Nadu’s version of the Iron Butterfly by the manner in which she took on adversaries — be it the Karunanidhis, Stalins or Vijayakanths at home or even the powers-that-be at the Centre. No one was spared. The truth is that this kind of firmness, whatever be the consequences, has constantly endeared her to the common man and woman in Tamil Nadu — be it the urban educated upper or middle class or the rural poor.

The poor never cared that she was an Iyengar Brahmin on this Dravidian turf nurtured by so-called Periyarism (named after Periyar, founder of the rationalist Dravida Kazhagam and father of the Dravidian movement), they loved her, and the results of the May 2016 election showed that they still do. This victory was the sweetest on many counts. The “experts” had scoffed at her “arrogance” when she chose to go it alone in all 234 constituencies in the state.

Tamil Maanila Congress chief G.K. Vasan, who was shipping minister in the Manmohan Singh government at the Centre, had reportedly waited long for her alliance call but retreated when she laid out her key condition — that his Tamil Maanila Congress could only contest under the AIADMK’s “two-leaves” symbol. He felt unable to walk out of the “thennan thoppu” (coconut grove), the newly-acquired symbol of his truncated party, and ended up in the People’s Welfare Alliance (PWA), despite facing the humiliation of having to accept DMDK hero Vijayakanth as his CM candidate.

A few other politicians were also made to line up for the “two-leaves” tickets, and they did that happily, confident they would win with her endorsement. That has been the magic of Jayalalithaa. When reporters would ask voters, particularly in rural areas, whom they would vote for, the immediate answer would be: “Two-leaves”. When asked why, they would say: “Amma has taken care of us in every way. There is not one need in our family that she has not addressed.”

The reason is not hard to find. It would be difficult for anyone with some intelligence and basic skills to go hungry in Tamil Nadu. In the Amma Canteens she has set up all over the state, an idli costs just Rs 1, variety rice Rs 5, sambar/curd rice Rs 3 and two chappatis at night Rs 3, so one could have one’s fill for just Rs 15, or even less. “This is the best socialist measure in the state to eradicate hunger and poverty”, says Dr Bernard D’Samy, a Chennai-based social scientist.

Besides the canteens, the past five years have seen several Amma welfare schemes unfold — baby kits, sanitary napkins, cycles, books, uniforms and other school needs for children; laptops for high school kids; gold for mangalsutra; water bottles and cans at bus stations and other public places; medicines, salt, cement, seeds, and so on. The people obviously believed she would deliver, even on the issue of prohibition, that had been on the front pages since the death of anti-liquor campaigner Sasi Perumal in July last year.

All political parties promised to banish liquor from the state, but when DMK chief Karunanidhi announced this would be the first file he would sign on becoming CM, campaigners even on non-AIADMK platforms ridiculed him, recalling it was he who as CM brought in liquor to the state. Jayalalithaa, on the other hand, did not make any wild promises. Despite facing opposition and protests by social groups against her government’s TASMAC liquor shops, that earn the state Rs 26,000 crores a year and substantially fund her Amma schemes, she said if voted back to power she would bring in prohibition “in phases”.

It is clear that few others really mattered in this election. Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK won 134 seats and the DMK and its allies got 98, out of the 232 seats that went to the polls. (Voting in two seats, Thanjavur and Aravakurichi, were postponed to May 23 due to alleged distribution of money.) Arch-rival Karunanidhi, 93, has sung his swan song several times, only to return to file his nomination yet again, but this could be the final blow for the man who holds the distinction of winning every election he has fought since the first Assembly win in 1957.

Women power – DECCAN CHRONICLE. May 20, 2016,

Ms Jayalalithaa’s handling of Tamil Nadu as a welfare state with every requirement of the poor met.


Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK Supremo J Jayalalithaa. (Photo: PTI)

The charisma and magnetic vote-pulling power of two women leaders assumed an even greater dimension as Ms J. Jayalalithaa and Ms Mamata Banerjee displayed their capacity once again to carry their party single-handedly to electoral triumph. Shunning allies and defying all odds, the two proved that direct synchronisation with the hearts of the common people is still the tried and tested route to political power.

