Assembly Elections Are Over –
The Battle Now Begins for the Lok Sabha

If the terror siege of Mumbai had left the country in a state of shock, the verdict of the recent Assembly elections should have a sobering impact.
The overall outcome of the Assembly elections held in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram suggests gains for the Congress and losses for the BJP. Before the elections the Congress was in power only in Delhi, now apart from retaining Delhi it has regained Mizoram and Rajasthan. The BJP will have to content itself with Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
This election outcome has also challenged some rather well entrenched media perceptions about elections, the politics in these states and the present political situation in the country. The so-called ‘anti-incumbency factor’, invoked time and again by media analysts to explain election results and elevated to the status of almost an iron law, does not seem to have held good in these elections. The Congress has won in Delhi for the third successive time, the BJP in MP and Chhattisgarh for the second successive term. In the absence of powerful mass assertion and a viable electoral alternative, the ‘anti-incumbency factor’ by itself does not automatically lead to change even in a limited bourgeois context.
It was also commonly believed that the Amarnath land row in Kashmir and the issue of terrorism would yield considerable dividends to the BJP. In recent months, the BJP has once again been quite aggressive in invoking the bogey of ‘appeasement of Muslims’ and ‘persecution of Hindus’. It tried to justify the anti-Christian violence in Orissa, Chhattisgarh and elsewhere as a legitimate reaction to ‘religious conversion’ and the killing of an infamous VHP functionary in Orissa. The ATS investigation into the September 29 Malegaon blasts that led to the arrest of ‘Sadhvi’ Pragya Singh Thakur and Lt. Col Purohit was sought to be rubbished as a conspiracy to defame the Sangh and Hindu saints. And finally following the Mumbai terror siege, the BJP went into overdrive with its ‘fight terror, vote BJP’ call.
The results do not suggest that this entire campaign has yielded any electoral benefit for the BJP. No less instructive in this context is the debacle suffered by Uma Bharti and her BJSP, who only gave the BJP’s theme a more aggressive and shrill note.
A third hypothesis regarding the ‘bi-polar’ nature of politics in these states may still seem to hold good. But the gains made by the BSP and the relatively impressive performance put up by the CPI(M) in Rajasthan, where the party has won three seats for the first time, point to a growing third camp in a political environment otherwise dominated by the BJP and the Congress.
The script of the downfall of the BJP government in Rajasthan was being written for quite some time. The Raje government had become infamous for its feudal-monarchical arrogance, record of brutal repression and utter insensitivity to the problems of the masses. The anger of the peasantry and alienation of powerful social groups had made the end of the Raje regime a near-foregone conclusion. The repressive Raman Singh government of Chhattisgarh too deserved a similar fate, but in Chhattisgarh the Congress remained busy colluding with the BJP to sponsor the infamous Salwa Judum campaign and every other assault on democracy. The Congress thus had neither the organisation nor the necessary oppositional plank to oust the BJP in the state. In Delhi, the anger of the traders over the issue of sealing of shops had already been played out in the 2007 municipal elections, leaving the Congress on a stronger wicket vis-a-vis a confused, divided and faded BJP.

The refusal of the electorate to get swayed by the BJP’s high-voltage propaganda and fascist communal campaign has surely sent out a healthy message. But as long as politics in the country will remain polarised between the Congress and the BJP, and pro-US policies will dictate the economic and foreign policy agenda of the country, there can be no respite for the people in any key sphere of national life. As we begin a new year and start preparing for the coming Lok Sabha elections, we must make sure that the battle for reversal of existing policies and freedom from the American strategic stranglehold acquires an unstoppable momentum and takes the rulers to task for all their betrayals and lapses.