Friday, May 13, 2011

See how smart the voters are!

Whoever thinks that the election process in India is imperfect should eat humble pie today. At the time of the discussion on the Lokpal bill, some of those who commented on my posts complained that elections in India don’t reflect the real opinions of the people. That elections in India are flawed. That money power buys votes. They used these arguments to justify the dictatorial approach that Anna Hazare took. And to justify why they themselves didn’t participate in elections.

Just look at the early results. All these “armchair” critics are being proved wrong even as counting is progressing furiously in all the five states where elections were held:

In TN – to which state the key perpetrator of the 2G matter belongs – the DMK and the Congress alliance are likely to be voted out of power. This, in spite of allegations that the DMK distributed cash like never before. Shekhar Gupta on NDTV was dead right when he said that voters are not stupid – we (in media) are. His argument was that people would take the money from whoever gave it to them, but would vote for the party they wanted to vote for. And he rightly pointed out that if money power could buy votes, then the ruling party (which had access to the most funds) would never lose. Clearly, TN voters – who, some say are the smartest of them all – have clearly shown what they think of the DMK and the Congress. More interesting though is that the bigger harm has been delivered by them to the Congress. Difficult to understand this. Raja’s party appears to have been punished less; their partner punished more. We’ll have to wait and see what the reasons for this are.

Look at Kerala. A state which has traditionally voted out an incumbent government. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the voters in Kerala had given a huge thumbs up to the Congress – giving them as many as a 100 assembly segments. Post the 2009 elections, the Congress got embroiled in major corruption controversies. The voters have kicked the Congress hard....and have refused to give them a majority (or best may give them a thin one). The fact that the Left has held on to Kerala or has gained since 2009 shows that voters care for corruption issues and will vote out those who they are unhappy with. This is more powerful than Anna Hazare’s blackmail. And it is the right way to function in a democracy.

Look at Assam. The Congress looks like retaining power in the state for the 3rd time in a row. Political commentators are saying this is the peace-dividend that the Congress is reaping. They have been talking to the Ulfa and the people of Assam believe that peace may return to Assam after a long time. Clearly, for the people of Assam, this is more important than anything else including the corruption charges. This also shows that people care more for peace and economic prosperity before they care for the more evolved subjects like corruption. Clearly, people would tolerate a bit of long as there was peace and economic prosperity.

In WB of course – where the biggest battle is being fought – the Left is being booted out and how! As I wrote in my post a couple of days back, the Left have destroyed the pride of the Bengalis. It’s not so much economic’s about putting the Bengalis – amongst the most intelligent of all people in this country – behind their counterparts in the country. It’s the assumption of absolute authority that has upset the people the most. The urban areas had rejected the Left a long time the rural areas have also done the same. This is a revolution....what happens once Mamata takes over is unknown. But what is clear is that the people don’t want the Left parties to rule. It’s not that clear however if the people of WB have rejected the Left ideology....some say that Mamata is more Left than even the Left parties. If this is true, WB will remain a communist state.....let’s wait and see what Mamata does now. Her likely Finance Minister – Dr. Amit Mitra – is surely not known to be much of a socialist thinker (in spite of his Delhi School of Economics education!).

The real truth? Don’t think elections don’t deliver. They do. Don’t think voters are fools. They are not. Don’t think democracy is dysfunctional in India. It is not. Those who don’t vote should now either start voting....or at the very minimum should start believing in the verdicts that come out. Cynicism is certainly not on. The other real truth is that no party can take its power for granted. Parties that become arrogant will be voted out. Parties that work for the people will be given multiple terms. This is how mature we have become as a country. The results today....irrespective of our party affiliations....are a reason for celebrations.

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