Elections – 14th Lok Sabha 2004 – An analysis

By

Maj. Gen SCN Jatar.

 

 

Introduction

A large majority of Indian voters is anxious mainly about food, drinking water, clothing and shelter.  The reader should view the results of E-2004 in the perspective of these basic concerns of the citizen.  Although the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has a working majority in the Lok Sabha with the support of the Left Front (LF), the stability is fragile because of many anomalies that exist amongst the constituents and more so in the perceptions of the LF.  It is essential, therefore, to answer the question: what is ‘people’s mandate’?  Does this government have the mandate based on its working majority?  Should we define a ‘mandate’ on the vote share, or on the number of seats?  Should we take into account the contribution of the LF, especially because 54 out of its 61 members defeated Congress candidates in bitter contests? 

The triumph of the Congress + is largely due to the Congress win in Andhra Pradesh, the DMK’s win in Tamil Nadu and NDA’s all round losses due to anti-incumbency.  Although the post-Godhra riots went against in Gujarat and UP, it was not the main cause. 

The elections threw up two controversies pertaining to the Gandhi family: Ms. Gandhi’s foreign origin and the significance of the ‘charisma’ of the ‘family’.  Sharp divisions have surfaced in the Indian polity due to these controversies.  

The question as to who would lead the break up, the NDA or the UPA remains unanswered.  Power will hold the UPA together.  The increasing proportion of seats won by the BJP to that of the NDA could well motivate the BJP to separate from the NDA.  There are, however, more chances of the UPA doing its full term. 

How does the Indian voter exercise his franchise?

The four Cs: caste, community, cash and charisma, are the four major factors that go to make Indian elections.  With 56 % literacy, out of which half can barely sign in their mother tongues (in other words, they cannot ‘read and write’); those who vote are incapable of understanding the larger political, social and economic issues or national security matters.  The focus is on their immediate concerns of food, drinking water, clothing and shelter.  On a rough estimate, thus, only about 28 % of the electorate is enlightened.  Not more than half of this populace vote.  This translates into 14 % of the voters, who are concerned about long-term political, social, economic and national security issues.  These 14% are irrelevant!  Talk of the common voter being sensible & discriminating, though largely illiterate, is rubbish.  Otherwise, would he elect, time after time, candidates against whom there are charges of cheating, murder, assault and fraud?  Our feudal traditions & mindset are responsible for making a mockery of democracy.  The setting is changing, but slowly.  Let us, however, admit that the democratic system is the least imperfect of all systems of governance and that it has somehow managed to keep our huge and disparate country intact and functioning in its unique way![1] 

Seats won - Lok Sabha Elections 2004

To recapitulate the results of the elections to the 14th Lok Sabha: Congress + or United Progressive Alliance (UPA, so named after the elections) are 217 and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is 185.  The break-down of UPA: Congress 145, RJD 21, DMK 16, NCP 9, PMK 6, TRS 5, JMM 5, MDMK 4, LJNSP 3, JKPDP 1; RPI 1, Muslim League 1, and of NDA: BJP 138, Shiv Sena 12, BJD 11, JDU 8, SAD 8, TDP 5, Trinamool 3, AIADMK Nil.  The pre-poll ‘non-aligned’ are: CPI (M) 43, SP 36, BSP 18, CPI 10, IND 4, JDS 4, RSP 3, RLD 3, FB 3, NC 2, AGP 2, AIMIM 1, Others 8, Total 137.  With 61 seats of the Left Front, the Congress (+) tally comes to 278.[2] 

 

 

A comparison of the seats won by UPA and NDA by regions is instructive[3]:

 

Political Alliance

North

South

East

West

Total

UPA

40-26%

80-61%

55-37%

42-39%

217-40%

NDA

49-32%

24-18%

48-32%

64-60%

185-34%

Others

62-42%

28-21%

46-31%

01-1%

137-26%

Total

151

132

149

107

539

Table 1 – Seats won by regions

 

The comparison of the tally of NDA, UPA and others for 1999 and 2004 is as follows:[4] 

 

Political Alliance

2004

1999

Vote Share %*

UPA

217

137

35.19

NDA

185

302

35.31

Others

137

104

27.58

Table 2 – Seats won (2004 & 1999) and vote share (2004)

*Provisional figures

 

The comparison of the seats won by the Congress and the BJP is more revealing:[5] 

 

Political Party

1996

1998

1999

2004

Congress

140

141

114

145

BJP

161

182

182

137

Total

301

323

296

282

Table 3: Seats won 1996 – 2004 – Congress & BJP

Note: In 2004, the Congress vote share came down by 1.48 %. 

