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State Elections

electionsA lot has been written on the recently concluded elections to the state legislative assemblies in Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Mizoram. Top leaders from the two national parties, the centre-left Congress and the centre-right BJP, burnt the midnight oil campaigning in these states. Local and domestic media followed their public appearances with frenzy, heightening the buzz around them.

Most states gave decisive verdicts. The BJP achieved thumping victories in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. The Congress managed to retain power in the politically inconsequential north-eastern state of Mizoram. Only in Delhi was the election result inconsistent.  The inconsistency perhaps stems from the state’s unique relationship with the centre. The newly minted mass leader, Arvind Kejriwal, made a dramatic entry here by bagging 28 seats in the 70 member assembly.

Elections to the Delhi assembly is said to be a precursor to the national general elections. The central government controls the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and also the Delhi Police, two important agencies that control land use and provide security respectively. These are pre-requisites for a free-market. Also, Delhi no more has a majority of government class residents. The rise of satellite cities of Gurgaon, Noida and Ghaziabad and their growth as business hubs means that Delhi has, in recent years, invited professionals from various walks from across the country. This changed profile is reflected in the present fractured mandate.

Policy Making

Legislative business is important because it facilitates economic liberalisation. It aids the expansion of private business by contracting the scope of government. The nature of Indian politics ensures that liberalisation proceeds slowly. It has earned India the epithet of the elephant in international relations.

Policy making in India is the prerogative of the government and it must seek sanction of Parliament. India’s fragmented politics means regional and not a cohesive national interest dictates policy formulation. It is also true that over the years opposition parties have opted to express vengeance rather than play the role of a constructive critic.

Like in several earlier sessions, no legislative work has taken place so far despite the winter session of Parliament beginning on December 5, 2013. The current 15th Lok Sabha is scheduled to be dissolved by the end of May, 2014.  In case early elections are announced, the government will have to call the Parliament at least once before the elections to pass the “vote on account”.

The Election Commission of India will announce the dates for the general elections most likely by March, 2014. The commission’s rules seeking to conduct free and fair elections, called the Model Code of Conduct, will come into force immediately.  It is hence likely that the current policy paralysis will ensue at least till a new government is formed at the Centre.

India Inc’s dream can materialise if an only if there comes a stable government at the centre. Many on the bandwagon are betting on Narendra Modi, a leader who has now donned the hat of a messiah. If the Delhi verdict is a sign of things to come, despite support from Indian industrialists, Indian and western media and also large multinational players, the BJP may find it difficult to make the cut.

The rout of the Congress, the only other potential provider of stability, is almost certain. The tragic decline of the grand party of India’s independence movement can only be checked if the mother-son duo do the party a big favour by stepping aside in favour of able and qualified senior leaders like Mani Shankar Aiyer. But it seems the Gandhi family is in no hurry to cede control. It is now said to be promoting Sushilkumar Shinde, the ineffective home minister, as the new face of the party.

Business must hence take a long term view. It must prepare to operate in an environment of suspended political animation at the central level.

It’s time to focus on states.

You can directly interact with the author on his email: narayananiti@gmail.com or tweet @narayananiti


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