Nationalising state elections: Old wine in new bottle..

MK Venu has this interesting article saying how the recent wins over state election are part of an old plot mastered by Congress Govt.

Narendra Modi has successfully used his currently high popularity rating to nationalize state elections. The outcome of the Maharshtra and Haryana elections signify this phenomenon.

The elections were fought entirely in Modi’s name and there was no established regional leader projected in either Maharshtra or Haryana which the BJP is normally known to do. It was always the Congress party which traditionally fought state assembly elections largely in the name of their national leaders like Indira Gandhi, or in later years Rajiv Gandhi and more recentlySonia Gandhi.

As a rule, the Congress never named its CM candidate. It was always decided after a state election was won. But now the BJP, under Modi’s strong leadership, is doing what Congress used to do – decide the CM candidate after an election which is fought in the name of the supreme leader! So in this narrow sense, the BJP may be getting Congressised!

And the Congress is under the threat of getting regionalized if one goes by the party’s rapidly shrinking footprint.
Congress needs to think very hard on how to reinvent itself in the next two to three years. It cannot simply count on Modi’s popularity coming down with passing years, as does happen with all leaders around the world. That will be a lazy political strategy.

The way the BJP has dramatically increased its vote share by two to three times in Maharashtra and Haryana, both traditionally Congress strongholds, does not augur well for the oldest national party.

Suddenly we are looking at reversal of trends from regionalisation to nationalisation:

Is something changing in India’s political landscape? After the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, an empirical study by the well known research organisation Centre for the Study of Developing Societies(CSDS) concluded that India’s Lok Sabha elections were the least “national in character” anywhere in the world.

The study said Indian politics had increasingly got regionalized. Even in Lok Sabha elections, votes were cast on regional rather than national considerations as local issues often dominated. This seemed evident because individually both Congress and BJP got no more than about 160 to 170 seats, on average, ever since coalition politics got truly entrenched post 1996. Parties like AIDMK/DMK, BSP,SP,TMC, JD(U), Akali Dal, Shiv Sena and TDP won Lok Sabha elections on largely regional considerations.

However, Modi is clearly attempting to reverse this entrenched tendency in Indian politics. Modi is not only trying to reverse the process of regionalization of national politics—which he has partially achieved with BJP getting 282 seats in Lok Sabha —he is now going one big step further by trying to nationalize local state politics by presenting his own over-arching vision of India as a new rising power based on inclusive economic development.

Though there is nothing original in this strategy but then Modi is currently making many old ideas seem original by creative repackaging. Therefore he chose to show his Madison Square speech in the Maharshtra election campaign! It would have been unthinkable for the Congress party to project Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s successful US visit in a state assembly election!

This is even more dangerous as Congress was always disliked by the business press. This kept the powers checked somewhat. But as our political press has become like the business press worried over its stock market returns over and above everything, things are going to be unchecked. Just keep markets happy and are free to do anything else. This is a game which the ruling class understands really well…Great times ahead..

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