Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Assembly Elections 2012: SP Storms Back to Power in Uttar Pradesh, SAD-BJP Creates History in Punjab, Congress Scores Hat Trick in Manipur

The Election Commission has declared results of the 2012 Assembly elections to five States. The Congress has come a cropper despite the party’s high decibel campaign in Uttar Pradesh, which was led by Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi and a galaxy of senior leaders, while in Goa the party has failed to reach, leave alone cross, the double-digit mark in the 40-member House, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sweeping the elections.
In fact, the most disastrous performance of the Congress has been in Punjab where the party had taken its victory for granted, fed by glowing feedback about its prospects from a host of sources, not excluding sections of the media.
In Uttar Pradesh it is Akhilesh Singh Yadav, the 39-year-old heir apparent of Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, in Goa it is Manohar Parrikar and in Punjab it is Sukhbir Singh. More important, voters have given their preferred parties a clear majority.
The SP’s landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh was a reflection that the electorate had turned the tables on the Bahujan Samaj Party for non-performance just the way the latter had mauled the SP in the 2007 assembly elections. The fact that both the national parties—the BJP and the Congress—failed to make an impression in Uttar Pradesh was a reflection of the desire of people at large to throw out autocratic Mayawati for which they felt the SP was her most credible adversary. The spectacular victory of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP combine in Punjab where the anti-incumbency factor did not work in favour of the Congress was the result of sustained hard work in wooing the electorate. In Goa, the BJP’s impressive win was a reaction to the corrupt rule of the Congress, while in Manipur, the Congress sway was never in doubt.
Uttar Pradesh
The SP — with its campaign led by Mulayam Singh Yadav’s son Akhilesh Yadav — swept Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) out of power in Uttar Pradesh and left the Congress reeling.
The SP, romped home after winning 224 of the 403 Assembly seats.The SP juggernaut reduced Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati from 206 seats in the outgoing House to just 79. The BJP’s tally came down from 51 seats to 47; while the Congress, which had 22 MLAs earlier, managed to add only six more to its kitty. Its alliance partner, Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal, won nine seats.
Akhilesh Yadav is clearly the man of the moment at the SP headquarters. The graduation from ‘bhaiyaji’ to ‘adhyakshji’ (state president) and now the possibility of ‘mukhya mantriji’ has been a long struggle for the three-time Kannauj MP. This was a battle he fiercely fought both on the streets and inside the family quarters, emerging the winner on both fronts.
In fact, the Congress not merely lost Punjab, but was also routed by the BJP in Goa. In the hill state of Uttarakhand, a clear majority eluded both the Congress and the BJP. Pre-poll surveys had indicated a clear victory for the Congress. The only consolation for the beleaguered Congress was its victory in Manipur, where it managed to retain power.
The Congress’ defeat was all the more severe as it could manage to win only two of the 10 Assembly segments which comprise the twin Lok Sabha constituencies of Rae Bareli and Amethi, the party’s pocket boroughs since the days of Indira Gandhi. Law Minister Salman Khurshid’s wife Louise was trounced in Farrukhabad, in third place after an Independent candidate and the BJP.
BSP supremo Mayawati was perhaps the first to suspect a huge anti-incumbency factor working against her government. She thus went to great lengths in an attempt to salvage her party with a massive ‘clean-up exercise’ involving throwing out of 23 ministers and dozens of legislators and replacing more than 100 sitting MLAs weeks before the Assembly elections.
That the SP surpassed the BJP's1991 tally of 221 seats achieved during the Ram wave speaks for itself. The BSP, which was uniquely placed with a committed core vote, has only itself to blame for squandering away a rare opportunity. Mayawati restored law and order and instituted several positive measures, especially towards the uplift of the Dalit community. But her achievements faded when measured against the corruption of the administration and her own perceived arrogance. In the end, the statues she built for herself became a metaphor for the regime's obsessive self-interest.
The belated damage control to distance her party from the corruption of its leaders did not cut ice with the state’s voters. The magic which she had woven in 2007 with so-called social engineering clearly remained an empty slogan this time.
