INDIAN ELECTIONS May 18, 2009Posted by wmmbb in South Asia.
The governing party has been returned in results from the Indian Election. Such a vote of confidence might not have been expected given the effects of the global financial crisis and Mumbai terrorist attacks.
Such is the diversity of India that even with a simple plurality (winner take all) electoral system no one party governs in its own right. Party coalitions are formed before the election, and extended to widen the coalition that forms the government. Regional parties take on significance in the national result.
After a month of elections, the results are now in. The Lok Shaba has 543 seats. The United Progressive Alliance, which includes the National Congress Party, has 257 seats, an overall increase of 78 seats from the 2004 result. Congress seems to have done well in Uttar Pradesh and especially Delhi. There was a significant gain in seats by Trinamool Congress (TC) in West Bengal (Calcutta) at the expense of the Indian Communist Party (Marxist). The National Democratic Alliance, with the nationalist Bharatiya Janata as the major party went backwards in terms of seats. In this election they won 158 seats whereas in they gained 174 seats, although one coalition party increased their representation from 8 to 20 seats. The parties of the Third Front lost a 25 seats, most significantly in West Bengal. Whereas the Others and Independents lost 38 seats, from 108 they had in 2004, some of these parties will now form part of the government.
According to Harish Khare writing in The Hindu it came down to perceptions of leadership, as often happens in Australia. He explains how the opponents of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attacked him as weak, which had the effect of drawing the Congress together in support, including the Nehru-Gandhi family. It seems, according to this report, that middle class voters liked what they saw in the incumbent:
Over the past five years, Dr. Singh succeeded in calming the nation’s collective nerves, especially in the face of repeated terror attacks. Now his presence as the Prime Minister seemed to have had a reassuring impact way beyond New Delhi’s chatterati, as the nation tried to come to terms with a global fiscal crisis and economic slowdown. As a group of Muslims in eastern Uttar Pradesh told a colleague: “Sixteen major banks have failed in the United States; not a single Indian bank has folded up; all because we have had Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister.”
Interestingly the government intend to pursue economic reform, which as everywhere is code for financial deregulation. So if that is correct, it will be interesting to see how that works out. At the same time India has a problem of poverty, which the Government will have to address.
One point of interest is that whereas the BJP is a “Hindu” party there does not seem to be a Muslim party, which in no small way is a triumph of Indian democracy.
The Indian election took place in the context of the widening Afghan-Pakistan War which by some accounts is due to “the Taliban” and by others due to misguided imperial interference. However, the defeated parties in India, in particular the BJP have taken their electoral defeat in good grace and set themselves to understand where they went wrong. As the Obama War against the Pashtuns and their other tribal allies in Afghanistan and perhaps Pakistan continues it can be expected to loom larger on the Indian political radar.
At the same time, their may also be implications for Indian policy following on from the defeat and the aftermath of that defeat of the Tamils in northern Sri Lanka, with allies across the strait in Tamil Nadu who may be part of the new government coalition.
John Lee, visiting fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, via The Sydney Morning Herald, gives his view of the significance of the Indian Election, principally it seems in terms of India’s place on among the white pieces of the international strategic chessboard.
I am not sure where to put this piece by Hilzoy at The Washington Monthly. India always suggests with Pakistan. The enmity, such as it is, may not be as deep-seated as often suggested, although Kashmir is a sticking point and perhaps an excuse. But lets not give up on Pakistanis, as this report suggests a group young, privileged Pakistanis decided on direct action, or is an example of constructive program?
At Democracy Now, Balmurli Natarajan provides commentary on the Indian Election highlighting the fact that the BJP has not lost too much electoral ground. He makes the point that the election is not a vote for neo-liberalism.