India says no to religious politics as Congress surges ahead nationwide

May 17, 2009 at 7:31 am (BJP, Congress, elections, india, voltairespriest)

Finally, after quite literally weeks of voting in the world’s largest general election, India has given its verdict. In defiance of every opinion poll prediction of a “cliffhanger” result, the ruling United Progressive Allliance led by the secular Congress (I) Party has won a clear victory, dealing a crushing blow to the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies. Once again, presented with a free choice, Indian voters have rejected the politics of myopic communalist bigotry and chosen a political path which separates religious belief from political practice.

As the complete results show, the Congress alone has won more seats than the BJP and its allies combined, marking a shift away from the recent trend of regional powerbrokers holding the national parties to ransom as they scrabbled to form governments. Further, Mayawati Kumari (the first Dalit regional premier and leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party) has been frustrated in her ambition to hold the balance of power or even the premiership, which must surely come as a blow to India’s sculptors given the amount of statues of herself that the old charlatan might have ordered. Indeed, the fading of the regional parties’ influence can probably be seen on balance as a positive, showing that people voted out of concern with national political issues rather than with local or communal/religious interests at the forefront of their minds.

As well as the welcome battering of the communalist parties, some of the Congress’ gains have come at the expense of the Stalinist-led Left Front, whom they have trounced in Kerala and (in tandem with their rather politically eccentric allies in the Trinamool Congress) even gained some strength against in the Communist stronghold of West Bengal. It was a bad night overall for the Communist Party (Marxist) leaders of the Left Front, who dropped 27 seats, mainly in Kerala and West Bengal. This perhaps reflects the CP’s establishment status in both states, as well as an evident national mood to vote the Congress back into power.

Overall, what does it mean? The Congress, with its history of dynastic governance by the Gandhis and its increasing neo-liberalism in policy and practice, will not provide an emancipatory politics for the Indian people. However the fall of the “Saffron” Hindu nationalists can only be welcomed by people who support the absence of religious influence from the State that is secularism in its true form. Whether a truly progressive national force will emerge that is able to transcend the semi-feudal politics of the Congress or the bureaucratism of the Stalinists, remains to be seen. Here’s hoping.


  1. maxdunbar said,

    Yay! Another humiliating defeat for the parties of God.

  2. voltairespriest said,

    Quite. I’m no fan of the Congress but it’s no bad thing to see the various political spawn of the RSS getting a kicking.

  3. Left Outside said,

    I am not sure that its fair to describe the Congress party as neoliberal. The neoliberals would love them to be because they want India to be their shining neoliberal example. India is not a neoliberal country by a long chalk.

    In any case I hope that Congress use their mandate wisely.

  4. voltairespriest said,

    I think the economic direction has been pretty clear since the Narasimha Rao regime, in which of course Manmohan Singh was a big wheel. It’s mainly been a matter of slow progress since, partly because of the initial deal with the Left Front in 2004 and then because of internal and external issues since.

    Either way the Congress isn’t the sort of grass-roots organisation which the left strives for.

  5. entdinglichung said,

    the defeat of the “Left Front” in Wesy Bengal is mainly a result of the repression against the peasant movements in Singur and Nandigram (against land theft for industrial development) and against the tribal movement in Lalgarh (against police brutality), unfortunately, the bourgeois Trinamool Congress benefitted from it … the stalinist (“anti-stageist”) Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) won one seat in West Bengal in a “tactical alliance” with the Congress

  6. Jenny said,

    I hope this marks a change in the way the caste system is viewed, it’s still rather popular.

  7. entdinglichung said,

    good comment by Sukla Sen on the perfomance of the “Left Front”:

  8. Conrad Barwa said,

    I think it is unfair to castigate Mayawati, though she has been an incompetent leader; she still represents the vehicle for the bulk of rural Dalits in states like UP where they face social oppression and violence on a daily basis. Hopefully the BSP will be able elect a more suitable leader.

    I don’t see the move away from regionalisation as a positive one; neither the Congress nor the BJP have proved to be truly federal parties when they had national majorities so regionalisaton is the only way states outside the heartland can express themsevles properly at the federal level. In anycase it is only in the Left bastions and UP that Congress could be said to have done well; elsewhere regional parties still dominate.

  9. In This Dawn « Max Dunbar said,

    […] does Arab democracy mean Islamist government? The evidence is unclear. In recent elections in India, in Lebanon, in Indonesia and in Iraq, the parties of God went down to defeat after humiliating […]

  10. In This Dawn « Shiraz Socialist said,

    […] does Arab democracy mean Islamist government? The evidence is unclear. In recent elections in India, in Lebanon, in Indonesia and in Iraq, the parties of God went down to defeat after humiliating […]

  11. Constin said,

    The Congress has always stood for secularism.. Now that it has returned with a thumping majority, I hope that this government will be in a better position to address the problems faced by the minority groups in a much more effective manner..:):)

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