The outcome of the assembly elections in the four key states of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam is not exactly what the Congress party would have desired.
It will at once make the country’s oldest political party beholden to its allies, both at the state level, as in Kerala and West Bengal, and at the national level—especially since the already charged-up opposition will get fresh wind despite the fact that if there was one party that got less out of these elections than the Congress, it was its main rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Then, these elections weren’t about the BJP.
The results are undoubtedly a setback for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA). The government has before it only two options: either continue to whine about circumstances or do something about it. Recent history—two decades ago, it was the Congress that used the onset of an unprecedented macroeconomic crisis to dramatically accelerate the reforms process—should provide inspiration.
Business as usual is not really an option. Not only is the polity unfavourable, the latest setback comes at a time when macroeconomic concerns are emerging and not just because of the government’s inability to tame inflation.
Talk is cheap. The UPA in its second tenure has promised lots and delivered little. The first instinct of a government on the defensive would be to spin the verdict.
The electorate has signalled its desire for a brand of change that benefits them through creation of jobs that meet their aspirations. Is the UPA listening?
Anil Padmanabhan is a deputy managing editor of Mint and writes every week on the intersection of politics and economics. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org