Oct 11, 1999|
Winner takes all
So yet another election is out of the way. And the BJP and its allies will have close to 300 seats (56%) of the 537 seats contested for in the Lok Sabha. The BJP, itself, will have only 182 seats (34%) but it will be the single largest party. And the Congress, confused and yet to find its identity, will have 112 seats (21%) although it got some 40% of the votes and earns the distinction of being the second largest party in India's 13th Lok Sabha.
But the parties that really matter are the regional parties (TDP - 29 seats) and the regionalised national parties (CPM - 32 seats). These smaller parties will control 243 seats (45%) and are just short of being a majority on their own! Of course, there is nothing in common between most of these 43 smaller parties and independents so such an assumption of a "Third Front" is merely an exercise in numbers. But in many ways this election was also an exercise in already-known numbers. No one expected the BJP to win on its own. And no one expected the Congress to win on its own. And everyone expected the "Third Front" to lose seats and votes. Well, those "Third Front" parties continue to hold the key to who stays in power.
Then why the election? So that we, the people can decide what is best for us. And we have decided. Dr Manmohan Singh is out (nice man, wrong party), Mr Chidambaram is out (nice man, wrong party) and Mr Sinha is in (nice man, wronged party). No, no the votes were not a vote against the reforms, but very much against the wrong parties that people chose. In any case, Mr Sinha and his wronged party have won. And have gotten off to a high octane start. Their announcement of diesel price hikes was astutely done while the votes were being counted: this way the newspapers are too busy to write about the price hikes and the markets are too focused on celebrating the re-election of the BJP-led 19-party alliance.
But the day belongs to the BJP. They have won. And now they can enjoy the fruits of their victory and watch Mr Vajpayee being sworn in as Prime Minister for the 3rd time. First time he was in for 13 days, next time for 13 months, this time it is the 13th Lok Sabha. Something about that number 3!
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