Of the 403 seats, Mayawati had this time given tickets for 88 (21.83 per cent) to the Dalits, 113 (28 per cent) to OBCs, 85 (21.09 per cent) to Muslims and 77 (19.10 per cent) to Brahmins, 33 (8.18 per cent) to Rajputs and the remaining to those from communities like the Kayasths, Vaishyas and even Punjabis.
Among the many surprises that this election threw up was the Congress being wiped out from the party's so-called fiefdom of Rae Bareli and Amethi where the Gandhi-Nehru family had put its personal prestige at stake. The most embarrassing result was in Congress President Sonia Gandhi's parliamentary constituency of Rae Bareli where the party did not win even one of the five Assembly seats. In Amethi, the constituency of Rahul Gandhi, the party managed to salvage two seats of Jagdishpur and Tiloi while conceding to the SP the remaining three seats of Amethi, Gauriganj and Salon.
The SAD-BJP alliance made history by overcoming anti-incumbency to retain power for the second consecutive term, thus creating history in the Punjab electoral politics. By winning 56 seats on its own and with its alliance partner BJP winning 12 seats, this will be the first time in Punjab’s history that a ruling party has been voted back to power.
By wrestling 68 of the 117 Assembly sets, the Akali BJP combine has got a formidable lead over its main rival, Congress, which has won 46 seats. While three independents have won at the hustings, the Third Front under the banner of “Sanjha Morcha” has failed to get any seat.
The People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) which was part of the third front failed to open its account and its president Manpreet Singh Badal lost both Gidderbaha and Maur seats. In fact he was third on both these two seats. The SAD-BJP alliance won the contest, but several of its heavyweights fell. This includes Vidhan Sabha Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon and ministers, Hira Singh Gabria, Sucha Singh Langha, Tikshan Sud, Ranjit Singh Brahampura, Satpal Gosain. Arunesh Kumar, Sewa Singh Sekhwan, Upinderjit Kaur, besides others.
It was only a one per cent swing in votes that gave the SAD - BJP alliance a gain of 22 seats. The SAD-BJP alliance polled 42 per cent votes with the Congress getting 41 per cent of the vote share. The PPP got six per cent votes that damaged the Congress more than it could harm the Akali Dal. Independents and others according to initial reports secured 11 percent votes that upset many poll calculations.
The Congress stormed back to power in Manipur for the third consecutive time with a clear majority, helped by a fragmented opposition. Manipur came as the only solace for the Congress which clinched 36 of 52 seats in the 60-member house and was leading in five of the remaining eight seats.
Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh won from Thoubal and his wife O Landhoni Devi from Khangabok.
The Trinamool Congress, part of an 11-party Peoples Democratic Alliance which came into being very recently, sprang a surprise winning seven of the 48 seats it contested. It had a sole member in the outgoing House.
Other partners of the alliance together with the Trinamool Congress were able to secure only 16 seats. The Manipur State Congress party won four, the Naga Peoples Front three and NCP and LJP won a seat each.
The BJP which contested 19 seats drew a blank. The CPI, which was a former coalition partner of the Congress in the erstwhile Secular Democratic Front failed to win a single seat.
The Congress has been set to emerge as the single largest party in Uttarakhand, enjoying an edge against ruling the BJP in a nail-biting finish for half-way mark in the elections to the 70-member Assembly.
Out of the 60 results declared so far, Congress won 27 seats and was ahead in five others while the BJP bagged 28 constituencies and led in three.
The biggest setback for the BJP was the defeat of Chief Minister B.C. Khanduri who was defeated by S.S. Negi of the Congress from Kotdwar seat by 4,632 votes.
The BSP won three seats and three independents emerged successful, thus positioning themselves as possible kingmakers. The Uttarakhand Kranti Dal-Panwar (UKD-P) won one seat.
The Congress suffered its worst-ever defeat in the Goa Assembly elections. The BJP, riding the anti-incumbency wave against the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party's (NCP) “corruption, misgovernance,” won a clear majority with 21 seats in the 40-member House. The BJP's ally, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), won 3 seats. Two Independents supported by the BJP also won.