The BJP vote share came down by 1.54 %. 

 

Lok Sabha elections in perspective – Causes for Triumph and Defeat

The triumph of Congress is mainly attributable to the utter route of TDP in Andhra Pradesh giving it 29 seats (out of 42-69%), the maximum in any state.  Its performance in other states is; Maharashtra 13 (out of 48-27%), 12 (out of 26-46%) in Gujarat, 10 (out of 39-26%) in Tamil Nadu, 9 (out of 14-64%) in Assam, 9 (out of 10-90%) in Haryana, 6 (out of 7-86%) in Delhi, 3 (out of 4-75%) in Himachal Pradesh and 1 (out of 2-50%) in Goa.  These nine states contributed about half (48 %) the seats to the Congress.  Its performance in the remainder 13 states was nominal (48 out of 334-14 %).  BJP’s significant losses in UP (15 seats vis-à-vis 1999), AIADMK’s blank in Tamil Nadu and the good tally of the LF (mainly in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura) helped the Congress to boost the anti- BJP alliance.  Table 1 clearly brings out that the South is where the genesis of the Congress triumph lay. 

The anti-incumbency and a vote of no confidence in their leadership took its toll on the BJP and its allies.  Twenty of the central ministers lost including stalwarts such as Ram Naik, Sharad Yadav, Murli Manohar Joshi, Manohar Joshi, V. C. Shukla and Yeshwant Sinha.  The seeds of NDA defeat lay in TDP’s neglect of farmers in Andhra Pradesh, use of POTA against Vaiko and the alliance with the unpopular Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu.  A RSS spokesperson said that the major cause was that the BJP did not stress Hindutva adequately.  The Left, however, attributes NDA’s defeat on its communal policies and defective economic reforms “dictated by the World Bank and the IMF”. 

The blot on the BJP and NDA due to post-Godhra carnage is, however, not the main reason for BJP’s loss of 44 seats from its 1999 count.  The two regional allies of the Congress; RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal) in Bihar won 21 seats and DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazagam) in Tamil Nadu secured 16 seats.  The Congress won 29 seats in Andhra Pradesh.  The score of the rest of the parties of Congress + is in single digits.  The so-called ‘communal’ factor was absent in the two states where Congress allies won decisively and in Andhra Pradesh where Congress won positively.  Further, if communalism were the focal point, the BJP should have been routed in states where it had a large presence earlier, such as in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan, largely the western states.  In fact, the NDA did the best in the West getting 64 (60 %) of 107 seats.  There was nevertheless some negative effect in Gujarat where the BJP tally went down by six seats to 14 and the Congress gained these six seats.  Post-Godhra alienation of Muslims could have affected the BJP in UP where its share came down from 25 to 10 out of 80 seats.  The states where the BJP drew a cipher were Andhra Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal where its allies fared badly.  Communalism was no big deal in these states or in Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.  Atal Bihari Vajpayee has summed it up rather well, “It is very difficult to say what all the reasons are for the defeat (of BJP) in the elections...but one impact of the violence was we lost the elections…  It was an incident, which could have further aggravated emotions…”[6]  Significantly, Manmohan Singh clubbed the 1984 anti-Sikh riots with 2002 communal carnage in Gujarat and described them as “painful”.[7] 

