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Monday, May 10, 2004


The counting begins...

With counting of the national elections still a couple of days away (May 13th) the counting of votes in the crucial southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh is now underway. This is for the state assembly elections.

These results have a bearing on the national outcome as well. The performance of the Telegu Desam Party, a key coalition member of the outgoing BJP-alliance at the central level, will be a good indicator what its new strength is going to be when the parliamentary counting gets underway. A loss in numbers will directly mean a weakening of the BJP front. To be noted here is also the expectation of a dismal showing of the BJP in Tamil Nadu (another south Indian state)where it got together with AIADMK.

If these losses do materialize than the hung parliament prediction will definitely gain weight. The latest NDTV poll does put the BJP alliance about 30 seats short of the majority mark and the Congress alliance another 30 or so behind the BJP. But the Congress alliance does not count the outside support the Left parties have already consented to. The Left's final strenth will be between 40 and 50. So, the final numbers will determine everything. It's like a basketball game in the 4th quarter with 30 seconds remaining and one team has a 2 point advantage. In basketball terms its a one possession game. If the other team scores they could tie or win the game. The Congress is clearly trailing but a late surge could see them through or force overtime, which would mean hectic coalition parleys for both alliances.

Before I close it is important to look at the Andhra Pradesh results in another light. The Telegu Desam Party leader Chandra Babu Naidu had made it into a priority to make Hyderabad, the state capital, into a global hub for technology and backoffice work a.k.a outsourcing. Many of his critics said he put too much emphasis on that and ignored the rural areas where farmers committed suicide because of the extreme poverty they found their families in. They blamed it on the negligence of a government that they badly needed to help in times of natural calamities like droughts. These results, if they hold up, will be a vote of clear dissatisfaction with a policy-maker with a unidimensional approach to development. He may have made the upper middle-class proud and the free-market fundamentalists happy but the ones that counted most for him... are showing him the door. It is important to point here that there is a serious move for the Telengana region in Andhra Pradesh to become a new state. That separatist sentiment gave the Congress a key ally in these elections - the separatist flag carrying party, Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS).

The excitement has just begun. More to follow....


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