|In February, elections in five states in India with a combined population of 200 million, threw up some interesting points. Anti-incumbency which had worked for over four decades in Punjab, malfunctioned this time, surprising even the Badal family which returned to power. In Uttarakhand, the same factor was expected to rout the BJP. Instead the party was locked in a neck-and-neck battle with the Congress, with just one seat less. India’s voters are becoming reticent about change, perhaps they feel a second chance to the political class is in order. In Goa, though, the BJP came to power, ousting the Congress convincingly, while in Manipur the Congress returned to rule the state for the third straight time. The stunning news came in from Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state with 166 million people, and holding a vital key at all times to equations in central politics.
Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family, had assiduously been working away in U.P., touring heavily across this huge state for the past two years and more. He had been meeting people at the grassroots, and had been campaigning against corruption and for bringing in large-scale infrastructural development in the neglected regions of the state. One would have thought that the Gandhi charisma could play wonders at the February polls, but the end result was a shocker. The Congress was beaten fair and square, and while the Mayawati Government was voted out as well, there were really few gains for India’s oldest political party.
Which leads us like an arrow on to Akhilesh Yadav, by some distance the new star of Indian politics. He strikes a chord with India’s youth, not just because he’s smiling and educated, including in Australia. He has grown up in the outbacks of Uttar Pradesh and witnessed his father win and lose many a battle in the rough and tumble of politics. He’s seen the muscling for power, and he knows too well that people are tired of false promises. He decided to talk technology (laptops, tablets) at the poll campaigns, which went down well with the young voters. He also bravely admitted that the Samajwadi Party had been wrong in allowing hooliganism and crime to get a free hand in previous times, and wanted to atone for what had transpired. He categorically told the people of U.P. that there would be zero tolerance for violence, and anyone found promoting it would not be spared, and would be sent to jail. The authority with which he spelt out change went down well, and the results are there to see as the SP thumped home to victory.
Consulting Editor Sanjay Kaw has some key interviews in this edition. We hope they make for interesting reading in what has turned out to be a very political issue for the magazine.
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