The only bond of the anti-NDA coalition or the Congress + was the all-pervasive secular plank, which came to lose much of its sheen mainly because of minority and caste politics.  More importantly, the difference between the all-India vote shares of the Congress and BJP has narrowed from 4.83 to 4.53 per cent in the last five years but the number of seats won by the Congress has gone up by seven.  Please see Table 4 below.[8]  On the other hand, the NDA vote share for 2004 election is 0.12 per cent higher than the UPA’s (refer to Table 2).  Hence, to say that ‘secularism’ triumphed over ‘communalism’ in E-2004 is as absurd as saying that 35.31 per cent (NDA’s vote share) is communal and 35.19 per cent (UPA’s vote share) is secular.  This is especially so because Muslim League, a ‘communal’ outfit is with the UPA and DMK was with both the NDA and UPA.  The line between ‘secularism’ and ‘communalism’, if at all it exists, is very thin indeed.  It is clear that ‘communalism’ and ‘secularism’ or ‘pseudo-secularism’ as the BJP dubs it, is mere political sloganeering. 

 

Party

Vote Share

Seats Contested

Seats Won

 

1999

2004

1999

2004

1999

2004

Congress

27.72

26.69

453

417

114

145

BJP

22.89

22.16

364

339

182

138

Table 4

Vote shares, seats contested & seats won; Congress & BJP

Note: In 1999, Congress vote share was 4.83 % more than BJP. 

The lead dropped to 4.53 % in 2004

 

The Gandhi Charisma

The Congress, ably supported by the media made much of Ms. Sonia Gandhi’s ‘single-handed’ efforts at electioneering.  They stressed, “Sonia Gandhi travelled 64000 km, addressed 60 rallies for 60 candidates, out of whom 52 won”.  India Today described her as a “one woman army”.[9].  The analysts totally ignored the important fact that Gandhi canvassed in constituencies where the Congress had a fair chance of winning and assiduously avoided anti-Congress hamlets.  This strategy was part of the image-building exercise.  The Congress party and the Nehru-Gandhi loyalists thus gave her the entire credit for its triumph although the LF did not do so.  It is odd, however, that the media largely circulated this myth and gave the whole credit to Sonia Gandhi even for the clean sweep in Andhra Pradesh, where the Congress took 226 out of 294 seats. 

The agitation against the TDP in Andhra Pradesh, commenced way back in 2000, when Y. S. Rajashekhar Reddy went on a fortnight long hunger strike to protest against the “unprovoked firing on innocents” killed in the violent agitation against the hike in electricity charges.  Reddy hit the road when elections were a good three years away[10].  Again, when Naidu was in his chopper or in swanky cars canvassing for TDP, Rajashekhar Reddy was on his feet.  Add to this the severe anti-incumbency against Chandra Babu, what with his nine years rule as the CEO of Andhra Pradesh and not as its Chief Minister. 

The wholesome defeat of TDP needs one more explanation.  Bernie Ecclestone, the formula one boss who gave the British Labour Party £1 million and whose sport later received an exemption from the ban on tobacco advertising, was negotiating with Naidu to bring his sport to Hyderabad.  Leaked minutes of a state cabinet meeting of January 10, 2004 reveal that McKinsey instructed the cabinet that Hyderabad should be a "world-class futuristic city with formula one as a core component".  To make it viable, however, there would be a "state support requirement of Rs. 400-600 crores" (Rupees 4 billion – 6 billion).  This meant a state subsidy for formula one of £50 million – £75 million a year.  It is worth noting that in Andhra Pradesh thousands now die of malnutrition-related diseases because Naidu had previously cut the food subsidy.  Then the minutes become even more interesting.  They wanted to exempt Ecclestone's formula one from the Indian ban on tobacco advertising.  Naidu had already "addressed the PM as well as the health minister in this regard", and was hoping to enact "legislation creating an exemption to the act".[11]  Thus, it is debatable whether the Sonia charisma carried the day for the Congress. 