Ms Jayalalithaa’s win is historic as she defied a distinct pattern of an anti-incumbency vote in replicating her political mentor MGR’s feat. There too, MGR had the sympathy vote in 1984 because he was hospitalised in the US and the state felt duty-bound to support him. Ms Jayalalithaa’s handling of Tamil Nadu as a welfare state with every requirement of the poor met, beginning with satiating the hunger of the people, has given her unprecedented popularity

In the last five years she has won back-to-back Assembly elections and a Lok Sabha poll in which she decimated the Opposition with 37 seats out of 39. She has proved the efficacy of freebies even as she cleverly avoided bowing too much to the popular social voice screaming for prohibition, although she promised phased implementation.

Ms Banerjee has also touched with her empathy a majority of the people who are just about keeping their lives together in the face of galloping prices. Her chemistry with the commoner is a phenomenon perhaps unmatched even by Ms Jayalalithaa’s ability to gauge the lives of women and make them as comfortable as possible with food security and gadgets to ease drudgery in the kitchen. Even so, it would be too simplistic to say they win only because the women vote for them.


Didi And Amma: It is a tale of two matriarchs in Kolkata and Chennai

Editorial in Times of India,May 20, 2016

The two most powerful women regional leaders in India today have rewritten the political history of their respective states. If chief minister Mamata Banerjee decimated the Left and swept West Bengal, winning substantially more seats than in her poriborton year of 2011, her counterpart J Jayalalithaa has reshaped Dravidian politics as Tamil Nadu’s first chief minister to retain power since her mentor M G Ramachandran three decades ago. If the Didi juggernaut swept the Congress-Left mahagathbandhan aside, reducing the Left to its worst performance ever, the Amma of Poes Garden in Chennai showed that the idea of a Third Front and a multi-cornered contest in Tamil Nadu was simply a chimera.

Electoral politics in Chennai and Kolkata beats to very different rhythms. But two common strands stand out. First, allegations of corruption failed to resonate with voters; both Mamata and Jayalalithaa successfully tided over urban anti-incumbency with rural appeal. If Mamata emerged unscathed from the Saradha and Narada scams in Bengal, Jayalalithaa’s 22-day stint in jail in 2014 over corruption charges failed to dent AIADMK’s prospects in Tamil Nadu. What worked for Didi is her connect with Bengal’s rural masses, while Amma’s adroit political management in her second coming and effective delivery of social welfare schemes paved the way for her historic triumph.

Second, both iron ladies have long had untrammelled power in their respective parties, which in turn are defined by their unique brands of personality politics. Both fought the polls alone, and beat back the combined force of opposition alliances. The sheer scale and historical import of their unprecedented victories will strengthen their hands. They must be magnanimous in victory and use it to focus on what voters have voted for: development and good governance.


Kerala remains the red land, but there's  a  saffron  speck

In Rediff com, May 19, 2016 16:41 IST

Rampant corruption by Congress ministers must be counted as the single biggest factor to prompt the electorate to hand over a thumping mandate to the Communist parties, says M K Bhadrakumar.

The Left Democratic Front led by the Communist parties has stormed into power in the state assembly election in Kerala, winning 91 seats out of a total of 140 seats, securing almost a two-thirds majority.

The United Democratic Front led by the Congress party has suffered a humiliating defeat, with several incumbent ministers losing their seats to LDF candidates. Many staunch Congress fortresses have been breached by the Communists. What accounts for the stunning victory by the Communists? An easy explanation will be that the electorate has stuck to the set decades-long habit of alternatively choosing the LDF and UDF with an impeccable regularity.

Put differently, the 'anti-incumbency' factor has been at work, once again. However, that will be a facile reading. The point is, there are sub-plots, and some of them could be even more important than the main plot of 'anti-incumbency' — the single most important thing being the compelling reality that electoral politics in Kerala is no longer 'bipolar' (UDF versus LDF).

Without doubt, the Bharatiya Janata Party has gained traction in state politics and the fact that it secured one seat in the state assembly for the first time is being duly noted as a watershed event which, unsurprisingly, draws national attention. However, what is beneath the radar is that in several seats, BJP candidates put up a strong performance, coming second in many of them. In the Manjeswaram constituency in the Malabar region, a prominent BJP leader narrowly lost by only 89 votes.

The BJP candidates have attracted voters all across the state. The party's main plank the imperative need of a 'Third Front', or better still, a 'Third Way' — has been found appealing by a growing number of people who seek 'change'.Nonetheless, a tantalising question also arises: Can it be that the BJP has 'peaked' in Kerala politics? The party's future prospects will critically depend on its ability to attract allies.

