Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Election Analysis (Q&A format)

Well, I am sure you already know a lot about the 15th Lok Sabha (LS) Election results, so I won’t elaborate much on it. However, there are some things I would like to comment on w.r.t this election, answering them in the form of questions that could be raised as debate points.

Going by the rise in the total number of seats for the two major Parties, can we say that the people are more in favour of national parties than regional parties?

No. The number of seats is never an indication of the mood of the people. A better indicator is the vote-share garnered by the different parties. In that aspect, nothing has changed significantly from 2004, as the vote share garnered by these two parties has increased by a mere 0.2% (from 48.7% to 48.9%), which is very insignificant compared to the rise in the number of seats garnered by the combo (from 283 to 321, a rise of 13.4%).

Also, the wins of Nitish Kumar (Bihar), Naveen Patnaik (Orissa), Karunanidhi (Tamil Nadu) and the showing of NCP and Shiv Sena (in Maharashtra) can clearly out to rest the fact that regional parties are on their way out – their showing actually points to the opposite fact that they are actually here to stay. Also the regional effect was seen clearly in the forms of YSR (AP), Hooda (HR), Gehlot (Raj), Ms. Dixit (DEL) and Modi (Gujarat).

Is this house a lot cleaner as compared to the previous house? And has the recession affected the fortunes of the MPs?

Well, unfortunately no. There are 150 MPs in the new house with criminal charges, as compared to 128 in 2004, a rise of 17.1%, with 73 of them facing serious charges as compared to 55 in the previous LS, a rise of 30.9%.

The party with the maximum number of criminal MPs is, as I expected it to be, the BJP, with 42 of them facing criminal charges (36% of elected BJP MPs!), closely followed by the Congress (I) with 41 (19.9% of Congress MPs). SP has the 3rd best in this list, with 8 MPs (34.8% MPs, less than BJP atleast!).

As far as recession is concerned, politicans are making hay when there is a solar eclipse in the universe. There are 300 crorepati MPs in the current LS – more than double the previous count of 154! Looks like this industry can donate a lot for the stimulus package for other industries

Is the “Rahul Effect” a reality? Did the “Modi Effect” change anything for the BJP in the positive sense?

Yes, the “Rahul Effect” was indeed significant, atleast in the numbers. My numbers are not accurate to the tee, but the UPA won in 66 seats out of the 106 seats that he campaigned for, with 21 of them coming from Uttar Pradesh, making it a high 62% conversion rate overall.

On the other hand, the “Modi Effect” backfired completely. Out of the 108 seats that he campaigned for the NDA, they could win only 35 seats, 17 of then coming from Gujarat. So it was effectively only 18 seats out of the 83 non-Gujarat seats for the NDA, a dismal 22% conversion rate outside Gujarat. Why did this happen? As one person out it, “When you go to a circus, the Joker gets the maximum claps and attention, but no one takes him seriously. Modi, with his joker-like antics, could just get people to attend his rallies, but failed to grab their votes.”

What are the (positive) implications for the UPA and the Congress (I) in particular, after this mandate?

The current mandate seems decisive, but it was also because of the lack of an opposition with a clear mindset. The result will clearly help the Congress (I) cut down its “estranged allies” to size. Lalu and Paswan were dumbstruck at the result and even Sharad Pawar, although was loyal to the UPA in Maharashtra, had PM ambitions, which will not be fulfilled for another 5 years atleast.

Considering that Rahul Gandhi is not going to join the cabinet anytime soon, the UPA should use his services fully to make sure that its network in UP and Bihar becomes stronger. For the first time in many years, the Congress (I) received more than 10% vote-share in Bihar and its rise in UP was really unprecedented, with both the vote-share and seat-share rising well above expected. The sullen and “humble” mood in the SP, BSP and RJD camps, and their sucking upto the UPA-alliance, is clearly a sign of desperation and the party must make full use of its nation-wide influence to capitalize on this “wave”.

