The people of India have once again demonstrated their native wisdom in the recently concluded elections to five state assemblies. The DMK and the Left parties have been roundly defeated in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
The Congress has won in Assam and Kerala while being ousted in Puducherry by a party rebel who teamed up with Jayalalithaa.
Now look at the balance the electorate struck by rewarding development and good administration while unequivocally rejecting sleaze and insensitive governance. If rampant corruption and family autocracy cost Karunanidhi his job, Tarun Gogoi’s hat trick was a trophy for running an efficient and inclusive albeit somewhat corrupt regime.
Puducherry’s Rangaswamy marginalized his mother party because he’s the people’s man— strong, upright and incorruptible. A CM next-door who has breakfast, lunch and dinner served to him by his electorate. They are his kin for he’s a bachelor without a family of his own.
Identical antecedents helped V S Achutanandan take the CPM-led LDF tantalizingly close to victory. In the end, the Marxists, who started as underdogs as the party in power in the state known for discarding incumbents, saved face if not the government in Kerala. It also meant that the verdict wasn’t unequivocal for the Congress in the 100% literate State where corruption swung votes besides a Hindu backlash against the UDF that had the Muslim League as a major stakeholder.
But the electoral takeaway that mattered the most in my perception was that the Left was battered but not blown off the political scene. Communist interventions on policy issues have always helped. One can disagree with them. But one cannot ignore what they say, be it probity in public life, foreign policy, economic reforms, agrarian questions and social issues.
The Left in fact is more richly endowed ideologically than the Congress to fight the religious right wing. West Bengal is a state divided by the Partition. But it has an unmatched record of communal harmony under the Left’s rule spanning three decades. Other states pale in comparison.
A stint in the Opposition would afford the Left, notably the CPI-M, time to reflect on its failures rooted in organizational aberrations and the leadership’s refusal to keep pace with the aspirations of a youthful India. Left now with only Tripura, they might have to wait longer to regain power in Bengal. But that isn’t so in Kerala where some quick correctives can return them earlier than expected —- maybe ever before the precariously placed UDF completes the assigned five years.
The results have also denied Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the excuse he had for failing to act on time against the DMK’s A Raja. The voters have right-sized the Dravidian party, affording the PM the chance to take sleaze balls to the cleaners. If he doesn’t, he’d be seen as complicit.