What is India Editorial
This year's results stumped all
forecasters, and media analyses of why the NDA fell have been far from
convincing, says ARAVIND SITARAMAN
Contrary to every
prediction—“scientific” or otherwise, the Indian election results of
2004 were a surprise that no one had even anticipated.
After all, the BJP-led NDA had performed very well in business, commerce,
trade, jobs, foreign investment, infrastructure, economic development, and so
on. For example, the inflation has been marginal despite extremely strong
growth of over 8%; interest rates dropped from 8% to 6% enabling many to
finance new homes, cars, and other consumer durables; the Sensex grew by over
20% increasing investor wealth and enabling companies to fund expansions in
India and overseas; exports had grown from 10% to over 17%; forex reserves had
grown from USD 23 billion to over 113 billion; and expenditure in subsidies
had grown over 80% despite a fiscal deficit increase of only 25%.
Foreign policy had never been better with relationship with the US taking a
deeper turn in the fight against terrorism, defense, economy, multi-lateral
initiatives, commerce, people to people interface, industry, etc; relationship
with China has graduated to a higher degree of understanding culminating with
the Chinese accepted Sikkim as part of India; the relationship with Pakistan
now has a roadmap that can be worked on. Clearly, in any democratic society,
this would be called good governance. Surely, in the democratic history of
India this has been the best performing Government.
It is interesting to read
post-election analysis—from the same folks who had predicted a landslide NDA
victory now actively trying to find reasons why people voted for the Congress.
The pollsters are busy cooking up excuses as to why people responded the way
they did to their questions in the pre-election and exit polls. Newspapers and
television stations are falling over each other to appease the new regime in
India and finding new reasons why the NDA lost. The underlying message is that
the NDA lost not because it had not performed well, but for other things it
did not do, or its underlying philosophy.
Many of reasons cited for
the NDA loss are their non-secular stance that evoked fear and anger of the
minorities, the lack of focus on agriculture, the pro-rich policies, their
focus on cities and neglect of rural India, and their disinvestment drive.
Congress sycophants say the charisma of Sonia Gandhi and her children
galvanized support for the Congress and their allies. Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)
and other radical groups of the NDA say the dilution of the Ram Temple
strategy caused the NDA’s downfall.
These are nothing but bogus
analyses steeped into conventional and in-the-box thinking. If the Indian
public was so against the NDA philosophy, why did they vote them to power in
1999 with a good majority? If the lack of focus on agriculture was true, how
come we have higher subsidies mostly to the agriculturists, higher production,
higher food stocks, and higher procurement prices? If the policies are
pro-rich how come there are so many middle class people (across the spectrum)
who are now able to afford cars, houses, consumer durables, cell phones, etc?
If the focus was the cities without any investment in the rural India, how
come we have such good roads, functioning hospitals and schools in most parts
of India? If the disinvestment policies were so bad, how come investors voted
with their pocket book and there was such a surge in foreign investment? The
claims by Congress sycophants and the VHP are obviously self-serving and it is
a waste of time and space to even comment on them.
The truth of the matter is
that the Congress and its allies did not win. It was that the NDA did not win.
So, instead of trying to figure out why the Congress won, it would be prudent
to focus on why the NDA did not win despite a very good performance at the
Firstly, the NDA alliance
was fructuous with the departure of DMK and its subsequent anti-AIADMK
coalition in Tamil Nadu. The Dravidian parties,
the DMK and the AIADMK,
traditionally had a 33% loyal voter base. Either party came to power because
of a divided opposition. With
the opposition parties banding together, the
AIADMK had no chance. Despite the anti-media activities and the anti-minority
perception of the AIADMK
Government, the state itself has seen large
development. When the DMK Government exited three years ago, the treasury was
industrialization was at a standstill, foreign investment was at a
trickle. All this has changed with the AIADMK. However, from the loyal caste
communal voting pattern of the state (and indeed the country), these are
There was no meaningful alliance possible in UP with the choice of Mayawati
and Maulayam Singh Yadav. With no grassroots party leadership in the cow-land,
the NDA did not stand a chance against the divisive politics in the states of
UP and Bihar.
Secondly, the India
Shinning campaign was seen by many as a completion of development and progress
of India. Instead of stating that this was the beginning of the century of
India, the NDA’s message was that India is already shinning so we do not
need to anything more. Even though prosperity and development had reached
many, the majority of the population had not visibly and personally gained
from these developments. This was exploited by the communists to portray the
NDA as the party of the rich.
Thirdly, the lack of
development outside Hyderabad by the Chandra Babu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party
contributed to an image that the NDA is pro-cities and anti-rural. When there
was a huge surplus of grains all over the country, farmers were committing
suicide because of indebtedness. Failure to tackle this with quick debt relief
programs antagonized the poor against Naidu even if his reign has been stellar
in governance and implementation.