Patterns from the polls
The outcome of the three assembly elections in Punjab, Uttarakhand and Manipur are of a familiar pattern — anti-incumbency or price rise, or a combination of the two, cyclically bringing the opposition into the government.india Updated:
Electoral outcomes in India are like a kaleidoscope. With just a twist, the same numbers of colourful glass pieces rearrange themselves into a new pattern. But then, an election is an election, and not just an intriguing toy. The outcome of the three assembly elections in Punjab, Uttarakhand and Manipur are of a familiar pattern — anti-incumbency or price rise, or a combination of the two, cyclically bringing the opposition into the government. But there are deeper outcomes that have considerable portent for the country’s polity. The victory of the Shiromani Akali Dal, though significant, will have largely regional consequences. But the national gainer is, without doubt, the BJP, which, till the other day, had appeared rudderless and leaderless.
There are enough hints in the protests over the expansion of reservations in educational institutions last year to suggest that this issue could have been a major cause for lining up the urban middle-class behind the BJP in Punjab. A subsidiary factor could be the various incidents of terrorism across the country lending credence to the party’s verbal barrage charging the UPA government at the Centre of being somewhat ‘soft’ on terrorism, Pakistan and the minorities. Inflation may or may not be an issue, especially since it must be seen in the context of the rising incomes of the middle-classes.
All this is bound to have an impact on the Congress’s approach to these issues within the Union government. Whether it leads to paralysis of policy-making or encourages course correction is something that only time can tell. The other constituents of the UPA, too, will draw their own conclusions from the assembly poll results. The Left, for example, is likely to push harder in support of positions it thinks will be more effective in combating the BJP. On the other hand, the BJP will use its victories to add muscle to its positions on various national issues, as well as to galvanise its cadre for the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections in April. That election, of course, has other additional elements. And it is always hazardous to transpose results of one election on another since you never know what pattern the next twist of the kaleidoscope will throw up.