The Congress propagated that the Gandhi siblings would make a wave all over the country.  This perception intensified after the Congress sweep in Andhra Pradesh.  However, Rahul and Priyanka mainly hovered around certain pockets of eastern and central Uttar Pradesh (mainly the Amethi-Rae Bareily belt), where the family legacy still has some nostalgic effect.  Outside the four seats, which fascinate the family, Rahul visited only Varanasi, Mirzapur, Padrauna, Kanpur and Farukkabad.  This is because they soon realised that vast tracts of the Hindi heartland were impervious to the Nehru-Gandhi family’s charm.  The kids, therefore, skipped campaigning in crucial battlegrounds of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh because their exposure in ‘hostile territory’ could have dented their brand value.  The decision to keep the two Gandhis out of campaigning signifies the doubts about the fascination of the dynasty for the young voter.[12] 

Leadership Issue

The BJP tried to cash in on Vajpayee’s popularity and ran its campaign on a Vajpayee vs. Sonia plank on a presidential style.  The NDA manifesto included ‘a legislation to ensure that only those who are India’s natural citizens can occupy important offices of the Indian state by their Indian origin.’  However, the gamble failed.  This was very visible in Tamil Nadu and Gujarat where Jayalalitha and Modi respectively went all out on the ‘foreign origin’ issue.

The decision of the SP (36 seats) and BSP (18 seats) not to align with either the Congress or the NDA had a bearing on the leadership issue.  Both, more particularly Mulayam Singh Yadav (he just missed it by a hair’s breadth in 1998), had ambitions to don the PM’s robes.  They do not appear to have given up the dream even now because Mayawati is not allying with any party in Maharashtra assembly elections.  In UP, there is a possibility of early assembly elections and both the SP and BSP would likely go it alone.  They are at present the biggest losers at the national level in spite of their substantive vote share and over 67 % of the seats in UP.  Their aim of playing a pivotal role in the formation of a Third Front government failed and the LF with its 61 seats became the fulcrum on which the UPA now rests.  However, both the SP and BSP appear to persist in their dream. 

Sonia Gandhi was vying for the PM’s post hoping to get the backing of the majority of the alliance partners, except perhaps from Sharad Pawar of the NCP.  In the midst of the exit polls after the second round, which showed a possible Congress turn around coinciding with the entry of Sonia Gandhi’s children in the political arena, Jairam Ramesh, who is a member of the strategy committee of the Congress, stated, “Congress’s leadership of the anti-NDA coalition was non-negotiable”.  Even Manmohan Singh made a similar statement in Jammu.  In other words, the Congress made it clear that it will not fall for the “secular chorus” as it did in 1996 by backing the candidature of a smaller player.[13].  The Congress formally announced on May 7 that it rejected the Third Front option and would lead a non-NDA alliance.[14]  The Congress flip-flopped on the leadership of the anti-NDA alliance because the next day it shifted gears to announce that the Congress would sort out the leadership of a non-NDA alliance after the polls.[15]  It is thus clear that the Congress was hesitant in projecting Ms. Gandhi as the prospective PM until the results of the final round came out.  And when they did, she herself backtracked.  Why did she do so?

The grand renunciation

The moot point is whether the Congress has the people’s mandate.  The Congress has only 27 % of both the seats and the vote share (compared to about 26 % seats and 22 % vote share of the BJP).  The vote share of NDA at 35.19 % is actually more than that of the UPA at 35.31 %.  The Left Front with its 61 seats is mainly concentrated in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura.  Further, 54 out of its 61 newly elected MPs defeated the Congress candidates in the recent polls.[16]  Hence, the LF certainly does have neither an all-India nor a pro-Gandhi mandate.  The mandate, lack of it or otherwise, however, does not appear to be the motivation for Sonia Gandhi’s inner voice telling her not to accept the post of the Prime Minister of India (PM).  This is because no political party or an alliance in power would ever accept even to its inner voice that it does not have the people’s mandate. 

