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Jaya, Mamata, Gogoi conquer; Cong gets Kerala

Yogendra Yadav |

Updated: May 13, 2011, 7:04 PM IST
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Jaya, Mamata, Gogoi conquer; Cong gets Kerala
How Indian voters rose above threats and promises to exercise their choice.

The Indian voter refuses to be a mere pawn. He is the real ruler. He cannot be bought or sold by cash or gifts, be deceived or lured by by false promises, be held ransom or intimidated or even fooled easily. This is the thread that binds the Indian voter from as diverse states as the ones that declared their verdict on Friday when the Assembly elections results were announced.

If we only glance through the results that came out on Friday, we may think that there is no relation between the verdict in the four states. The Left might have lost West Bengal and Kerala, but there is no apparent relation between the nature of the defeat in the two states, nor are there any similarities in the reasons of the defeat and its long-term implications. Tamil Nadu's electoral politics has a logic of its own. What happens in the distant Assam is neither known to the mainland nation nor has the state got any bearing on the major events that mark the Indian polity. Although the newspapers and TV channels love to link the verdict in the state to the politics at the Centre, we have often seen that such linkages are far-fetched and artificial.

Still, it can be easily argued that there is an underlying symphony that marks the 'dance of democracy', even if the rythm and moves of that dance may vary in the different Indian states.

The echoes of that symphony can be heard most loudly in Tamil Nadu. The ruling DMK leaders, in their naivete, believed that elections can easily be 'managed' by money power and the manipulations of coalition politics. The party thought it could bank on Karunanidhi's stature and his relatively better development works, not to mention the free TVs distributed by the party across the state. DMK had also entered into tacit alliances with regional caste groups. Reports also suggest that there were preparations to 'set' the voter as the polling day arrived. If you tried to corner a DMK leader on corruption, he would have ranted on how issues like corruption only concern the 'intellectuals' of the nation and that villagers and the poor don't care much.

It's the same 'wretched of the earth' in Tamil Nadu who have shown the door to the DMK. They may have happily accepted the colour TVs, they may have loved the wads of notes used to buy them, but when the Tamil Nadu voter entered the booth on April 13, he or she voted out of his or her own conscience. The Tamil voter objected to the way the Dravid movement was hijacked by the Karunanidhi clan as their personal property. They knew the DMK must be punished.

Sadly, the only option they had to fight the DMK was another Dravid party - the AIADMK. Sad because they knew that the party's chief J Jayalalithaa did not have the best of records when it came to corruption. They also knew that AIADMK too suffers from the culture of nepotism as much as the DMK. Yet the voter knew it was about time.

In Assam, political parties had been indulging in the politics of caste and fear for a long time. While the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) rallied for the Ahomia community, the BJP jumped to the 'defence' of the Bengali Hindus. Not to be left behind, Badruddin Ajmal of the AUDF claimed to speak for the Bengali Muslims. Congress, since the days of Hiteshwar Saikia, already had a history of exploiting the fear psychosis among the various minority communities in Assam.

In such a scenario, Tarun Gogoi dared to speak in a new language. Instead of exploiting the fear as well as the aspirations of a community for political gains, Gogoi made development and governance as his priority. With some help from the Centre, Gogoi succeeded in launching various schemes in the state, the benefits of which, undeniably, reached the common man. ULFA was brought to the negotiating table and a long and violent chapter in the history of Assam seemed to end. Gogoi, however, could not remain unblemished and there were reports of corruption from the state. Moreover, the Congress CM was also accused of playing the community card by pandering to the sentiments of the Assamese-speaking people. Nevertheless, the voter in Assam decided to give positive politics another chance and returned Gogoi with a mandate that has even surprised the most hopeful within the Congress.

Kerala may be a 'technical' victory for the Congress-led UDF, but it cannot be denied that, politically speaking, the verdict is a moral victory for the Left and more so for veteran V S Achuthanandan. After the 2009 drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections, everybody had written the Left Front off. The Congress leadership in Kerala grew complacent with the belief that the 2011 elections will be a cakewalk for the party. But the 87-year-old LDF leader, by his remarkable campaign in the state, made sure that the going was tough Congress. By exposing the corrupt Kerala Congress leadership, Achuthanandan brought Congress almost on the verge of defeat in the state. Achuthanandan reinforced the new idiom that has defined the Indian politics now: a government that performs is rewarded by the electorate, irrespective of the 'ideology' of the ruling dispensation. If the CPM had not dithered in backing Achuthanandan from the start, we would have witnessed another history in the making in Kerala.

The same Left, once the liberator of the West Bengal poor, had become their biggest persecutor. Yes, the Left Front, by its land reforms, secured the petty farmer and provided dignity to the working class in its 34-year rule. But the party soon became Stalinist in its approach; the monster grew so powerful that it started eating its own organs. The dogmatic Left refused to learn from the defeat of 2009, refused to change its organisational structure and worse, refused to shed its arrogance.

By the simple act of pressing of a button, the Bengali voter made sure the Left is punished for its arrogance and dogmatism. Not because the Bengali voter expects some miracles from Mamata Banerjee; not because it held grudges against the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government; not only because it was angry over what happened in Nandigram, Singur or Netai. The Bengali voter punished the voter because it wanted to use that political right which its counterparts in other states use every five years. He wanted to reclaim the right he had lost over his land and life. Mamata Banerjee is a reflection of that simple aspiration.

It's quite possible that the astounding aspirations of the Bengali voter might turn out to be a mirage. But the voter knows it's better to learn from mistakes than to surrender one's life to a party. Perhaps that is the essence of democracy. A Bollywood song had become very popular when the Left had taken over West Bengal: "ye jo public hai ye sab jaanti hai" (This public knows all). Today, it seems as if the voters in the four states took that old record out from its dusty archives and played the song back to their rulers.

First Published: May 13, 2011, 7:04 PM IST
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