The recent state elections had a lot to say. Their consequences are as yet unclear in terms of the impact on general elections, but there is an atmosphere of change that may have seemed little more than a dream in the past. There are mixed signals that came from these elections. First, the victory of Mamata Bannerjee’s Trinamul Congress in West Bengal was a watershed moment. The Communist party’s hold on the state seems to have been shaken off. The party’s uninterrupted 34-year run ended in a landslide win by the Trinamul Congress, who received 220 seats, where the communist party received only 65. The poor economic performance of the state could have motivated the result.
There is good and bad here. The climate in Bengal is hostile toward new industrial development because farmers have precious little land as it is and are unwilling to give it up. The Communist policies were in keeping with this, and that was one reason businesses could not establish facilities in the state, and this was retarding its economic growth. Thus, Mamata Bannerjee’s victory seems like it could change all that. However, she has been a strong advocate against industrial facilities opening in West Bengal, and headed the sometimes-violent protests against the Tata Nano plant, which was consequently not opened.
The results in Kerala were also somewhat surprising. The Communist party was ousted, and the Congress was brought in by a narrow margin. The educated and often disgruntled Keralite voters tend to change governments when they are dissatisfied, but the Communists had held power for five years. The Economist (http://www.economist.com/node/18587059?story_id=18587059) had addressed the likelihood of a change in April, but few thought that it would be by such a narrow margin. Kerala benefits greatly from globalization, and the election of the Congress as well as the decline of the Communist rule seems to indicate that voters are aware of this. Rahul Gandhi played an important role backing candidates in Kerala, so it will be a hit to his Prime Ministerial aspirations that these candidates went largely unelected.
In Tamil Nadu, results were dim for Congress, but perhaps otherwise uplifting. The DMK was drummed out, and the AIADMK was ushered in. This doesn’t bode well for the Congress because DMK are a part of their coalition government. While a loss for the Congress, this change is uplifting because it seems to be motivated by the disgust and outrage generated by DMK’s A. Raja and his involvement in the 2G scam. The Congress also lost power in Pondicherry. Their relief seems to come from the support they have received in Assam, where the efforts to create and maintain a stable environment by holding talks and convincing militants to lay down arms have been popular and well appreciated.
Voters have focused mostly on local issues, but there have been national trends. People are outraged about corruption, and Congress has felt that backlash. Furthermore, despite an economic growth rate of 9%, not everybody sees the benefits because of the rising prices of food and fuel. This expression of dissatisfaction is good. It is a wake up call to the current government, and a warning to the opposition too. There is, however, still a trend of voter loyalty, and voters being vulnerable to populist strategies. It is important to remember that voting is nuanced, no matter how black and white it may seem. Each candidate from each party has his or her stand to make on all sorts of issues, and Indian voters are waking up to that fact. Know Your Vote is here to help that process along, and to help you make informed decisions. Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and keep an eye out for us at a College near you. We’re coming soon and we’ll be making noise so that you can be heard. Join the movement, Know Your Vote.