But, as things stand, the demography of the state — with Hindus accounting for only half of the population — works against the BJP attracting allies, unless it is willing to jettison its Hindutva ideology, which is improbableTo compound the problem, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh provides the party's 'steel frame' in the state, with even the BJP president being its hand-picked nominee.

Second, 'anti-incumbency' cannot quite explain the vehement rejection of the UDF, especially the Congress party, by the electorate.The rampant corruption by Congress ministers in the outgoing government became a liability for the entire UDF and must be counted as the single biggest factor to prompt the electorate to hand over a thumping mandate to the Communist parties.

Corruption is not a new phenomenon in Kerala's public life and in the popular exception, no party is above corruption. The people have resigned themselves to corruption as an inevitable part of party politics.But the outgoing UDF government crossed all limits. The sleaze and the venality offended the public's sense of dignity and self-respect. The so-called ‘solar scam’ did incalculable damage to the credibility of the Congress ministers.

Thirdly, the LDF presented a unified leadership, setting aside the fratricidal strife and personality clashes that were a running feature in the recent years, which in turn enabled it to mount an effective campaign.

The Congress party, on the contrary, looked a house divided, and the virtual standoff for a week in broad daylight over the selection of candidates between Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and the state party leadership under V M Sudheeran — the latter supported by Rahul Gandhi — became first-rate political theatre and seriously dented the party's image. In retrospect, Sudheeran and Rahul Gandhi's line stands fully vindicated — namely, all tainted ministers should have stood down and new faces should have been brought in so that the Congress could have aspired to project a 'clean break' from the past.

For some inexplicable reason, though, the party's high command in Delhi caved in after Chandy threatened non-cooperation unless his entire cabinet team was allowed to seek a fresh mandate.This has proved to be a cardinal error, because Chandy was more the problem than the solution and a splendid opportunity to marginalise him and his faction was allowed to pass.

Without doubt, the Congress in Kerala today faces the biggest-ever electoral setback in the state's history of coalition politics, and Chandy will have to pay the ultimate price for it.The course correction and restructuring that lie ahead are not going to be easy, since the Congress is also ridden with factionalism. Over and above, the debacle in Kerala only reinforces the BJP's narrative of an India that is getting rid of the Congress party.

Finally, most importantly, it cannot be overlooked that the politics on caste and communal lines surged as a strong undercurrent in the present election like never before in Kerala. It has ended up working in favour of the LDF — although no political parties, especially the Communists, will ever be willing to acknowledge caste-based politics. This needs some explanation.

For a start, the BJP's innovative project to put together a 'rainbow coalition' — comprising the two main Hindu castes (Nairs and Ezhavas) plus Dalits, with a sprinkling of Christian and Muslim minority time-servers thrown in — didn't quite work the way it was intended to.While there has been a significant erosion of the Congress's Nair electoral base — which explains the BJP's surge in Thiruvananthapuram city, for example — the project to entice the Ezhavas (who account for 25 percent of the state's population and traditionally formed the foot soldiers of the Left) into the 'rainbow coalition' largely floundered.

The election results suggest that the Communist parties have won a stunning victory in the entire 'Ezhava belt' in southern Kerala — winning 29 seats out of 33 seats.On the other hand, the spectre of a BJP surge in the state may have prompted sections of the minority communities (who were traditionally the 'vote bank' for the UDF), to view the Communist parties in a new light as the only credible and committed political force available today to resist the tide of communal polarisation.

Of course, the Congress party — and Chandy himself — has only itself to blame for the perception that gained ground among the minority communities that it has an ambivalent stance vis-a-vis the BJP.At any rate, thanks to the new thinking in the minority communities, the LDF has won exceedingly well in Trichur, Kozhikode and Idukki districts.

Even the citadel of the Muslim League in Malappuram in the Malabar region has become shaky for the first time, with the Left making electoral inroads most unexpectedly.There has been a notion so far that the Communist parties in Kerala are quintessentially 'Hindu parties.' Therefore, the LDF's success in attracting the minority communities to its fold possibly holds far-reaching implications for the alignment of forces in Kerala politics.

Paradoxically, the LDF has secured a challenging mandate. From day 1, the BJP can be trusted to mount a no-holds-barred political offensive. It has tasted blood and is raring to go.It is the ruling party at the Centre and make no mistake that the RSS — and Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself — targets Kerala as a potentially rewarding hunting ground.Suffice to say, from now onwards, the BJP can only gain from eclipsing the UDF as the flag-carrier of the opposition to the Communist parties.

