Sometimes you get a feeling that things are changing(for good). Recent assembly elections was one such moment. High voting percentage, debunking the myth of anti-incumbency and appreciation of leaders who delivered were prominent take-aways. I’ll try to group together the things which were different:
1. First one definitely has to be high turnout of voters. Earlier high turnouts were normally because of some emotional issue or strong desire for change. But high turnout here means something more important. I means that more people are engaged. One way to look at it is that if I did not go vote last time but went this time around, there can be many reasons but one of the possibilities is that I believe that my vote matters. This is a simplistic way to put it but the bottom line is that people are more aware about their rights (and hopefully about responsibilities too).
2. Second point is more like change in quality of governance : Try to remember when an incumbent government went to election saying – ‘See you are better today than what you were 4/5 years back and we have contributed to this change so please vote us back to power for your good.’ I remember PV Narshimha Rao doing it in (1996) elections, though everybody gives him and Manmohan Singh credit for changing India’s economic condition back then, but they were not voted back to power. Mr. Vajpayee primarily with the help of Pramod Mahajan tried to convince people that India was shining and even though they had quite a few things to show on their report card, people did not buy their campaign. But it was pleasant surprise to see Sheila Dixit, Raman Singh and Shivraj Singh Chouhan making their work a show point of campaign and coming back to power. People recognised development in Delhi, perhaps basic infrastructure growth in MP and grassroots development in Chhattisgadh. In the most basic terms it means that people perceived their work in last five year praiseworthy. We must understand that they did not and could not solve all the problems but they did enough to convince people that they ha d done their bit. This means those five years were well utilized in terms of growth and development. Their must be something about Sheila Dixit that she keeps winning elections after elections. May be it is as simple as doing the work you are supposed to do, pretty much the same way that Paulo Coelho says regarding the huge success of Alchemist that ‘secret of its success is that there in no secret’. Similarly for the success of seemingly low profile leader Raman Singh and Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
3. Another interesting point was that local issues indeed mattered in state elections and that is the way it should be. Mumbai did not affect the result in later states a lot . Not to say that whatever happened in Mumbai on 26/11 is not relevant but just to say that state elections are about local issues loksabha election for national ones. It is as simple – say if the road joining my village to the district headquarter deteriorated across the board, somebody should be held accountable and I won’t mind if that is my local MLA (more so if he has nothing else to show). I would definitely be worried about the Mumbai attack but unless it is state elections in Maharashtra, I’ll relate it more with national election. But sad part is reverse is not true and we have seen in past that local issues become the issue in loksabha elections and verdict is fragmented.
4. I’ll keep this post short , will add one more point – How will this result reflect in upcoming loksabha elections All I’ll say about right now is that most probably result s in these states will be similar but that doesn’t mean much. Two big parties there INC and BJP on their own will struggle to get magic figure of 273 and lot depends on wha t happens in some of the states where picture is not clear – for example Andhra Pradesh(how big a force Chiranjivi will be ?), Bihar(how do people give credit to Nitish kumar for work done vs. the grief brought by flood ), who Ms. Mayawati eventually sides with, what will be victory margin of party winning in Maharashtra and who gains from the probable decrease in number of seats of Left. But we still have some time for that and things will shape up in due course .
You can look back and feel good about this event and we should also thank Election Commission for the tremendous job. It is not for nothing that this body is respected so much. The way elections were held has changed tremendously since T.N. Sheshan and others who have taken the legacy further. Though election commission could not do anything about it but one hopes that result in J&K were less polarized and in not so many phases.
. Surprisingly we never see a wave for pro-incumbency. You can justify in a number of ways why it is not there but the bottomline is that it is not there.
. Another reason for higher turnout may be increased participation of new voters(those who were voting for the first time).
. Though not related here to Indian political scenario, but Bill Clinton did go to elections for his election in second term saying the same.
. Only others winning three terms have been left in WB and Narendra Modi. But WB has hardly any progress to show and Modi’s mention normally drives extreme reactions and needs more than one post for unbiased assesment.
.Delhi may spring some surprise though
 Later has to do more with security