By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent
NEW DELHI: Definitely, the average Indian voter has proved to be far more intelligent than sharp political analysts and key political parties probably envisaged him/her to be. The electoral verdict spells a return to power of not just the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) but also a defeat of controversial as well as highly sensitive communal issues raised by certain politicians. Besides, the poll verdict also indicates the major role that can be played by average Indian voterâ€™s decision of not being taken for a ride by the tall promises spelt out by politicians in the fray. Not surprisingly, while the Congress leaders are celebrating their return to power with a massive lead over their rivals, the others are pondering are what could be responsible for their dismal performance. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance has won 261 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha, with it being only a few seats short of the magic number-272 needed to claim majority. National Democratic Alliance trails behind with 157 seats, the Third Front â€“ 59 and Fourth Front securing only 27. While the Congress in UPA has bagged 205 seats, the BJP has managed only 116. The left front bloc in Third Front has won just 24. In the Fourth Front, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) has failed to win a single seat, with its own leader Ram Vilas Paswan suffering defeat, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)â€™s score has fallen to four, while Samajwadi Party (SP) has managed to win only 23.
Compared to 2004 results, while Congress has gained more seats, most parties have fallen significantly short of what they gained earlier. In 2004, Congress won 148, the SP-30, RJD-23 and the left bloc â€“ 61. The BJP has gained marginally as it won 110 seats in 2004. The performance of Congress in Uttar Pradesh has been phenomenal, where while in 2004 it could not win even 10 seats, this time it has bagged 21. Crediting party leader Rahul Gandhi for improving the Congressâ€™ score in UP, Jyotiraditya Scindia said: â€œAll credit goes to Rahul Gandhi for single handedly reviving the Congress in Uttar Pradesh. What worked was the combination of Manmohan Singhâ€™s policies and Rahul Gandhiâ€™s thrust on party cadres and youth.â€
It is also held that SP lost Muslim votes to Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) by having aligned with Kalyan Singh, who as the then UP chief minister is held responsible for demolition of Babari Masjid in Ayodhya (December 6, 1992). There is also the view that by reaching out to Kalyan, SP managed to attract votes of Dalits and Yadavs and thus could win 23 in UP. Revival of Congress together with SPâ€™s political strategy prevented a substantial chunk of votes from Brahmins, Muslims as well as Dalits going to BSP. The BSP leader, UP Chief Minister Mayawati was apparently banking on winning around 50 percent of seats from UP, which sends 80 legislators to Lok Sabha. It has won 20, increasing its 2004-score by just four seats.
Congress has also gained, with its Trinamool Congress (TC) winning 19 seats in West Bengal. In Andhra Pradesh, the Congress has won 33, Maharashtra- 17, Rajasthan-20, Kerala-13, Madhya Pradesh â€“12, Gujarat- 11 and Delhi- 7. The BJP has managed to win 19 in Karnataka, Gujarat -15, Madhya Pradesh- 16, UP-10, Maharashtra â€“ 9 Rajasthan- 4, and 12 in Bihar, where its key ally Janata Dal-United has won 20 seats.
Interestingly, neither Congress nor of any its old allies have fared well in Bihar. Differences over seat sharing with Congress in Bihar, prompted RJD, SP and LJP to float the Fourth Front, that has secured only four seats. There is a view, that common Biharis, including the Muslims, have been â€œtaken for a ride for too long by tall promises made RJD and LJP leaders. So they decided to teach them a hard lesson in these elections.â€ With RJDâ€™s own score confined to four, that of LJP – zero, in addition to this being a hard hit for their political image, both the parties have lost the numerical importance they earlier held for UPA.
Conceding defeat, BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley said: â€œWe accept votersâ€™ mandate with full respect. If we have an overall view of the trends, then we see that we have performed below our expectations as we had expected our tally to improve from the last elections.â€
Accepting that Congress has performed better than expected, CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat said: â€œThe CPI-M and left parties have suffered a major setback in these elections. This necessitates a serious examination of the reasons for the partyâ€™s poor performance.â€ â€œThe Congress and its allies have succeeded all over the country. They have done well on the platform they provided to the voters,â€ he said. Ruling out the option of left supporting the Congress-led UPA, Karat said that they would sit in the opposition.
â€œOur expectations have not been fulfilled, we admit. Congress is in a position to form the government. Let them form it,â€ Communist Party of India (CPI) general secretary A.B. Bardhan said. On prospects of left supporting the Congress, Bardhan said: â€œWhy should they need our support? They donâ€™t need our support. We will sit in the opposition and fight for the cause of the poor.â€
Poor performance of BJP and the left bloc is also attributed to both groups suffering from a leadership-crisis. During these elections, while BJP was devoid of its chief campaigner â€“ former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, the left bloc had to manage without Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) comrade Jyoti Basu. Both have retired from politics due to health reasons. In West Bengal, unlike in 2004, when CPI-M won more than 20 seats, this time it has got only 9, while its rival TCâ€™s score has increased from one to 19.
Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Sharad Yadav holds BJP-candidate Varun Gandhiâ€™s â€œhate speechesâ€ and projection of Modi as future prime minister responsible for NDAâ€™s dismal performance. â€œIt may be right or wrong or he (Varunâ€™s) might have denied, but his statement has caused immense damage. His statement was unconstitutional. It was against the countryâ€™s unity and must have affected the polls,â€ Yadav said. Terming projection of Modi as prime minister as a political mistake, Yadav said: â€œIt was a factor. When the issue had come up, it created confusion among the peopleâ€™s mind. Since the NDA had already declared a Prime Ministerial candidate (L K Advani) unanimously, the issue should have been dismissed immediately.â€
Yadavâ€™s comments suggest that in addition to its own campaign, Congress has fared well because of wrong strategies pursued by rivals in the fray. While politicians have yet to figure out causes of their defeat, the voter has shrewdly declared his verdict- giving all in the race to ponder over where did they fail. Undeniably, had Congress checked the seats won by BJP and its NDA-allies in states like Karnataka, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, it may have been able to form a single-party government. Though the Congress has fared well, it still has to deliberate on what prevented voters from extending it greater support!