The 15th Lok Sabha Election was quite a spectacular one in terms of the uprise of new parties and the third as well as the fourth front and also with the increasing number of independents. The election results also came out to be quite unpredictable and unexpected. Many incumbent parties and leaders faced a major setback and surprisingly in some places the ruling parties gained very few seats. In spite of all these blows the Congress party seems to have succeeded in winning the confidence of the masses and emerged victorious in this unpredictable political game with Dr. Manmohan Singh being the second prime minister to continue in office after being re-elected.
The primary reason behind this victory, going by any yardstick, has to be the overriding view among the electorate masses that only the Congress can provide a stable and secular government. Then comes the track record of Manmohan Singh as well as the schemes and plans of the Congress such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) and the bank loan waiver, which benefited the masses. The shift of the Muslim vote towards the Congress in many places also proved crucial for Congress’ victory in the election. The community felt let down by the parties it supported in the last two decades such as the Lalu Prasad Yadav led Rashtriya Janata Dal(RJD), the Mulayam Singh Yadav led Samajwadi Party(SP) and the Mayawati ledBahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Moreover, the election issues held up by the NDA against the UPA government such as the internal security and bringing back of black money from the Swiss Bank did not generate much popular appeal, since they themselves were accused of such issues when ruling. The differences within the party, lack of a potential and mass approved Prime Ministerial candidate, the manner in which Varun Gandhi was condoned by the party members, the open tussle between Party President Rajnath Singh and General Secretary Arun Jaitley over organizational preparations for the elections in Assam and the manner in which they ridiculed the Congress Party and its leaders, especially Sonia Gandhi boomeranged. The presence of several regional spoilers, who took the form of new political parties, helped in weakening the adversaries of Congress and hence, led to/ handed down this verdict. Ultimately it was the confident leadership put in place by Sonia Gandhi, supplemented by Rahul Gandhi’s effect, particularly in Uttar Pradesh that raised the prospects for Congress.
Congress swept the polls in Rajasthan and Delhi and wrested a number of seats from BJP in Madhya Pradesh. This election saw a loss in the footholdd of the Left parties in Kerala and West Bengal, which turned the tables for Congress in these two states. The Congress and its ally, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) performed surprisingly well in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu respectively. This was to a large extent contributed by the Third Front Parties, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazha (AIADMK). This was mainly helped by the State spoilers in the form of new regional parties, the Chiranjeevi led Praja Rajyam and the Vijayakant led Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagham (DMDK). Interestingly those parties which left the Congress to manoeuvre the polls separately suffered serious blows. The Fourth Front formed by Lalu Prasad’s RJD, Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Mulayam Singh Yadav’s S.P., was the biggest sufferer of this kind. Their failure notched up impressive gains for the Congress. Congress’ gains in UP also amounted tremendously.
The two states able to withstand the Congress’ assault were Bihar and Orissa held on tight by Nitish Kumar led NDA and Naveen Patnik led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) respectively.
The performance of the Third Front in the elections cannot be entirely ridiculed. For beginners they did quite well. Their not gaining much was mainly attributed to the public perception that the constituents of the Third Front will not be able to rein together in matters of policies and decisions. Also, there seemed to be a lot of eligible prime ministerial candidates. The unity and the reliability of the Third Front was doubtful.
Since the Congress has now risen as a strong party with a leading majority in spite of the adversaries there lies a greater responsibility to live up to the faith and expectations of the large sections of the electorate. Though they have established themselves, the victory of the Congress cannot be concluded as a splendiferous one. It’s just that the people have wisely chosen, the better amongst many,but who knows when the tide will turn.