ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
-A A +A

Virtue of Abstinence

THIS has been one general election the results of which were more or less known in advance. This would have been the case even without the numerous opinion and exit polls. As expected, the Congress has lost much ground. It has even failed to emerge as the largest single party in the Lok Sabha. Its tally of seats, which seems unlikely to exceed 140, marks its poorest showing ever in a parliamentary election, not excluding that of 1977 when the party had to face the backlash of Indira Gandhi's Emergency. Alongside, the Congress has been thrown out of power in all the states - Kerala, Haryana. Assam where it had been the ruling party and where elections to the state assemblies were held simultaneously. The BJP has something to crow about. It will be the largest single party in the new Lok Sabha and has an arguable first claim to being invited by the president to form the new government. It has also added Punjab and Haryana to the states where it is in power, though as junior partner in the new ruling coalitions. And in the all-important state assembly elections in UP to be held shortly, it will undoubtedly be the front-runner. All this notwithstanding, when more details about the voting in the elections are available, it should not be surprising if it turns out that, with the conspicuous exception of Maharashtra, the BJP has by and large failed to capture the political ground conceded by the Congress. That seems to have gone instead to an assortment of smaller regional parties whose tally, together with that of the unattached candidates, of something like 40 per cent of the popular vote must be seen as a distinguishing mark of this election in terms of what it says about the political dead-ends the larger national' parties seem to find themselves in. The stagnation is most evident in the case of the Janata Dal and the communist parties. The credibility of the easy approximation of the backward castes, or more often just some particular castes among them, with the poor and the deprived posited by the Janata Dal is patently wearing thin and is in desperate need of ideological refurbishing. In that specific respect, Deve Gowda's success in Karnataka in no way makes up for the tumbles the Dal has taken in UP and Bihar. As for the CPI(M) (and the Left Front generally), without a political partner this time to ride piggyback on in the rest of the country, the party has been confined even more firmly within its traditional enclaves of West Bengal and Kerala. This is all the more significant considering that the party (together with the rest of the Left Front) has had a full five years and a platter-full of the most juicy ideological issues profoundly affecting the lives of very large sections of the people handed to it by the Congress government's economic reforms.

Subscribers please login to access full text of the article.

New 3 Month Subscription
to Digital Archives at

826for India

$50for overseas users

Get instant access to the complete EPW archives

Subscribe now

Comments

(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Back to Top