Too early to write off India’s Congress-led coalition

May 26, 2008

Is the sun setting on the Congress-led UPA government? India’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is certainly riding high after victory in the southern state of Karnataka at the weekend , giving it a first chance to run a government in the south.Party workers of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) light smoke flares to celebrate the party’s victory in the state elections in Karnataka, outside the party’s headquarters in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad May 25, 2008. REUTERS/Amit Dave (INDIA)And it’s the latest in a long losing streak for Congress in state elections. The question is whether the ruling party can turn things around.

The economy certainly isn’t helping. Rising inflation seems to have already wiped out whatever electoral benefits the farmers’ debt waiver might have brought. A slowdown in growth, already apparent in industrial production statistics, won’t help either.

So the first problem for the government is to bring down inflation in time for next year’s national polls.

For now, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is sounding optimistic, and a favourable monsoon would certainly help. But there is little relief on the horizon from global oil prices, and the government may soon have to bite the bullet and raise domestic fuel prices again.

Reining in inflation will be tough, but not impossible over the next year.

On the political front, all the momentum is with the BJP.

At times, Congress looks disorganised and rudderless. In several elections, Congress seems to have paid the price of failing to nominate a candidate for the chief minister’s job, and relying too much on the pull of the Gandhi family.

At the very top, many analysts are asking if the prime minister has provided the kind of strong leadership his country needs.

But a week is famously a long time in politics, let alone a year. State election defeats don’t bring down governments. It is how the parties react to these mid-term verdicts that can make a real difference.

And it is here that Congress has its chance. The BJP-ruled states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh go to the polls this year, and if voters turf out the incumbents in all three, the BJP could indeed lose some of its shine.

Let’s not forget that only a year ago the BJP was beset by infighting and divided over what its electoral USP was — development or Hindutva. The ageing L.K. Advani does not always strike the right chord with voters across the country, and it is far from clear Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi will emerge as a politician who can garner national support.

I have yet to see a national opinion poll which predicts a clear win for the BJP and its allies. The UPA is losing ground, but the BJP still has a lot of work to do to regain the top spot.


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We will give full support bjp led govt. to form and i it will take our Nation to developed,prosprous,Humble country. self defencing country,by this hoping you will remove unemploymet problem.economic stability, in this hopy we always support BJP.
Jai Karnataka

Posted by vittal n telkar | Report as abusive

The lack of delivery of basic amenities and infrastructure is of more importance to voters than the social sector schemes instituted by the central government. At the state level, this is compounded by caste factors. But Karnataka’s voters have voted decisively in favor of development and stability.

Posted by dealer | Report as abusive

Looking at the Congress led Gov one can not put all the blame on them for high gas prices and inflation. It seems like the common voters in India are ignorant of the global hike in gas prices due to demand and supply. In the US there has been a huge increase in gas prices over the last few years and they dont seem to stop. The India gov can not do any thing about it and if they do it will be worse as that means GOV is taking tax payers money from some where else and artificially (Subsidies) keeping the price low which in turn creates huge losses in the millions or even billions of dollars over the long run.
One thing is for sure ever since Congress led gov came back in power communal tensions have been low and if they seen to rise they are very quickly put down thanks to the quick reaction from the federal gov.

India can never become a developed nation if there is going to be communal riots and killings . BJP/nationalist party has never been known to support communal harmony and in its 5 years rules we saw a huge rise in communal killings in India. There strategy to rule India is by the use of divide and rule policy which the Brits used very successfully in India for over 100 years. .

Posted by Raj | Report as abusive

If BJP in power, once can assure more terrible and communal riots in the country which lacks country’s development.

Posted by PATRIOT | Report as abusive

BJP in power in Karmataka is dangerous. One can never believe this party. They will govern less and try to implement ‘Hindutava’ ideology. Secularism and brotherhood of all communities will take a back seat and what will come to the fore is hatred towards minorities and progressive organisations and individuals. But it also needs to be mentioned that the BJP has won because of the opportunistic policies of Congress and JD-S. Will they prove they are any different from the BJP, remains to be seen?

Posted by Neeraj Nanda | Report as abusive

The editor is absolutely right in saying that this win does not provide any clear indication of the future. National elections in India are an aggregate of all state elections and given that no one party can get a majority on its own, the right alliances make all the difference. I am surprised by some reader comments on the whole secularism thing. Why do people fail to understand all parties act in their own interest and not that they care about ‘minority welfare’. Congress ruled this country for more than 40 years; inspite of all the recent progress, we are still pretty much bottom in all human development indices.
All sorts of communal killings need to be condemned and so do the thousands of deaths due to lack of any social security provided by the government. What if some leader tries to flare communal tension – why can’t Hindus and Muslims ignore that and hold leaders accountable for governance. Why don’t we demand good roads, power, infrastructure, healthcare as much as we demand a temple or a mosque. Recent elections have shown no party can get away with just communal talk, people slowly want real development and any government – either BJP or Congress that will fail to do will be voted out of power. I just hope people use their heads and demand good governance and not get carried about by ‘secularism’.

Posted by Govind | Report as abusive

Some readers are repeating the same nonsense that congress has been propogating for all these years. Secularism is the worst infection India has got since Independence and is the reason it is still not Superpower. Indian Secularism in not genuine secularism like US, France or other western countries. It is faux secularism, like Indian faux journalists.

Posted by Harry | Report as abusive