So severe was the mauling for the ruling coalition that as many as eight of the 11 Ministers, including both NCP Ministers, were defeated. While the Congress won just 9 out of 33 seats it contested, the NCP failed to get even one of the seven it contested. Five independents, two of them Congress rebels, and two MLAs of the Goa Vikas Party (GVP), a regional outfit, also won capitalising on the anti-Congress mood.
The five independents who won are Vijay Sardesai in Fatorda, Naresh Sawal (Bicholim), both Congressmen denied tickets; Benjamin Silva (Velim) and Avertano Furtado (Navelim), both supported by the BJP, and Rohan Khavtye from Porvorim.
So decisive was the mandate for the BJP-MGP combine, following a very high turnout of nearly 83 per cent, that except for Micky Pacheco, former Tourism Minister (Nuvem), and Caetano R. Silva (Benaulim), who won on the GVP ticket, no other regional outfit or new entrants like the Trinamool Congress or independents fielded by village groups could make any adverse impact.
The BJP — which hitherto got only Hindu votes, while the nearly 27 per cent Catholic population looked at it with suspicion and traditionally rallied behind the Congress-NCP alliance — for the first time found a massive mandate from across the communities.
Other Perspective

Undoubtedly, the 2012 Assembly elections have been free and fair, and the Election Commission deserves all the kudos. But when money, caste and religion come into play and make a mockery of polls, can they be called free and fair?
The poll results for the state Assemblies of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur cannot hold much cheer for the Congress, which heads United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre. Barring the state in the Northeast, where the party retained its government with a thumping victory, in the other states its performance has been well below par.
The UPA government had come under considerable pressure on a variety of counts for the past one in particular — the high prices of goods of everyday consumption, the breaking of corruption scandals which fed the anti-Congress Anna Hazare campaign whose reverberations were felt throughout the country, and the political oneupmanship of UPA partners, particularly the Trinamul Congress, which stopped the government from pushing a policy quotient that might have brought credit to the government and the Congress as a party. For the Congress, the negative implications of these developments have not been politically neutralised through face-saving poll results at the state level in elections taking place approximately half way through the second term of the UPA.
Demand of the Situation
All eyes will now be on the Manmohan Singh government at the Center which has run half its term. The UPA has indeed been in a state of siege with a surfeit of corruption scandals sullying its image. If the Congress-led combine was looking for redemption from this round of assembly elections, the results are a major disappointment. The fact that the SP does not need Congress support in the State would render its support to the UPA uncertain. In the event of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress pulling the rug from under UPA’s feet, the federal government could face a crisis of survival if the SP support is not forthcoming.
The common people have been unsparing in their verdict on several outgoing ministers, refusing to elect them. Several Congress heavyweights, including the outgoing Deputy Leader of the Congress Legislature Party, have also been rejected. Personal nominees of former chief minister Narayan Dutt Tiwari, who is said to have arm twisted the party into fielding them, have lost and so have the young faces from the Youth Congress, foisted ostensibly at the insistence of Rahul Gandhi.
However, that is not how the people will perceive the performance of the Congress whose campaign was led from the front by Rahul Gandhi. Bagging 28 seats for the party after addressing 218 election rallies in 48 days is not something that he can flaunt as electoral success.
It can be said that the present Assembly election results as stunning would be an understatement given that incredible stories have emerged in at least three of the five States that went to the polls over the past six weeks. In other words, the verdict is a devastating blow to the Congress.
Results At A Glance
Uttar Pradesh: (403) SP 225, BSP 79, BJP 47, Congress 28, RLD 9, Others 15
Punjab: (seats 117) SAD 56, BJP 12, Congress: 46, Others 3
Manipur: (60) Congress 42, AITC 7, NPF 4, MSCP 5, LJSP 1
Uttarakhand: (70) Congress 32, BJP 31, BSP 3, Others 4
Goa: (40) BJP 21, Congress 9, MGP 3, Others 7

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