Indeed, any unravelling of the UDF under the trauma of the devastating electoral defeat can only work to the BJP's advantage.On the national plane, the LDF victory in Kerala is critically important for the Communist parties, too, if only to stay afloat at least as a peripheral force in India's electoral politics. The sweet victory in Kerala mitigates to a great extent the humiliating rout the Left has suffered concurrently in the state election in West Bengal.

But if there is a lesson to be learnt from the West Bengal experience, it is that once the Communist parties lose their ideological moorings and disorientation sets in, it will be very difficult to stem the downward slide, leave alone reverse the erosion of mass support that ensues. The 'pro-poor' image of the Communist parties in Kerala has served them well so far. But, then, Kerala is also transforming rapidly as a middle-class society.

Expectations have been raised about a new development agenda, especially among the youth.The big question hovers around the LDF government's ability and ingenuity to make the tricky transition that becomes necessary in sync with the zeitgeist. Much depends on the leadership of the new LDF government.-7-

The meaning of victory and defeat – Editorial in The Hindu, May 20, 2016

Five Assembly elections, and five different winners. But the voters did not distribute their favours equitably. The Congress, the only party with a realistic chance of being part of a winning coalition in all the five elections, won only one, the least important politically, the Union Territory of Puducherry. In Assam, it ceded ground to its principal rival at the national level, the Bharatiya Janata Party, for the first time. In Kerala, where it headed a coalition government as the leading member of the United Democratic Front, it lost heavily to the Left Democratic Front led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist). In West Bengal, the party’s incongruous alliance with the Left Front failed to enthuse voters, who saw it as devious and opportunistic. And in Tamil Nadu, the revival of the alliance with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam yielded little dividend for the Congress. The BJP, however, can take heart from its victory in Assam, where it managed to stitch together an alliance with regional parties, the Asom Gana Parishad and the Bodoland People’s Front. In West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, the two big States in which it is a minor player, the BJP will not be displeased with the success of the Trinamool Congress over the Left-Congress alliance and of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam over the DMK-Congress alliance. Both victors have better relations with the BJP than with the Congress. In Kerala, the BJP made its debut by winning its first seat, signalling that it could emerge as a third force in the medium to long term. So, in a head-to-head with the Congress, the BJP is the clear winner in this round of Assembly elections.

In Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK led by Ms. Jayalalithaa did well to overcome anti-incumbency. Not since her political mentor M.G. Ramachandran won in 1984 has any Chief Minister retained power, winning a comfortable majority despite the close contest. After decades of alliance politics, Tamil Nadu seems to be moving towards a polarisation between the two major Dravidian parties. The third front, led by the party of actor-turned politician Vijayakant, the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam, failed to win a seat. Indeed, it was supplanted as the third force by the Pattali Makkal Katchi, which polled almost as many votes as the six-party DMDK-led front. The DMK’s allies fared worse than it did, raising the question whether it gave away too many seats in trying to win new friends. Although the alliance with the Congress seems to have worked in the deep south, where the national party retains a support base, in many other places the DMK appeared to have only made things easier for the AIADMK by handing over the seats to its allies. Two things seemed to have settled the election in the AIADMK’s favour. First, the anti-incumbency sentiment, if it existed at all, was not as strong as many observers believed it was. Second, the existence of a multi-cornered contest served to blunt anti-incumbency even further. Her biggest challenge is how to manage her revenue-sapping promise of introducing a phased prohibition without scaling down her populist policies. Also, she will have to contend with a much stronger Opposition than before, with the DMK alliance having won over 40 per cent of the seats in the Assembly.

In Kerala, the LDF, having returned with a comfortable majority, will now have to choose between its two chief ministerial aspirants, former Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan and former State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan. Mr. Achuthanandan is the popular face of the CPI(M), but Mr. Vijayan is the organisation man, commanding greater support within the party. Whoever is chosen will be tasked with improving governance in this politically conscious State of unforgiving voters. The Left, and the CPI(M) particularly, would have been devastated with a loss in Kerala, given how poorly the party fared in West Bengal. Kerala ranks high on most human development indices; what it has failed to do over the years is to leverage this effectively to attract industry and investment to become even more prosperous.

