BJP emerges gainer but not the winner in Kerala bypoll Tuesday, Jun 19 2012 

O. Rajagopal on election campaign

Protest against Petrol price hike: BJP candidate rides bullock cart during campaign in the by-election from Neyyattinkara Assembly constituency in Kerala

The LDF has suffered a severe jolt in the by-election from Neyyattinkara in Kerala in June while BJP stood as the major gainer. Both the ruling and Opposition Fronts suffered erosion of votes in the election. The vote share of United Democratic Front (UDF) dropped from about 43 per cent to 40 per cent despite victory in the election while that of the LDF dropped from 49 per cent to about 35 per cent. The BJP’s vote share went up about six per cent to more 23 per cent.

The by-poll was necessitated by the resignation of Mr. R. Selvaraj as CPI (M) member of the Assembly and his defection to the Congress. When Mr. Selvaraj contested as CPI (M) candidate in 2011 under the banner of LDF, he had won a vote share of nearly 49 per cent. As Congress candidate now under the banner of United Democratic Front, his vote share has dropped to 40 per cent. So, it is a loss for all the parties except the BJP.

The BJP has gained from the communal divide caused by induction of fifth Minister belonging to the Muslim League into the UDF ministry. However, both the UDF and the BJP have gained from bigger erosion of votes from the LDF camp. This erosion should have been the effect of protest over the brutal murder of RMP leader T. P. Chandrasekharan and the issues raised by the murder.

The LDF lost votes from three groups— CPI (M) workers who sympathised with Mr. Selvaraj, supporters of line adopted by Opposition Leader V. S. Achuthanandan in the party and supporters of the party in the general population who were antagonised by the murder politics and other policies of the party. The last two groups either voted for the UDF or the BJP depending on their communal inclinations or apathy to the UDF. The UDF lost many votes to BJP as the majority community members turned away from the Front over issues like appeasement of Muslim League. However, it benefitted from consolidation of minority votes in its favour, when the BJP seen as making inroads into UDF support base.

Election results and terrorism Monday, Dec 8 2008 

The hand symbol of Indian National Congress

Many commentators are quick to say that the Congress victory in three States in the recent elections indicates that the voters were not influenced by the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. This may not be fully true.

We know that the tirade against politicians after the Mumbai attacks was mainly an upper class phenomenon. The common on the street shows much more resilience. For they live under one or other type of terror everyday. Thus the average Indian is less panicky about terrorism compared to, say, the Americans. So, he is capable of much more reasoned behaviour. This would have disappointed the terrorists besides the BJP.

The common man does not want India to declare war with Pakistan on the spur of the moment. He would have voted BJP if it was a war that he preferred. For the chances of a BJP going for war are much more than the Congress. He may also be aware that the State governments cannot declare war. They are also not directly responsible for the Central government’s failures.

Many also think that terrorism attacks began to spread from Kashmir to other parts of the country after the demolition of the Babri Masjid and Gujarat massacre. Ordinary man has enough wisdom to understand that bringing BJP to power is not the best way to reduce tensions. If at all the country is to declare war against Pakistan, who else is better than A. K. Antony and Sonia Gandhi to be at the helm of affairs? They would be motivated only by security concerns (and not communal factors).

Election symbol of BJPBut, we could still wonder why the common man did not react to the economic crisis and price rise. Well, the crisis is yet to hit the common man. It is the stock market players, realtors, banks and exporters who had been bruised badly. Moreover, farmers and others are now seeing the end of tunnel after the Central government pumped in money to help the farming sector and create rural employment. Those who look beyond their immediate welfare know that the Central Government is not responsible for the crisis.

The lack of voter response to price rise, however, look inexplicable. One reason may be that the real incomes of the people at middle and lower levels have gone up. Consequently, price rise is not a big concern as in the past.

It is notable that the voters have generally gone against regional parties. The Mizo National Front has been swept out. The ordinary Kashmiris has shown with their feet that they are not with the terrorists. (This is an opportunity that the Centre must know miss to settle the Kashmir issue once and for all.)

India is showing some facets of a slowly maturing democracy despite all our problems with the politicians and bureaucrats and increasing inefficiency and corruption in administration. Progress is marred only by lack of choice for the voters.

The only political victim of hartal (so far) Sunday, Nov 4 2007 

President of Kerala unit of BJP P. K. KrishnadasThe Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has dismissed one of its local members from the party in Thiruvanthapuram for assaulting a woman during the hartal called by the party on November 1.

The BJP State president P. K. Krishnadas said that Satheesh was being removed from the primary membership of the party for not abiding by party directive to the cadre that they should not cause difficulties to the public during the hartal. In that case, it is Krishnadas who should be ousted from the party first. He caused much hardship to the public at large by calling the hartal.

Anyway, the BJP ought to be commended for bowing to public opinion. This is the first time that any party had dismissed one of its members for violence during hartal/bandh. The party came under pressure from a campaign launched by the Indian Express and television footage of party supporter kicking the woman at East Fort in the city. Satheesh has since been arrested by the police.

Incidentally, United Democratic Front organised the largest number of hartals in Kerala this year. The year saw about 30 hartals by different political parties and organisations.