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Elections: The Andhra Pradesh Verdict

May 12th, 2004 · No Comments

The end came quick. The use of Electronic Voting Machines in the Indian elections meant that in a few hours after the counting process began the decade-long regime of Chandrababu Naidu was over. Naidu went the way of Digvijay Singh in Madhya Pradesh in December last year – both were voted out of power after two terms (ten years) in power. A year ago, they were both seen as the two model Indian chief ministers. So, what went wrong?

I will discuss the national implications later in the week. In a day, we will know the national verdict in the Indian elections – all indications are for a hung Parliament. This has already spooked the stock markets, which fell 4% on Tuesday after a 2% fall on Monday, and are down more than 10% since in the past few weeks.

Back to the question. What went wrong for Naidu, and before him Digvijay Singh? In two words, rising expectations. While there is an anti-incumbency element (people’s desire for a change), there’s much more to it. People want a lot more and a lot faster. They want a basic quality of life that most of the Indian governments have still not been able to deliver. Development for the most part has been uneven. In a democracy, there is “one person, one vote.” And sometimes, we living in the cities forget that there is another India that has barely changed. [Read my “Rajasthan Ruminations” written after a visit earlier in the year.] Education, Electricity, Water, Opportunities – we are still not able to provide these to the majority of Indians. And the elections are the only time they can have their say.

One positive outcome of the elections will, hopefully, be that India needs to develop faster, not slower. Politicians and those in power have five years to deliver. As a commentator on TV put it, “Bharat has sent a message to India” – meaning rural and the less privilged in urban areas are telling the elite that they do not want to be left behind.

Maybe, I am reading too much into the elections. But, I think the time has come for a transformation in rural India – that is the core which can also bring better quality of life in urban India by not just stopping but also reversing rural-to-urban migration. This is where Atanu’s RISC (Rural Infrastructure and Service Commons) model comes in. I hope some of the people in power read the paper and execute on it.

India needs change not between two generations, but between two elections. That is the only way to guarantee success at the polls!

Some other opinions on the Andhra Pradesh elections:

The Hindu: “After nine years in office, the Chandrababu Naidu Government has been emphatically voted out of power because it neglected basic issues relating to electricity, irrigation, unemployment, education, and inadequate social security for farmers and artisans. The character of the verdict makes it clear that much more than an incumbency disadvantage was involved. What Andhra Pradesh experienced was a powerful negative vote against the imbalance between World Bank-led models of economic reform and the imperatives of welfare in a society where deprivation is a non-shining mass reality. Four consecutive years of drought, mismanagement of the relief measures, and apologetic implementation of anti-poverty programmes such as `Vegulu’ only compounded the ruling party’s woes. The strident negativism of the TDP’s campaign backfired badly.”

Sanjaya Baru writes in The Indian Express:

Naidus vision will remain APs vision, but the Congress party will now have to re-work the political route to that vision.

Congress party spokesman and thinker Jairam Ramesh put it well when he told The Financial Express that in policy terms the Congress will offer Naidu Plus to AP, not Naidu minus. That is, the good work done in IT, in bio-tech, in institution building, in urban development, PLUS focus on areas he had neglected like irrigation, agricultural credit and rural infrastructure.

{The likely new chief minister] YSR Reddy will be Naidu plus Digvijay, says Ramesh, pointing to the fact that Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh had, in fact, focussed on the rural development to the neglect of power and roads, while Naidu is accused of focussing on power and roads to the neglect of rural development.

This, however, is easier said than done. The state government needs financial resources to deliver and the coffers are empty. Reddy will have to be more imaginative and less populist than he has been so far in crafting a policy for sustaining the states development momentum.

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