Early trends in the polls – Congress in a leading position, but not really ahead

At this point, the trends in all the regional elections are pretty clear, and some of the expectations are coming true. The states which went to elections were: West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Pondicherry. The results in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu were the ones which were most eagerly awaited, because of the implications of these on national parties. And the results did not disappoint, since the outcome of the elections have shaken up many politicians, with the most deep impact on the Left Front which lost its decades old bastion of West Bengal, and also seems to be losing in Kerala, thus relegating it to a non-entity. What happens to the leadership of Prakash Karat may be an interesting side-story. The Communist Front will lose all its political powers after this election, but the gainer is not the Congress. Here is a more state by state analysis.

West Bengal: The Left Front in the state, who have been in power for the past so many decades (since 1977) have finally lost by a huge margin to the firebrand Mamta Banerjee. This was somewhat expected, although the margin of victory shows how the Left has been sidelined. This is even more incredible since the Left has a cadre based organization which was expected to use its measures such as force and organization to get people to vote on its side. However, the lack of development, faulty policies by the Left, and many misdeeds of the Left cadre have pushed the people to vote in enough numbers for Mamta Banerjee. The Congress also wins, but is mostly along for the ride by virtue of being coalition partners. The Congress would have been hoping for an election where Mamta does not have a majority of her own, but it seems likely that Mamta will get to that position, which puts her in an incredibly strong position in the state, and continues with her ability to even push her weight around in the center. The Left will have to wait for quite some time to see whether it can even think of a comeback.

Tamil Nadu: Tamil Nadu was the other incredibly awaited result, and it seems to have gone the way that a lot of observers thought it would. There was some doubt about whether there was a wave that was in force, and while pre-poll projections did not really conjure up a wave, the election results have put the AIADMK in a commanding position. Even before the elections, the DMK was withdrawing from its urban constituencies, and moving towards the rural area (with pundits claiming that this was because a rural electorate was supposed to be less worried about the 2G scam); however, in the end, it seems that the wide-spread feeling of a corrupt regime (in which the 2G scam played a stellar role) seems to have laid low the DMK (along with the Congress). The election results in the state will put paid to any theories that the Congress seems to have gained from these state polls. Hopefully Jayalalitha will also see that the state electorate is moving against worries of corruption and try to give a more honest governance.
This result will also put tremendous pressure on the DMK in terms of the 2G scam, since the Congress is now in the driving seat. There is no worry that a electorate seems to have forgiven the DMK in respect of corruption, and the DMK will now be dependent on the Congress to ensure that the 2G scam investigation does not engulf more people in the DMK (with the biggest worry about the wife of Karunanidhi being arrested, since she was the 60% shareholder of Kalaignar TV).

Assam: The Congress has retained power, and put all other claimants such as the AGP in their place. The attempts by the BJP to get a higher number of seats in Assam have been defeated, and the claims by Badruddin Ajmal are also not a worry as of now. Since the Congress is in power since 2001, and is set for another 5 years, it has a right to feel very good about this result.

Kerala: Kerala has a history of turfing out the ruling party and bringing in the opposition every 5 years, and this year, there was no discernible wave, and as a result, the election results seemed to be very tight, although now the results seem to be swinging the way of the Congress led UDF. The CPM leader VS Achuthanandan, who had to fight his own party as well as the Congress, managed to bring his party to a respectable position, but in the end, his party seems to be losing out by a small margin. If the UDF comes to power, one can be pretty sure that this will be the end of the career of VS Achuthanandan, since he is now 87 years old.

Pondicherry: Here, the Congress is tasting the bitterness of a close election, fought by a former Congressman, N Rangasamy, who left the Congress and founded the All-India NR Congress. Now, the AINRC allied with the AIADMK, and is giving a tough fight to the Congress-DMK front, but the Congress front is slightly ahead, and since the race is primarily between these 2 parties, the slight lead would be mostly enough to ensure that the Congress forms the Government.

The Congress on the whole is slightly positive from these polls. It held (with allies) the states of Assam, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu. It has held Assam, and Pondicherry, and will gain West Bengal and Kerala, thus decimating the Left. But it loses an important state of Tamil Nadu, and you can be sure that opponents will claim that Tamil Nadu was lost due to the taint of corruption. The BJP will see this loss of TN as a way to push the Congress on corruption, but its record in these states remains dismal (and may have actually gone down since it had more seats or votes in previous elections).

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