Thursday, May 19, 2016

Assembly poll results - a mixed bag

The results of the assembly elections in five states (Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, Bengal) are out. What do the results portent?
For interpreting the results, one will have to look at the past, the present and the percentage vote-share.
Let’s look at Kerala. The state dutifully followed the tradition that it has created since the 80’s – not giving a second chance to incumbent government. But what is noteworthy is the difference. Though UDF (United Democratic Front, led by Congress) won the last elections, the seats split was 73 for UDF and 67 for LDF (Left Democratic Front). Now the UDF is around 45 and LDF is 85. That is a wide gap. BJP opened its account, and 9 seats went to smaller ‘Others’. For all the bravado that Oomen Chandy showed, this is a humiliating defeat. The percentage vote-share opens another window to the future. Against CPM’s 26.5%, Congress’ vote-share is 23.7%. But against CPI’s 8.1%, BJP is 10.5%. Of course, the beauty of the ‘first past the post’ is such that CPI got 19 seats against BJP’s 1. But ignoring BJP in Kerala in the coming decade will be a folly. 92 year old Achyutanandan has strengthened his claim for the CM’s post, which is sad. Howsoever ‘fit and healthy’ a person, there is no younger substitute in a ‘progressive’ state like Kerala is a tragedy of Indian Politics in general.
In Tamil Nadu, Jayalalitha bucked the ‘tradition’ that Tamil Nadu too followed for the last three decades. And though ADMK’s seats have come down, the number is still enough for simple majority. DMDK’s Vijayakanth, who was nursing ambitions of becoming CM, has to contend with 2.4% vote-share. To put this in perspective, BJP’s vote-share in Tamil Nadu is 2.9%. At 40.8%, ADMK leads comfortably. And DMK with 31.5% comes a distant second. Congress, even after tying up with DMK, is at 6.5%. Congress will have to seriously weigh its options. These results mean adios for wheel-chair bound Karunanidhi. And it is about time. It would be interesting to see how the family deals with the running feud between two sons – Stalin and Alagiri.
Puducherry was a squabble among petty local parties. And the DMK-Congress combination cleared the mark with 17 seats out of 30 and 39.5% vote-share. ADMK could muster only 16.8%, against the local NR Congress’ 28.1%. BJP didn’t win a seat, but 2.4% vote-share means it does have some chances.
West Bengal is quite a surprise. Not that TMC won, but the difference in the number of seats. Against 184 seats last time, with all allegations of corruption and ministers in jail, TMC scored 211 seats with 44.9% vote-share. The left was decimated, coming down from 53 to 32 and gathered 25.6% vote-share. Congress, after tying up with the left, benefitted the most in terms of number of seats, bagging 44 and becoming the second largest party. Though BJP could muster only three seats, its vote-share 10.2% is quite comparable to that of Congress 12.3%. So if Mamata decides to go for a soft-alignment with BJP, the next five years would be most interesting.
Assam has given Modi-Shah duo some reason to celebrate. With some carefully crafted alliances, NDA got 85 seats against 25 of Congress. And contrary to popular expectations, the regional party AIUDF could get only 13. Vote-share wise, Congress still leads the chart at 31%, followed by BJP at 29.5%. AGP’s 8.1% came in handy for BJP. Point to note is AGP, at one point of time, was the ruling party in the state.
So can the BJP really go out and celebrate? If Modi-Shah duo is wise, they will desist. Though by-elections are not really a mirror of the larger picture, SP won the two by-elections by scoring 50% votes. BJP is at 41.5%. And this is in a state that goes to poll in a few months, a state that gave 72 out of 80 seats to BJP in Lok Sabha. Nitish and Lalu have already started making rounds of the neighboring state. Mulayam is humming and hawing, but he won’t have too many options either. This is evident from the warm welcome accorded to Amar Singh and Beni Prasad Verma and hastily sending them to Rajya Sabha. Mulayam needs Amar’s wheeling-dealing and Beni Prasad Verma’s Kurmi vote-bank (Nitish claims that bank in Bihar).

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