The Wind has Changed
The outcome of state elections in India should serve as a warning bell for the central government in Delhi.
The recently held elections in the five Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Kerala, Assam and West Bengal could have wider implications on the polity and policy-making of the Indian government. Though, it looks as if the Congress and its alliance partners have secured victory in these elections yet a deeper analysis of the polls would suggest that they are a warning sign for the UPA government to get back to the basics which it has repeatedly ignored since it returned to power in May 2009.
When the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) first came to power in May 2004, after it defeated the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the first task before the government was to return to pro-poor policies, as it was felt that the NDA had lost power because of its terrible anti-poor policies as well as the communal disturbances of Gujarat which had shaken the confidence of the nation. The NDA, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party did not take any action against the usually arrogant chief minister Narendra Modi whose alleged involvement in the anti-Muslim disturbances in Gujarat are still being investigated by the Central agencies as well as the Supreme Court of India. Hence, when the UPA came to power and Sonia Gandhi actually appointed Dr. Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister of India, there was tremendous goodwill for the Congress Party.
True to its promises, the government formed a National Advisory Council (NAC) comprising civil society activists, former bureaucrats and journalists, etc. to advise the government on important policy decisions. Many in the government had at that time actually questioned the legality of such a body but it was basically the Congress Party’s effort to control the government and guide it. The NAC became important and powerful as it was headed by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Congress Party, so the suggestions and ideas provided by it were taken seriously by the government, ministers and bureaucrats.
The result was extraordinary as the government brought some of the most landmark legislations such as National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA) which guaran- tees a minimum of one hundred days work to rural jobless workers at the minimum wage prescribed by the local state. It created a lot of goodwill despite many failures as they were more systematic and needed to be responded to. The second important landmark during the first tenure of UPA was ‘The Right to Information’ law which today has become the biggest headache for politicians as well as corrupt bureaucrats. Due to this goodwill, the UPA returned to power in May 2009 with an increased majority, making the Congress Party more powerful at the centre in the past two decades. The NDA was shattered and was without any powerful leader and agenda. The Congress Party realized this and became uncontrollable. In the previous term, the left parties were allies of the Congress party and were actually putting a lot of pressure on certain policies that they felt went against the common man’s interest. Unfortunately, the left’s withdrawal of support for the nuclear bill from the government and later their defeat in the subsequent elections actually strengthened the pro corporate, pro American lobby within the Congress party. It went on a spree of land acquisition in the country. A large number of Special Economic Zones were created in different states ignoring the violent protests of the local people. Land
Several regional and national political parties come to the
forefront during every election cycle in India.