Friday, May 13, 2011

No impact of corruption charges in state elections.....not even in TN

The voters did send a message to the political class yesterday and they did so in a clear and loud voice! They voted the winning parties to power with huge majorities. Mamata got a 77% share of seats (3/4th win) and Jaya 87% (more than 5/6th). Such huge victories can prove to be disastrous in themselves. However, the purpose of this note is not about the problems that large mandates can create; it is to prove that in these elections, corruption hasn’t been an issue. Local issues have been the basis on which voters have voted.

Let’s start with TN. This is a state where the public has always voted en-masse. The winning party has always won with huge margins. Further, since 1984, voters have always voted out the incumbent government and asked the other party to rule. In 1984, 1991, 2001 and now in 2011, it was the AIADMK’s chance to rule. In 1989, 1996 and 2006, it was the DMK’s. Usually, the winning party has pulled in a huge number of seats. The winning party won 195 seats in 1984 (AIADMK), 150 seats in 1989 (DMK), 224 seats in 1991 (AIADMK), 221 in 1996 (DMK), 196 in 2001 (AIADMK), 163 in 2006 (DMK) and 227 now in 2011 (AIADMK). So there is nothing unusual really about the results in TN this year.

Political commentators have tried to analyze the TN results as being a slap on the face of the DMK and a punished for the havoc caused by Raja in the 2G case. But nothing could be far from the truth. Even without the 2G issue blowing up in its face, the DMK was destined to lose given the weight of empirical evidence from the pasts. Nothing could have saved them the blushes this time! Even the margin of their loss is no indicator of the “wrath” of the people. There have been bigger losers in the past in both the main parties. There is no co-relationship with economic growth either. Or with the quality of administration. The state is one of the faster growing states and is known for its good administration. TV commentators were totally off the mark yesterday when they kept on harping about the voters having voted against corruption. As usual, they were speaking without doing any analysis! They were interpreting it this way because they wanted to interpret it this way. There is no truth in it at all. There is hardly any message coming from TN against corruption. It was a regular polling year. Change for the sake of change!

In WB – the story is vastly different. There was tyranny in WB. The Left parties had been ruling the state as tyrants for the last 34 years and had been winning with huge margins because of questionable means. Just look at the number of seats won by them in the last two elections. In 2006, they had 233 seats and in 2001, they had 199 seats. In WB, the high number of seats did not mean the same thing as it meant in TN. Here it was indicative of the kind of goonda raj that existed. The Left parties were like a mafia in operation.....rigging polls to perpetuate a rule, that was increasingly unrepresentative of the people’s wishes. The present election in WB can be called a revolution since its sweeping away a hegemony of the past. It’s a testimony for the independence and strong will of the Election Commission which was determined to conduct a free and fair poll this staggered the elections over six rounds. It unfortunately, is not so much a positive vote for Mamata and Congress as it is a negative vote for the Left. The strength of the anti-Left sentiment is so strong that 26 sitting ministers – including the CM himself – have been thrown out of power.

Most people I speak to say that Mamata is going to ruin the state further. She’s considered to be a “destructor” – much like our media today (!). She hasn’t demonstrated abilities to be a “creator”. Even as the Railway minister, she has had a lackadaisical time. The question before her is: Can she forget all that she has stood for in the past, and now work towards creating a better future for her people. If her politics continues to be about opposing the Left, the people of WB would have been let down. And they will come down hard on her the next time. Mamata will be severely challenged. The huge win she has got could make her behave in as high handed a manner as the Left did in its time. This high handedness won’t come will slowly creep in. The TMC is today in a position to pass any bill it wants to in the assembly. It doesn’t even need the Congress as an ally any longer. By itself, it has 62% of the seats in the assembly. In the name of good governance, the party will be tempted to pass acts that could upset a lot of people. Most people expect the Left to come back to power after 5 years.....let’s see what happens.

Again in Assam, there was no evidence that corruption had any role to play at all. The Congress won for the 3rd time.....and this time, by a thumping majority. Rather unusual for Assam. But equally, one cannot say that the people have ignored the role of the Congress in the various scams. All that it means is that local factors – mainly peace issues this time around – have played a bigger role in Assam.

It’s only in Kerala where I feel that the Congress suffered on account of the corruption issues. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, it had won in 100 assembly seats. This time around, it barely managed to scrap through with 72 wins. Again, this is a state which has always opted for a different party after every five years. This time also, the Congress managed a win because of this factor.....not because of its own strength. In fact, it has performed really poorly compared to what was expected of it.

The real truth is that corruption hasn’t been a major issue at all in the state elections. Especially so in Tamil Nadu. Political commentators on TV channels (and newspapers in many cases) are wrong in attributing the TN rout of the DMK to corruption. The state is known to opt for a different party every time and brings that party to power with huge majorities. The only state where corruption appears to have had some impact is Kerala. But then again, Kerala’s weight in national politics is rather small....


  1. PP - u could give Manish Tiwari a run for his money !
    What comes first - ppl. comfortable with corruption are comfortable with Congress or because they like Congress, they take a lenient view towards corruption ?

  2. I have always said this Paritosh....People want economic growth, peace, better quality of life etc. Corruption in reasonable measures is acceptable to people. Don't forget "almost all" people (and I say this with balance) are corrupt in India. I am talking of tax avoidance and not just bribing others. They don't want corruption of very high magnitude....but they understand that powerful people will be corrupt....