Monday, December 08, 2008

India General Election preview?

After multiple phases of polling votes were finally counted today for elections to state assemblies in 5 Indian states: Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, NCT of Delhi, and Rajasthan. Going into the elections following was the power structure and the arrow indicates tallies per the leading and completed result trends (Sources: Election Commission of India and

  • Chhatisgarh: BJP (50/90) ---> BJP (51/90)
  • Madhya Pradesh (MP): BJP (173/230) ---> BJP (144/230)
  • Mizoram: Mizo National Front (MNF, 21/40) ---> INC (31/40)
  • Delhi: Indian National Congress (INC, 43/70) ---> INC (42/69)
  • Rajasthan: BJP (120/200) ---> INC (98/200)

A quick comment or two about these states:

Chhatisgarh: Winning as incumbent in India is huge. But the BJP needed this win badly since their gains of late have been minimal.

Madhya Pradesh: The BJP win was expected. Their margin was bound to go down but they still managed to win. Again a must-win of sorts for the BJP. They had to win at least MP or Rajasthan for their own morale for the general election.

Mizoram: The up-down nature of regional politics is evident here. We do not have a great insight into Mizo politics but past trends and a continuous histor of government non-performance makes an incumbent's loss quite predictable. From a general election standpoint, this may not make much of a difference since Mizoram is a very small state.

Delhi: This was a local verdict. Sheila Dixit, Delhi's two-term Chief Minister, has wide appeal across Delhi. This may help the Congress keep most of the 7 parliamentary seats for Delhi.

Rajasthan: More than anything else this was an outright rejection of Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindhia. She had angered important constituents and her standing among the urban middle-class had taken a beating because of her administration's incompetence. Plus, Ashok Gehlot, the Congress' leader is a popular and competent figure. The Congress stands to make good gains in Rajasthan at election time in the Spring since Rajasthan has 25 seats of which the Congress currently holds only 4.

Many media outlets had proclaimed this round of state elections, the last before the next general election next Spring, as the "semi-finals" for the parliamentary battle at the hustings. We tend to disagree with that generalized categorization. Increasingly state elections in India are getting more and more local in nature and thus, trends should be extrapolated with caution.

Based on the results and trends so far, viewing them from the larger parliamentary context, this trend indicates the Congress led UPA government may just hold on to power next Spring. Obviously, at this point we are glossing over many fine print details that could sway things but a big reason why the UPA will make it for another five years is that no viable opposition/alternative has emerged. Unsurprisingly and counter to our 2004 hopes the BJP has sustained, if not strengthened, its sectarian character and shown little interest in deeper legislative issues. They can hardly make any claim to fame given their absence from important policy dialogues. And as much as we disagree with the sectarian-side of BJP politics we are sad at the ideological wasteland that is only growing on the political landscape.

While the Indian National Congress still houses the more progressive elements in Indian politics it has a new mantra - youth. We ourselves are only now moving from our 20's into our 30's but don't believe that our thoughts are any superior to our seniors because we are younger. We do take pride in our ideas and convictions but are not ageist. The angst in India emanating from the non-performance of a wide swath of political leadership is understandable. But to correlate that exclusively to the age of the political practitioner is inaccurate. The young leaders within the political class have yet to articulate a new, transformative and inspiring vision. And they must respond to their greatest criticism - how are they going to achieve it? We're not talking nuts and bolts but a basic roadmap that highlights the new kind of synergies that must be achieved to move the whole nation in tandem.

The vision that Indians long from the political class is, however, taking shape in numerous civil society groups and people's movements. Unfortunately, these inspiring stories and the lessons thus learned are not find way into the political discourse, strategy or policy. India has awakened but its leaders, irrespective of age, have not.

Here's a parting thought as parties gear for the big one: Rather than recruiting purely on age and entitlements the parties interested in a true national revival must recruit those who are leading civil society in the direction that India needs to go in. Now, that will be a coming of age.


Team Young India, Inc.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Sensible steps forward


It goes without saying that the officialdom in Pakistan must, and our hope is will cooperate with counterparts in India to not only bring the masterminds of the Mumbai blasts to justice but ultimately uproot this weed of terror.

Amid all the incriminations and vociferous and justifiable anger lies the Indo-Pak peace process. No, we are not merely referring to the track-1 diplomacy between bureaucrats on both sides. We are talking of the painful yet substantive gains that have been made by people to people interaction on both sides. It is an understatement to say that prior to the massacre in Mumbai India and Pakistan were enjoying the best bilateral relations they have ever had in their conflict-ridden 61 year history. Thus, for a handful of despicable cowards to hijack this growing affection would be a great tragedy. We must move forward and Indians must insist that their new Pakistani friends join in the fight against the inhumanity of terror, which won't spare them either.

Leaders on both sides must immerse themselves in getting to the bottom of the current tragedy. However, they must not disengage from the larger goal of South Asian peace, which alone will defeat terrorism. This is a time for statesmen and stateswomen not for political leaders. Let's tread this treacherous part of our history with care and focus on healing wounds rather than opening more. Indians are standing resolute against terror and know that their Pakistani friends too will do the same; they just need to be reassured.

This horrific episode should once again shine a light on the intolerant forces in the subcontinent irrespective of what religion they espouse. Their ideas of nationhood and religion must be outrightly rejected and their political alienation is a must to obviate their existence. There can be no moral ambiguity about hate.

So, please stand with us in solidarity with the victims in Mumbai and all those who died saving them. We owe it to them and all those who are victims of violence throughout the subcontinent that we move ahead with a steadfastness and sensibility that peace deserves.


Team Young India, Inc.