This mandate destroyed the effect of the Left parties completely and removed their chances of playing the role of a kingmaker. The UPA will certainly strive along with Mamata Banerjee in order to wipe out the left in West Bengal. Mamata has also clearly stated that she is eyeing the state leadership and not a cabinet berth. Even in Kerala, the Congress (I) must strive to make sure that the people’s verdict is properly rewarded. This is their best chance to increase their vote base all over India, even in Maharashtra, where there are talks about the Congress (I) ditching the NCP and going alone there.

But this win may also lead to the “God Syndrome” in the Congress (I). Unchecked by the Left and other parties with alternative views, the UPA may resort to economic reforms that may actually backfire. Also, too much “Sonia” and “Rahul” chants may lead to resentment among the public, who are, in my view, tired of dynastic politics. The Congress (I) needs to be more pro-poor and more future-oriented for another good showing in 2014.

What are the implications for the NDA and the BJP in particular after this mandate?

The “drubbing” that the BJP received was a severe setback to the leadership of the party, namely L K Advani and Rajnath Singh. Even their own exit polls failed to see this drop in the number of seats and the vote-share for the party. Mr. Advani was forced to contest one last election and he was shown the realistic chances of becoming a PM. He complied, never expecting such a result. Even his resignation was not accepted by the party.

This clearly shows that the BJP is not having any fixed No. 2 in its party. It is a time for change of leadership, to build a new wave for 2014. Instead Mr. Advani is being made the leader of the opposition yet again. This move will severely affect the chances of BJP recovering anytime in the next 2-3 years.

They need a clear image change after all this. They need to behave like a responsible opposition and try to focus on the core issues, and remind the public that they behaved like a constructive opposition. At the same time, they must try to build a much-more solid base in states where they were affected a lot – Rajasthan, UP, Maharashtra and Uttarakhand.

They also need to forge better allies in order to make their presence stronger all over India, especially the South. BJD left the alliance and won by a handsome margin in Orissa and it is widely expected that Nitish Kumar may ditch the BJP in the upcoming Assembly Elections in Bihar in order to appease to the Muslim vote-bank even more. There are also talks about the UPA trying to woo Nitish to its side, but that may not materialize.

The BJP tried to appease the urban youth a lot and all the talks of change clearly showed the aping of the “Obama” model of campaigning. However, India and coalition politics are a very different ball-game and the entire party’s image can be damaged by just 1-2 individuals like Varun Gandhi. It is high time for the BJP to change their leadership and look for a new direction.

Specific to Andhra Pradesh, how can one explain the huge difference in the results of the LS and Assembly election results? Also, what looks to be the future of the TRS there?

The difference can be explained to a good extent by the maturity of the voters in this election. They clearly differentiated between the local and national issues and voted accordingly. All the MLAs who performed badly were the ones who were shown the boot because of the neglect of their constituencies. But the performance of the UPA Govt. had a serious effect on the fortunes of the MPs in the state in a positive sense.

Also, we can see the effect of the MLAs as a bunch in the elections. Inspite of being advised to change the MLAs in her constituency, Renuka Chowdhary stuck to the old guns and paid the price for it, by losing even her LS seat.

TRS is gone and out. The Telangana issue is irrelevant and the popularity-waning of the TRS is clear by the fact that KCR himself won in his constituency by a very narrow margin, similar to his son (who won by a margin of around 400 votes). People recognized that KCR was opportunistic when he allied with TDP (who had been a staunch opponent of a separate Telangana from the very beginning). And they showed him the “kick”.

Any bets on the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) sweeping even the next Assembly elections (they won all 32 seats this time, like the last time in 2004)?

Not likely to lose any seat even in 2014. The opposition (Congress) has no base and the party has no grassroots in Sikkim at all. The SDF will continue to retain power for atleast another 20 years surely. With Chamling at the helm, the SDF will continue to get support of the Sikkim people for more development of the state in all areas.

Ciao for now!

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