In what was anticipated to an extent by exit polls (and was not believed by some -including me), the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has managed to win a near majority with the Congress emerging as the single largest party in the 15th Lok Sabha elections. The Congress has nearly won or is leading in 200 seats and the UPA is short of the majority by merely 10-15 seats.
The victory of the Congress has been particularly helped by strong performances in the states where their primary fight was against the so called "Third Front". In West Bengal and Kerala in particular, the Congress was able to notch a very impressive victory in alliance with the Trinamul Congress and other parties of the UDF respectively.
The results in West Bengal in particular must be shocking to the Left Front, as this is the lowest tally that the LF has won in a parliamentary election in 40 years. As I am writing this, the tally is near-abouts 15-16 seats, much lower than the 35 the LF won last time and atleast 7-10 seats lower than what was expected to be the seat tally of the ruling front in West Bengal. The bad showing could have been expected from the reverses suffered by the LF in the panchayati and local body elections. But the extent of the losses was something quite un-anticipated. A serious introspection will now be in place in the Left to identify the reasons. The incidents in Nandigram and Singur have surely had a bearing but accentuating this has been a near strong wave of support for the Congress throughout the country.
The National Election Survey of the CSDS will bring out empirical findings that will establish the reasons for the Congress victory. But my tentative assumptions are the following - a) the Congress' emphasis on its "social" achievements - particularly the National Rural Employee Guarantee Act and how it played out in the states where it was in power and wasn't, and b) the gravitation of minorities and weaker sections toward the party, particularly in states such as Uttar Pradesh where the Congress was marginalised by regional parties overtime.
Personally, I am upset by the fact that the Left has lost its position as a pivot for articulating concerns of the weaker sections in the parliamenat as it's ability to maneover the numbers on issues is lost in the current configuration as desired by the democratic mandate. While for many who have favoured unbridled and greater emphasis on "reforms" including easier financial flows, privatisation, greater liberalisation, and even labour reforms, this is music to their ears. The stock market will react favourably and enthusiastically. The upper middle classes, particularly who have not endorsed the "hard" right wing communalism espoused by the BJP will remain enthused.
But my concern is for those who have lost their jobs and social securities because of the insecurities of the recession environment, or those whose jobs and livelihoods have been affected by contractualisation. If the Congress interprets its victory which was enabled because of its emphasis on welfare measures rather than a plan for more "economic reforms" as a mandate for the kind of economic reforms that the more opulent section of the masses favour, then it will be wrong and undemocratic for it to do so. And I say this even as I am humbled by the verdict vis-a-vis some of my projections (in the earlier post for e.g. in Tamil Nadu).
The UPA should live upto its self chosen moniker - "Progressive" and not favour monopolisation or cartels or select lobbies of big capital. It has to protect ordinary livelihoods and keep its emphasis on welfare and increasing the purchasing power of the general populace and creating a demand driven growth. It remains to be seen how the Congress party would be able to manage its inclinations to honour the mandate versus the urge to satisfy the purse strings that it is beholden to or is close with.
As for the BJP, while its loss has not been tremendous in terms of seats (as I write this ..the party's tally seems to have come down by around 10),it is amply clear that the people of India have rejected communalism significantly again. It remains to be seen how the RSS reacts to this consecutive loss of the BJP and as to how its remaining alliance partners such as the Nitish Kumar led JD(U) (who seems to have performed very well winning or leading in nearly 33/40) will want to continue to be associated with the BJP. But those are questions for later. I would want to savour the loss of an increasingly Hindutva spewing and unrepentant BJP whose mascots such as Narendra Modi have still shown no remorse for the gruesome incidents in Gujarat. And I end on a good note with that!