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Win some, lose some

Almost any election that takes place in India becomes historic. Its sheer scale makes it so.

india Updated: May 11, 2006 23:59 IST

Almost any election that takes place in India becomes historic. Its sheer scale makes it so. This time, some 100 million voters — as many electorates as of several European nations combined — participated in the elections to the legislative assemblies of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Assam and Pondicherry. And once again with a kaleidoscopic twist, we have a new lattice before us. Of course, it has familiar elements — J. Jayalalithaa, M. Karunanidhi, Sonia Gandhi, K. Karunakaran, Mamata Banerjee, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Asom Gana Parishad — but the pattern is new.

Ms Gandhi’s victory, though expected, points to a fruitful future alignment in UP based on the good vibes between the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party. There will be a coalition government now in Tamil Nadu, and if the Congress — which has turned in a significant performance — participates, it will be back in government for the first time since 1967. In West Bengal and Kerala, we have two sweeps favouring fronts led by the same party, the CPI(M), yet they are only superficially similar. In Kerala, the result is an expected inversion of the verdict of the 2001 election that the UDF swept. But if the hardline V.S. Achuthanandan takes the helm of the LDF we may witness a resurgence of ‘take-no-prisoners’ style factional politics that brought the UDF low. In West Bengal, the Left Front posted its most spectacular performance yet, and this could be as much an endorsement of the pragmatic, business- friendly policies of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, as a rejection of the bankrupt Trinamool-led opposition. In fact, the victory is all the more sweeter, coming despite the extra-tough measures instituted by the Election Commission in the state. Considering the disadvantages of incumbency, the BJP-AGP’s inability to unseat the Congress-led government of Tarun Gogoi has to be seen as a victory for the latter. And in Pondicherry, the Congress has managed to comfortably retain power.

The bigger picture, therefore, reveals that where the BJP has lost ground, the Congress has actually done better than expected, notwithstanding the outcome in Kerala and West Bengal. The one clear victor is the Left. This could mean heightened pressure on the UPA government on a range of issues. The Left would be well advised not to invite hubris, as it and the country have a good thing going in the UPA.