People are talking about India’s Congress and Bharatiya Janata parties after the recently held state elections and how election results highlight the country's changing political landscape.
It took 48 days of campaigning, including 211 public speaking sessions and countless road shows, but all Congressman Rahul Gandhi's efforts could muster were mere 37 seats in the all-important state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). "I led the campaign from the front, I take the responsibility," he said while speaking to the press after the poll results were announced. Elections held across five states in Northern India reflect a slump in performance by the Congress and Bharatiya Janata (BJP) parties, which happen to be the country's leading national parties.
State polls, Congress & BJP battered in UP
Congress and BJP succumbed to defeat at the hands of regional parties in UP and Punjab. Operating in the state since 1992, the Samajwadi Party faired well in Uttar Pradesh, winning 224 out of the 403 seats, followed by BSP who won 80 seats; The BJP secured 47 and Congress came in fourth place, winning just 37 seats. Meanwhile in Punjab, out of the 117 seats, Congress and BJP won 46 and 12 seats respectively while Shiromani Akali Dal, representing Punjab's predominantly Sikh community, claimed 56 seats. Elsewhere, Congress was able to churn out some respect in the state of Uttarkhand, claiming 32 seats, a victory by a meager 1 seat margin against runners-up BJP who won 31 out of the total 70 seats. The ruling party also claimed 42 seats out of a total of 60 seats in Manipur. Goa, however, proved to be a BJP stronghold as the party won 24 against Congress' 9 in a 40-seat state assembly.
The results, especially in Uttar Pradesh are of considerable political significance as the state is widely considered to be a gauge of the country's political scenario. Political analysts across India are now claiming that the results reflect the changing moods of the Indian masses.
Bloggers provide 'food for thought' for Indian politicians
Explaining the success of regional parties in Indian states, Prashant Pandey writes in his blog on the online edition of an Indian daily, Times of India, “Clearly regional parties are doing a better job of representing their people's wishes than the national parties.” A businessman by profession, Pandey, says that the regional parties are here to stay. He further warns that BJP and Congress need to reinvent themselves rather than fight each other in a battle of mutual attrition.
Meanwhile, giving his take on the matter, Rajesh Kalra, chief editor of the internet edition of Times of India, says, “Corruption scandals have been hitting the UPA government at an alarming rate. But instead of damage control measures, Congress resorted to targeting constitutional bodies which have immense credibility in the eyes of the general public.” In his blog for the Times of India, Kalra writes that although Congress may not realize or admit it, the problem which led to their poor results is the party's arrogant discreditation of one constitutional body after the other. According to the blogger, it was something which annoyed the masses, the outcome of which is evident in poll results from UP.
Highlighting another aspect of the voting trend in the recently held state polls in India, T.K. Arun writes that the Indian polity has become more multi-tiered and polycentric. In his blog published on the Times of India website, Arun also says that the people have shown that they will not tolerate corruption and will throw away all culprits out of power. Calling for a strategy change by Congress and BJP, the blogger suggests, “The national parties have to fundamentally rethink what they stand for.”
Conclusion: a rough journey to 2014 for Congress
The next parliamentary elections in India are set to be held in 2014. Though Congress remains supreme in New Delhi, the passage until the all important elections will not be easy. Corruption scandals, surging inflation rates, cuts in the GDP, combined with the success of regional parties now make the passage all the more rocky for Congress. The country's aspirant for the next office of prime minister, Rahul Ghandhi, had very little impact on the state polls. It remains to be seen if the charismatic leader's influence can charm the Indian masses for the next general elections.
Author: Aasim Saleem
Editor: Sarah Berning