In West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress appears to have perfected the art, learnt from the Left Front, of managing elections. Its leader, Ms. Banerjee, has a knack for identifying popular issues and aggressively mobilising support around them. Quite remarkably, the Trinamool was able to overcome the anti-incumbency factor and improve on its 2011 tally against the combined strength of the Left and the Congress. The CPI(M) will rue the decision to ally with the Congress, despite serious reservations within a section of the national leadership. The alliance clearly helped the Congress more than the Left, which astonishingly ended up with fewer seats than its junior partner. The Left’s continually sliding electoral performance in West Bengal raises questions about how it can reinvent itself in a State it ruled for three decades. Quick-fix alliances are not the solution; if anything, it lies in winning back the support of the peasantry and the labour class, which it has lost in part to the Trinamool. In Assam, the BJP-AGP-BPF alliance was able to convince people of the importance of putting up a joint fight against their long-time rival, the Congress. By registering its first victory in an Assembly election in the Northeastthe BJP will hope to use this as a launchpad for further consolidation in the region. All in all, it is the Congress, having lost control of two States, which has reason to be most disheartened by the results; the victory in Puducherry in alliance with the DMK is small consolation. The question about how it can reverse the slide after 2014 will only become sharper now. As for the BJP, its boasts of having emerged a truly national player are vastly exaggerated. While it has repeatedly demonstrated it is better placed in direct face-offs against a diminishing Congress, there are parts of India where its presence is either marginal or very slight. This is relevant for a party looking to retain power in 2019. It is difficult, if not well-nigh impossible, to repeat its stunning 2014 sweep of the Hindi heartland; the seats the BJP will lose here will need to be compensated in States where its base is weak. It made no headway in Tamil Nadu. And while its performance in West Bengal and Kerala was much better, it needs to do a lot more before it can be regarded as a serious player in these States and a truly pan-Indian presence as the Congress once was.


A Resounding vote for good governance and positive change

By The New Indian Express, 20th May 2016 04:00 AM

Good governance works, not perception management. Being just an alternative but not an agent of CHANGE too will not work. This, to us, comes out as the narrative in the verdict delivered by people in the four major states that went to polls — Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal  and Assam.

Look at Tamil Nadu from this prism. J Jayalalithaa created history by becoming the first chief minister to retain power in over three decades, thereby preventing the return of the DMK. And, we understand why a mere alternative is just not enough to win the hearts of the people. It was back in the 1980s that MGR, recuperating in a New York hospital, managed to retain power. After that, it has been a case of power alternating between AIADMK and DMK, which is perhaps what the latter was hoping for this time too. But, that was not to be. Why?

 Compared to her previous stints, Jayalalithaa departed from personalised politics during her current term and let governance do the talking. She has delivered on every single promise made in 2011. Even as the Opposition indulged in rabble-rousing speeches, accusing her of being invisible, she has quietly let her administration do what was expected of them. Under any regime, that is what ultimately matters to the people and they have chosen to repose their faith again in the leader who stuck to her word. Unlike in the past when the party in power handed out weapons to the Opposition to beat it with, the way Jayalalithaa conducted her government in the last five years meant that the 2016 poll left the DMK without any issue to project. The DMK did not know how to handle this and in the process, offered itself just as an Alternative, not an agent of change. The desperation displayed by the DMK to bring into its fold parties like DMDK and finally settling for an alliance with the discredited Congress when others were not forthcoming left none in doubt that it lost the battle even before it began. In essence, it was offering a return to the past and not a change for the future.

The same holds true in West Bengal and Assam too. By forging an alliance with the Congress in Bengal, the Left came up with old wine in a new bottle. Mamata Banerjee’s massive victory has exposed the failure of the Left to offer a credible CHANGE. The results of Assam are a signifier of change. The fatigue that has set in under the 15-year-rule of the Congress and the party’s unwillingness to look beyond 80-plus leaders has helped the BJP gain power for the first time in the North East. Learning from Bihar, the BJP projected local and fresh faces and it has worked. Polarisation too appears to have helped but it would be foolhardy to try it in other States.

That a reasonably clean governance is the minimum people expect is borne out by the Kerala result. People were fed up with the scandal-ridden Chandy government and opted for the best possible alternative in the Left. What should not be lost sight of, however, is that the BJP, with its ally, has, for the first time, polled close to 15% of the vote. This could well be the beginning of a new politics in Kerala. Overall, the results have again posed big questions for the Congress. It has repeatedly displayed a tendency to ignore public opinion and reluctance to accept the failure of Rahul Gandhi. In doing so, it is making the BJP’s job easier in achieving what it calls “Congress Mukt Bharat.”

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