An election of upsets3 min read . Updated: 17 May 2009, 12:31 AM IST
An election of upsets
An election of upsets
This election has turned all the pundits’ predictions on their heads. Most analysts shied away from forecasting that the Left would be routed in West Bengal. Opinion was divided on the fate of the DMK and the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu. Uttar Pradesh, everyone said, was going to provide Mayawati the route to New Delhi. Andhra Pradesh, everyone said, was too close to call. The upsets on an unprecedented scale define the huge wave that was seen in favour of the UPA.
In Andhra Pradesh, a vertical vote split between the TDP and the Praja Rajyam Party ensured that the Congress swept the polls. According to initial estimates, the index of opposition unity in Andhra Pradesh fell to 60%—the TDP could corner only one out of every six votes cast against the Congress. Thus, in spite of a marginal drop in its vote share, the Congress won 31 seats. Nevertheless, this has been backed by some delivery-oriented measures of the Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy government such as Arogyasree and Jalayagnam, which ensured better health benefits and distribution.
West Bengal saw a large vote against the Left. The Trinamool Congress-Congress combine won 27 out of 42 seats in the state— just one short of the two-thirds mark of 28. The Left was truncated to just 14 seats, and the BJP took one. The Trinamool-Congress combine polled a large 45% of the votes—a swing of 9%—and raced ahead of the Left by about 1.5 percentage points. The Left suffered a swing of about 7 percentage points, polling 43% of the votes. Very importantly, the Left government was seen as an extension of the party machinery and its patronage network. With the help of ultra-Left forces, the Trinamool Congress finally succeeded in replicating the election machinery the CPM had built in rural Bengal.
In Tamil Nadu, if the vote shares of the MDMK, the PMK and the Left are removed from the DMK-Congress alliance of 2004, it had barely 39% of the votes. This time, the alliance has polled 42% of the votes, a swing of 3% of votes after losing allies. The primary reasons for these gains are the distribution of rice at Re1 per kg to those below the poverty line, the partially successful colour TV distribution scheme, a warm relationship with government employees and, importantly, a massive consolidation of minorities in favour of the DMK-Congress combine once there were insinuations that the AIADMK would go the BJP way after the elections. What the DMK also got right is its social bloc—it added the small but significant Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) to its alliance. The VCK has a committed vote bank in half a dozen constituencies in north Tamil Nadu that was till the recent past bitterly opposed to the PMK’s base of Vanniyars. In a sense, the DMK-led front to a great extent offset the loss of the PMK and spiced it up with its pro-Eelam stand. VCK leader Thol. Thirumavalavan won the Chidambaram seat.
Mayawati’s BSP has suffered a decisive setback. The BSP, the Congress and the SP were, at last count, leading in 22 seats each, followed by the BJP-led alliance, which was leading in 13 seats. The BSP had a vote share gain of 3% of votes. The BJP-RLD alliance lost 5% of votes compared with last time. The SP suffered a negative vote swing of 2.5%, polling close to 24% votes. However, all the gains seem to have gone to the Congress kitty. The Congress polled a huge 22% of the votes, almost doubling its vote share. The massive swing in favour of the Congress helped it match the BSP’s seat tally. Clearly, the Congress has revived in Uttar Pradesh—it remains to be seen how it consolidates in the state.
Clearly, the electorate has voted for parties promising good governance. The Congress now needs to consolidate this base.
Jai Mrug is an independent political analyst. Comment at firstname.lastname@example.org