May 17, 2007|
Uttar Pradesh - the learning curve
Spread over seven phases, India's single largest electorate of 100m, accounting for 15% of the national number, voted in a few changes in Uttar Pradesh. And as Uttar Pradesh has had the ability to raise issues pertinent to a national platform, the results of its state assembly elections are generally held to be a precursor to the general elections in India - due next by June 2009. From here to there we have seventeen other state governments getting ready to face their makers. Along with UP, 65% of India's eligible voters would have formalized their views on issues by the time the next general elections trundle in.
||Elections due by
|Jammu and Kashmir
Importance of being in earnest
Long renowned for its casteist voting patterns, UP this time round rallied behind the one party that allowed all castes to contest on its ticket, and the result has been a majority in the state assembly for the first time in many years. What you do once you are in saddle has proved, mercifully, to be the plank on which people voted rather than on the basis of their choice of deity or lack thereof. It was a resounding vote for better law and order and a clear marginalisation of the fundamentalist issues that have long plagued UP politics. Ms Mayawati won by relinquishing her backward caste card for a more peaceful and therefore progressive UP of the future.
No longer regional
The emergence of national level parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress was due to a divergence of agendas between the Centre and the states. Today with good economic sense coming back into governance at all levels, and the faster dissemination through the newer modes of communications bringing accountability into the systems, agendas have dovetailed. Everybody wants to maximise returns on all resources at their disposal. Most states, with improved fiscal prudence, have fared better than the central government in being able to live within their means. What's more the constitution has given states the prerogative to deal with issues related to agriculture, education and other basic social and economic infrastructure that touches lives directly.
So we have Ms Mayawati talking of giving the speech from the Red Fort come 2009. The so-called national parties like the Congress and the BJP no longer have any raison d'etre and so showed up in very bad light. The population is no longer in the thrall of India's first family. There is talk of elevating Mr Vajpayee to being the figurehead President of India. So who is left to lead us?
The answer lies within us. We Indians need vote for the parties based on their economic agenda. Next time the elections come around in your corner of India, ask them their stand on displacement of people and the fair value of land. The most scarce of all economic resources will cause the most heartburn. We can already see that in Nandigram and in Orissa and in Maharashtra. Ask for their plans to supply all with plentiful food and shelter. And power to keep our bodies cool and pockets full during the long and tedious Indian summers.
These would be the issues to focus on rather than the by-now-obsolete caste and religious structures.
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