Saturday, May 16, 2009

[UPDATED 5/17/09] Indian Election Flash: the Congress in U.P.

I'll admit it: the Congress looks set to win a lot more seats in Uttar Pradesh than I (or anyone else) had expected. [NDTV is currently projecting around 20 seats for the Congress in the 80-seat contingent the state sends to the Indian Parliament, more than twice as many as the party won in 2004.] The big question is whether this heralds some sort of revival for the Congress in India's most populous state, or if it is just a blip, with 20 seats basically the Congress' "limit" in the state -- too early to tell, although it speaks volumes about the extent to which the Congress has fallen away in the Hindi heartland over the last two decades, that losing three-quarters of the seats in U.P. seems like a stunningly good result for the Congress in the state.

But certainly I am chastened enough by these results to lay off on pooh poohing the Congress' U.P. prospects for -- oh, a few days. To the extent this mini-revival is due to real party-building efforts at the grassroots by Rahul Gandhi (as I write this the Congress' Anand Sharma is on air giving credit to the Gandhi scion for his work in U.P.; it's impossible to know how seriously one can take these sorts of pronouncements, given the culture of sycophancy that is by now intrinsic to the experience of being a Congressman), I might well have under-estimated Gandhi's taste for the unglamorous grind. If so, that would be a faint glimmer of hope, beyond these election results -- Indian democracy can only benefit from healthier political party structures, that aren't simply extensions of the leader at the party's core (i.e., structures of the sort that may be seen at present only in the Left Front and the BJP -- although the influence of various Sangh organizations on the latter is of course highly problematic). Who knows, perhaps the Gandhi family might even decide democracy is a good idea within the Congress party.

May 17 UPDATE: Here's some more color in response to the various media pronouncements about the Congress' revival in Uttar Pradesh (click on the link, select Uttar Pradesh from the drop-down menu and check out the various parties' voter-share): in the sort of disheartening result the first-past-the-post electoral system makes all too possible, the Bahujan Samaj Part won one less seat than the Congress -- despite garnering 50% more votes than the Congress. Comparing the 2004 results from the state (see here, pg. 125), it seems that the Congress has increased its share of the U.P. vote by approximately 50% (the BSP has also increased its share, by roughly an eighth: see here, pg. 123; by contrast, the BJP has declined from over 22% of the vote-share in 2004 (see here, pg. 122) to 17.5% in 2009).

1 comment:

Pratik Rangunwala said...

Congress is leading everywhere, very influential indeed.