The foreign origin was an issue.  Constitutionally, there is no bar for Gandhi to take on PM’s responsibilities.  The President clarified that he did not broach the foreign origin issue with Gandhi when she called on him after May 13.  When Gandhi refused to accept the post of PM, the media and the Congress compared her to Lord Ram, Lord Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi!  However, Sonia's 'renunciation' meant bending the Congress constitution and acquiring in Parliament absolute authority and then becoming the head of UPA with cabinet rank.  Some have drawn an analogy to even Napoleon and Hitler stating, “The French after a plebiscite elected Napoleon as an emperor.  He was a Corsican by birth and Italian by parentage, and spoke French with Italian accent.  …Hitler too was not a German but an Austrian but he commanded unerring obedience of Germans at one point of time.”[17] 

The well-known columnist, Rajinder Puri says, “There is no report of the President offering her the post of PM.  His letter clearly stated that as the leader of the single largest party and largest pre-poll alliance, he wanted a "discussion" with her.  Did the President hold back because she could have been a security risk thereby making her untenable as PM?  On May 16, 1999, The Statesman carried a report by B. Raman, a retired high-ranking intelligence official attached to the cabinet secretariat.  Raman recounted that when then PM Rajiv Gandhi tried to foist a training project by Italian intelligence for RAW officers, the idea had to be shelved. The Italian agent for the project was Walter Vinci, Sonia's brother-in-law, who was connected with Italian intelligence.  RAW officers pointed out that Italy was a conduit for nuclear technology to Pakistan. The report was never contradicted.  But the day after the Statesman report appeared, Sonia resigned as Congress president. The President could have discussed other security issues too.”[18] 

B.G. Deshmukh, a distinguished civil servant who was the Principal Secretary to Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister, validates this argument of Rajinder Puri about the connections of Walter Vinci.  In his book “A Cabinet Secretary Looks Back”, Deshmukh refers to a disturbing episode when Rajiv Gandhi wanted a private agency in Italy to train the Special Protection Group (SPG).  The cost of training was $0.25 million.  Walter Vinci had brokered the deal.  Deshmukh writes, "That the PM's house had access to funds from abroad, I became aware in a very curious way… one of the security officers at 7, Race Course Road said one or two of them would be going to Italy for special training.  I was rather upset as I had neither seen nor cleared the proposal… Rajiv wanted payments to be made from RAW´s secret funds to Sonia Gandhi’s Italian brother-in-law, a businessman, to train our SPG personnel…”  Although the Italian was to collect his payment from the Geneva office of Research & Analytical Wing (RAW), he later wanted the amount delivered to him in Italy.  Deshmukh told Rajiv Gandhi that this was improper as it could lead to unforeseen complications.  "He (Rajiv Gandhi) flushed and told me to forget the whole affair.  Later, I learnt that the PM´s house was asked to be more discreet with me … I also realised that in the Mughal-darbar-like functioning of the Gandhis, I had committed the cardinal sin of cross-checking with the king himself…"  

The rage against Ms. Gandhi first wanting to put on the mantle of India’s Prime Minister and then actually occupying the posts of Congress party chief, and chairperson of party’s parliamentary wing and of the United Progressive Alliance; cuts across political, social and religious lines.  The UPA and the LF particularly, is diverting attention from the main concern of a section of the Indian populace by alleging that the tirade against her is by the ‘Hindutva’ forces.  This propaganda completely dilutes the focus and brings in religiosity where there is none.  The opposition to Gandhi is not because she is a Roman Catholic.  As Tavleen Singh, the noted columnist says, “Her presence in Indian politics is dangerously divisive.  During the campaign, wherever I travelled I asked people if they objected to having an Italian prime minister and everywhere there was a division on this issue, so inflammatory that the question would invariably provoke a shouting match. Those who said it was Indian tradition for a bahu to consider her husband's country her own usually lost to those who shouted them down for being sycophants and traitors.  The divisions will grow, not lessen, with every decision she makes as Prime Minister because whatever she does will be questioned.  Doubts about her motives and loyalties will become particularly unpleasant if there is a crisis like the Kargil war.  But, even peacetime decisions will be doubted and a wiser woman, less surrounded by courtiers, would have seen this a long time ago.”[19]  Preventing the country from sliding to a precipice appears to be the major reason for her rejection of the PM’s post.  If that were so, one gives her full credit for keeping the country’s interests first.  After all, being born in Italy is certainly not her fault! 

