Indian voters keep its democracy vibrant

Jobs, inflation, law, and order were high on their list of priorities

By Simran Sodhi

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People wait in queues to cast their votes at a polling station. Photo: Reuters
People wait in queues to cast their votes at a polling station. Photo: Reuters

Published: Mon 12 Dec 2022, 8:26 PM

It’s been quite a week in Indian politics. With the Municipal Corporation (MCD) polls in Delhi and two State Assembly polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, everyone has been following the fortunes of various political parties in the fray. While the MCD polls in Delhi went to the Aam Adami Party (AAP), Gujarat gave the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a landslide win, and Himachal chose the Congress. In a sense, all three parties had cause to rejoice and introspect on their performances.

In Delhi, where the MCD polls were almost like a State Assembly fight with the BJP getting cabinet ministers and other top party leaders to campaign, AAP won 134 seats out of a total of 250. The BJP controlled the Delhi MCD for the last 15 years and the AAP victory proved even sweeter. The Congress with just 9 seats, meanwhile, proved its growing irrelevance.

The people of Delhi have highlighted one key factor: good governance and delivery of services matter. So whatever critics may say, the fact that Kejriwal and his party have delivered on their promises of free and cheap electricity, an impressive makeover of Delhi’s education system, and most importantly, a public perception that Kejriwal and his party are corruption free, saw people supporting the jhaddo (broom, the AAP party symbol).

In Gujarat, almost everyone bet on the BJP winning but what surprised many was the impressive numbers that the party finally got. Despite battling anti-incumbency, the party scored an impressive seven-time win in the state, bagging 156 seats out of the 182 on offer. The party campaign in the State was spearheaded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. The Congress, by contrast, seemed to have given in without a fight as Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra simply skipped the State. The party nevertheless managed 17 seats in the State.

Himachal Pradesh went to the Congress party, giving the Grand Old Party some much-needed relief and cheer. It won 40 seats with 25 going to the BJP and AAP unable to open its account in the State. The BJP, meanwhile, was quick to point out that in Himachal its vote share was a mere 0.9 per cent less than the Congress’s share of 43.90 per cent. The BJP was close behind with 43 per cent.

As the results now sink in and one looks at how the people of this country have voted, one thing is clear: The electorate is much smarter than most political parties assume. The fact that all three major players tasted victory and defeat at the same time is the biggest lesson here. The public has judged each party on its own merit in each State. In Delhi, people seem to have chosen a party that delivers. In Gujarat, the son of the soil has been given a huge mandate. In Himachal, the Congress win is good news for Indian democracy. The people of Himachal have also sent out a message that the electorate will reject what it sees as incompetent leadership and governance, even if at the national level, they might still endorse Modi.

Next year will see Assembly polls in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The AAP will try and expand its national foothold, especially in Rajasthan where a weak Congress is its best adversary. The BJP, with its strong organisational network, will make sure each party worker and leader is on the ground as they strive to achieve a Congress-mukt (free) Bharat. The Congress party, now in power in three states after the Himachal win, has to perform or perish. The public want strong leadership and PM Narendra Modi’s persona will likely outshine that of other leaders. But as Delhi has shown, a good fight can change political fortunes. And last but not the least, the public is a good judge and will vote on merit. Jobs, inflation, law, and order will be high on that list while ideology cannot be wished away in a polarised climate. A perfect mix for a healthy, vibrant democracy.

- The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi

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