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Sunday, October 10, 2004


October 13th - Important day for Indian Politics

The Indian state of Maharashtra will go to the polls on Wednesday, October 13th to elect its next legislature. The composition of the outgoing assembly that comprises 288 seats - Indian National Congress + NCP alliance (133) and BJP + Shiv Sena (125) reflects the current national political composition. The Congress and its allies can deliver the BJP and its allies a serious blow by retaining control of the state. On the other hand a victory in this very prominent industrial state can breathe new life into a dispirited BJP alliance. The stakes are very high for Maharashtra in particular and the country at large.

Maharashtra, which has the second-largest parliamentary contingent (48/543), is a crucial state from an economic and social perspective. With Mumbai as its capital in some quarters this election is being seen as a referendum on the Congress (UPA) government's economic policies in New Delhi. This could at best be seen as a secondary issue. The people of the state will still vote on issues more directly affecting them. On social lines the Congress and the NCP have aggressively combated the exclusivitst politics of their opponents - both religious as well as regional. The Shiv Sena has been discredited over the years for its violence and intimidation against non-natives in the state. The opposition alliance has since moderated itself but only the polls will tell how sincere the electorate finds these steps.

Many reports suggest that both alliances have had to battle rebellions from dissatisfied segments of their own parties. Politically speaking the rebellions seem to have cancelled out each other. One thing of note that an article in today's Hindustan Times (by Pankaj Vohra) points to is that the top leadership of the BJP alliance has been absent or ineffective whereas the Congress has brought in its star campaigners like Ms.Sonia Gandhi and PM Dr.Manmohan Singh. This can interpreted in different ways.

I feel that the BJP has much more at stake. With their strength in the parliament significantly reduced they desperately need to win this election for meaningful political survival. A win for the Congress/NCP alliance would be a shot in the arm for the Manmohan Singh government. A much needed one for a government in office on a razor thin majority. So this election is important on many counts for observers within the state, within the country and for all of those outside India interested in following Indian politics. Check back with us at our India site for the results later this week.

The election season is heating up the world over. Democracies are on the move to declare their preferences that will determine the course of this young century.


NOTE : You can get a breakdown of the outgoing assembly by clicking here.

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