Elections 2009: What’s Different from 2004?

Even as Obama takes oath to become the 44th president of the US, India is gearing up for its own election season. Sometime in April-May, hundreds of millions will vote in the general elections for the 15th Lok Sabha. It would have been hard to imagine five years ago that the Congress would have been able to stay in power with a cobbled coalition for the full term, but they did — even as they switched partners from the Left to the Samajwadi Party towards the end. So, as we look ahead to the elections this year, what has changed since 2004? Here are some of my thoughts:

  • 2009 will probably see a more fragmented verdict than 2004, making the task of government formation harder. In 2004, the Congress got 150 seats, the BJP 130, the Left 60, and about 200 went to various other parties. In 2009, I think the Congress-BJP combo will probably again find it difficult tocross the 300 mark. One big factor is the rise of the Bahujan Samajwadi Party in central India. For the Congress to come back to power, they will need to at least get 150 seats and then work on putting together a coalition. I think the bar for the BJP is much higher — it needs to win 200 seats on its own. Like last time, pre-poll alliances will make a difference.
  • There is a distinct possibility this time of a non-Congress, non-BJP government at the centre, with Mayawati hoping to do a Deve Gowda. If the BSP wins 60-80 seats, she will get support from the Left, and then it can all be up for grabs to get to the 270-mark.
  • The economy is on a down trend, as against the uptrend of 2004. The last year has posed many challenges, and the present government has not handled them well.
  • There is a heightened civic consciousness among citizens, which has grown in the past couple years. I think we will see higher voting percentages this time around. It is not clear who will benefit from this. This engagement is especially higher among the Youth.
  • Getting voters out on the big day will matter since one can expect some smaller parties and dissidents to also contest and split the vote, thus reducing victory margins and putting more seats in play.
  • Both the national parties have a Prnce-in-waiting (Rahul Gandhi for the Congress, and Narendra Modi for the BJP). If either of the Congress or BJP comes to power, expect a mid-term power transfer.
  • On the tech front, I think mobile marketing will play an important role, given that 300+ million Indian voters have a mobile in their hands.
  • Finally, there are the “Learnings of Obama” — I am sure all parties have studied what Obama did in the past 2 years in the US. But one has to be careful innot overplaying the Obama card. India’s election process is different. So, one has to also know what will not work in India.

I think the Congress (as Incumbent) will benefit from playing the same game, while the BJP needs to focus on “Disruptive Innovations” as the Challenger. All in all, it will be a fascinating 4 months – with the elections, and the negotiations to form a government.

What do you think will happen in the elections? If you were strategising for any of the political parties, what would you do?

67 thoughts on “Elections 2009: What’s Different from 2004?

  1. Hi Rajesh,

    I conquer with your analysis I think this is the RIGHT time for BJP to get MODI in the front NOW, this would have a more conclusive effect on the elections rather than a HUNG house, regardless of who wins!!

    I think the next 5 years the undertone of the WORLD is going to be HARD-LINE.

    Its going to be really interesting times as I think in less than a decade there would be serious power shifts in the world which would begin soon and I hope we have someone strong and rational to make sense of it.

    I prey for our sake that we don’t get a nit-wit who comes into power! ATM I can’t see Dr. Manmohan Singh as my PM he’s too (for the lack of a better term) NICE to run the country! and deal with a NEW World which has started to transpire.

    Best Regards,

    Satyam Bachani.

  2. If I am a strategist I will use the magic genie the mobile , as Rajesh would say ,to speak to my people. It will become the tool to start conversation with them.

    To start.

    1. I will initiate a viral marketing to get all the mobile numbers of the constituency. I will give people free talk time if they agree to subscribe to my channel. They will keep getting free time as they continue to participate in the conversation. The conversations will be in local language SMS. The conversations will make or break my election chances.

    2. In the conversation with the people if I am a existing MP and nominated again I will ask people feedback of my work. I will do SMS polls asking for the best and the worst achievements. I will calibrate my campaign with the feedback I am getting. Free talk time will keep coming as the conversation goes on.

    3. All these information needs to be rolled up to a centralized database on which the top bosses should keep an eye rather than spending time with sychopants who may have no idea of ground reality.The grand oldies should keep an eye on this gold mine to come up with their manifestos and keep calibrating their strategies.

    3. Also like Obama ,the central command as they say in India ,can try to find out the best person suited for the job by asking people much earlier. The nomination process can be people driven.

    Rajesh – I can already see a product which can be used by political parties to win elections and this product will have good market as we will be having elections all through out the year 😉


  3. Also , the conversations which a party has with the people needs to be ongoing. This can potentially change the way politics is done in India and if it happens, it will be really “What an Idea”.

  4. If BSP is going to win 60-80 seats then if I am a Congress or BJP then I will offer her the deputy Prime Minister post , a Dalit president and seal the deal.

  5. hi rajesh after long time after deshaa. times of 2004 i am commenting on your page..

    anyways your blogging on political matter also is great..and has improved a lot from 2004 but BJP should know how to loose their communal image.. that is the biggest challenge, biz people are least of voters.. they should do great reach out to islam and say they will solve the kashimir issue.. this is what will make them win.

  6. Pingback: Global Voices Online » India: Predictions for The 2009 Elections

  7. I think Congress will form the govt…it will maintain its tally or lessen it slightly..SP might gain in partnership with congress..and they might eek out the same numbers they have now..

    even if they dont..left will support them with some pre conditions..to avoid bjp from coming to power..

    bjp doesnt have enough coalition partners…no partner in andhra..bengal..tamilnadu..kashmir..UP..it will be quiet a challenge to get all these party on board..

    having said that…there will be more pulls from partners in next govt..which will affect the performance of the main party

  8. My gut feeling is like 1996 and 1999 elections in 2009 elections too Chandrababu Naidu will play a crucial role in National Politics.

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