ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Victory by Default

The Congress emerges stronger after assembly polls in three states.

In spite of doing everything wrong and delivering poor governance in Maharashtra, the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance has retained power – yet again – and in the process has marginalised the right wing Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine. The Congress Party has also done much better than its coalition partner, the NCP. The Congress emerged as the single largest party in Haryana and won Arunachal Pradesh convincingly. Following the victories, all the chief ministers of the states were retained in power by the “High Command”, though the squabbling in Maharashtra in the alliance over ministries and sharing of power had not ended at the time of writing, and even a week after the election results a new government had not been sworn in.

The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) – the outfit that broke away from its parent Shiv Sena – hurt the BJP-Shiv Sena combine by garnering 5.6% of the votes and indirectly helped the Congress-NCP combine to win outright (144 out of 288 seats) because of the fragmented opposition in many constituencies. Yet, too much must not be made of the MNS factor, for the opposition did poorly in the Vidarbha region as well where the Raj Thackeray party was not present. The Congress-NCP combine itself registered a marginal decrease in the overall vote share, but managed to win despite what was uniformly perceived as a lacklustre performance in the previous two terms. That the main opposition never managed to raise the relevant issues of the day – widespread agrarian distress, high levels of inequality, inadequate power and water, and livelihood stress – helped the ruling combine. The lack of interest among the voting population was also visible, with just about half the electorate turning up to vote in an election dominated by money power, dynastic politics and rebellion by disgruntled “ticket” seekers. Voters continued to display a sense of fatigue with the hard right politics of the Shiv Sena, the BJP and even with the virulent MNS, which ended up with 11 seats. The newly formed Republican Left Democratic Front fared badly as well, with the Republican Party of India (Athavale) coming a cropper, losing all its contested seats. The winning vote for the Congress-NCP combine most certainly cannot be attributed to any positive wave for the ruling alliance. But the Congress, in particular, would be satisfied with the retention of one of India’s largest and economically most important states. It can also be suggested that the ruling combine’s strategy of regularly changing the chief minister at the helm helped it stem an anti-incumbency current.

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