Run-up to the Lok Sabha Elections

The usual rhetoric and hypocrisy of religious slogans was missing in these elections.  However, the repulsive faces of casteism and regionalism did raise their ugly heads in almost all the states.  The race was to win caste votes; from Maratha votes in Maharashtra to Jat votes in Rajasthan to dalit votes in UP and OBC votes in Bihar.  Even the Harvard-educated Chidambaram raised the dead issue of discrimination against Tamils, Telgus, Malayalis, Dalits, Muslims and Christians by Hindi speaking people.[20]  Such rhetoric is extremely divisive for the nation. 

None of the political parties except the CPI (M) questioned the Government's decision to sign the contract for Rs. 795-million for 66 Hawk AJTs, as it was only a caretaker administration on the announcement of the elections.[21]  There are four issues, which have so far united our political parties.  These are enhancement of the emoluments of MPs/MLAs, obstructing electoral reforms and right to information, encouraging corruption, and for achieving these aims: keeping the Indian masses illiterate and ignorant. 

Who would lead the break up, the NDA or the UPA?

There are already murmurs that Man Mohan Singh government may not last its full term.  A wobbly government, even if it lasts for five years, is not in national interest.  Intrigues within the Congress party against the PM by those whom he outclassed have commenced.  The inevitable pulls and pressures from the likes of Lallo and Paswan are noticeable.  The ideological drift of the Left Front with ‘McMahon’ is surfacing.  The protest of hardcore ‘secularists’ against the inclusion of ‘communal’ Muslim League in UPA is evident.  The more powerful power centre at 10, Jan Path is all too visible.  The NDA is already making noises for berths in the cabinet to persons charged with grave offences such as murder, loot, arson, etc.  The opposition has stalled proceedings in parliament.  The NDA could well refer to the strictures of the Supreme Court against Kamal Nath when he was the minister for environment in an earlier Congress government for diverting the course of a river in Kulu-Manali area for his motel, which was then under construction.  They could also recount the involvement of Tytler in the anti-Sikh riots in 1984.  However, hunger for power is a decisive motivation and the pull appears to be towards providing stability to the UPA.  Additionally, there is the unflinching desire of the UPA, the LF and SP, with the exception perhaps of the DMK, to keep the ‘communal’ BJP out of power.  This desire to keep the BJP out will continue the UPA for long.  As A. B. Bardhan, CPI general secretary amplified, “his party defeating the BJP’s come-back efforts was the top priority”.[22] 

The rest of the NDA secured 47 seats to BJP’s 138, i.e. just 34 per cent.  In the case of the UPA, the rest has almost half the seats to its credit, 72 of 145.  In 1999 elections, the seat share of the rest of the NDA was about 40 %.  The states also give the same picture with the exception of Maharashtra where the Shiv Sena generally shares half or more seats with the BJP.  Increasingly, the BJP is depending on itself for capturing power.  As the Editor of India Today say, “Both Vajpayee and Advani realise that the future of the party lies not in forging alliances but in breaking them.  Instead of strategic partnerships, they have embarked on the new corporate technique of acquisitions and mergers.  For example, the shrinking of the Congress is not because of its electoral reverses alone but because its leadership has been compromising with regional parties on their terms.”[23]  If the Congress continues with this trend, its seats and vote share would continue to dip.  The BJP appears to have realised this and may break up the NDA of its own volition before the next general elections.  It may continue, however, its alliance with the Shiv Sena until Bal Thackeray is on the scene. 

Conclusion

The UPA has 217 seats to NDA’s 185.  Although UPA does not have a clear majority, LF’s outside support with 61 seats gives it a semblance of stability.  The triumph of Congress is mainly attributable to the utter route of TDP in Andhra Pradesh, BJP’s significant losses in UP and AIADMK’s blank in Tamil Nadu.  The South is where the genesis of the Congress triumph lay.  The anti-incumbency and a vote of no confidence in leadership took its toll on the BJP and its allies.  The blot on the BJP and NDA due to post-Godhra carnage is not the main reason for BJP’s loss of 44 seats from its 1999 count.  The line between ‘secularism’ and ‘communalism’, if at all it exists, is very thin indeed. 

