Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The near-hegemon

Modi has established the classic one-dominant-party model of competition in Gujarat. It comes very close to what the CPM had done in West Bengal till recently
How does one understand the outcome of the Gujarat assembly election? Is it a vote for development? Is it a personal victory for a leader slated to make it big in national politics? Or is it something more?
Narendra Modi’s third victory in a row appears exaggerated in the light of the hype and drama surrounding it. To find out what distinguishes Modi and Gujarat, we need to first state what is not so special about this victory. Is this about the same leader winning elections in a row? Naveen Patnaik, Sheila Dikshit and Tarun Gogoi have all scored similar electoral wins so far. So, that is not something very special. Is it about bypassing anti-incumbency? In his speech after his third victory, Modi claimed to have ducked anti-incumbency. True enough, but that again is not something special to him or Gujarat. Between 2004 and 2012 (including Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat), a little over 50 per cent of state governments have survived and post-2008, 70 per cent of state governments have come back to power. So, Gujarat falls into a pattern rather than becoming a special “achievement”.
Is it about voter satisfaction with governance? Surveys in Gujarat indicated that voters were generally satisfied with the state government. However, Lokniti-CSDS surveys earlier have shown that satisfaction levels for the Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh governments were higher than in Gujarat recently. Is it about the huge gap between two contenders? A 9 per cent vote gap between the BJP and the Congress, though impressive, is not something exceptional: Orissa, Assam, Delhi (in 1998 and 2003), Andhra Pradesh, etc have had similar impressive gaps between the winning party and the opposition. Even a lacklustre government in Maharashtra managed to return in 2009 with a vote gap of 7 per cent!