The Congress, ably supported by the media, made much of Ms. Sonia Gandhi’s ‘single-handed’ efforts at electioneering.  It is, however, debatable whether the Sonia charisma carried the day for the Congress.  Even the Gandhi siblings failed to make a wave all over the country.  The BJP gamble to cash in on Vajpayee’s popularity failed.  Sonia Gandhi was certainly vying for the PM’s post but the Congress was hesitant in projecting Ms. Gandhi as the prospective PM until the end. 

The moot point was whether the Congress has the people’s mandate.  The mandate, lack of it or otherwise, however, does not appear to be the reason for Sonia Gandhi’s inner voice telling her not to accept the post of the Prime Minister of India (PM).  The foreign origin was an issue.  So was the question of Sonia Gandhi’s connections to Italian security through her brother-in-law.  She appears to have rejected the post of PM to prevent the country from sliding to a precipice.  If that were so, one gives her full credit for keeping the country’s interests first.  After all, being born in Italy is certainly not her fault! 

There are already murmurs that Man Mohan Singh government may not last its full term.  A wobbly government, even if it lasts for five years, is not in national interest.  The shrinking of the Congress is not because of its electoral reverses alone but because its leadership has been compromising with regional parties on their terms.  If the Congress continues with this trend, its seats and vote share would continue to dip.  On the other hand, BJP’s vote share, vis-à-vis the components of the NDA, is increasing.  The BJP appears to have realised this and may break up the NDA of its own volition before the next general elections. 

 

 



[1] Gokhale, Ashok, IFS (Retd), Former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, in a communication with the author

[2] “Election final results”, Outlook, May, 24, 2004

[3] “Regional scenario”, Outlook, May 24, 2004

[4] “Seats and Votes”, India Today, May 24, 2004

[5] “Changing hues of India”, India Today, May 24, 2004

[6]Atal admits Gujarat as reason for defeat”, economictimes.com, June 13, 2004

[7] “’84 riots, Gujarat violence ‘painful’: PM”, The Times of India, Pune , June 13, 2004

[8] Vote share of Cong, BJP dips, The Deccan Herald, May 17, 2004

[9] “Sonia shining”, India Today, May 24, 2004

[10] Menon, K. Amarnath, “Mega Byte Victory”, India Today, May 24, 2004

[11] Monbiot, George, “This is what we paid for, The Blair protégé and outrider for India's ruinous free market experiment has been voted out”, The Guardian, London, May 18, 2004

[12] Manoj C. L. & Thapa Swaraj, “Rahul & Priyanka avoid exposing charisma”, the Economic Times, May 04, 2004

[13] “Congress to head anti-NDA alliance”, The Economic Times, May 03, 2004

[14] “U-Turn: Cong rejects Third Front govt, will lead non-NDA alliance”, The Economic Times, May 7, 2004

[15] “Clock strikes: Not yet time to raise Hand”, economictimes.indiatimes.com, May 8, 04

[16] Sharma, Shantanu Nandan, Why Left can't take a right turn for Congress”, Times News Network, May 30, 2004

[17] Narain, Prem, “Sonia, the revivalist”, The Pioneer, June 15, 2004

[18] Puri, Rajinder, “Bull’s eye”, Outlook, June 7, 2004

[19] Singh, Tavleen, 'It offends me to be represented by an Italian', The Indian Express, May 17, 2004

[20] Times of India, Pune, May 4, 2004

[21] “CPM wants Hawk deal to wait for polls”, The Times of India, Pune, March 22, 2004,

[22] “It's a five-year plan for us, Left tells Cong”, The Economic Times, Times News Network, June 15, 2004

[23] Chawla, Prabhu, “The BJP dilutes its saffron shade and adopts the best Congressism to expand its electoral base”, India Today April 26, 2004