It shows that development pursued with the strategy and sincerity of purpose can become the plank for re-election not withstanding anti-incumbency, and natural vagaries like drought
Manisha Priyam | December 20, 2012
Narendra Modi’s third consecutive victory in the Gujarat assembly elections concluded today and it demolishes many myths of party, political and sociological behaviour of the Indian electorate.
First, there are few takers of the theory that having ruled the states for so long, anti-incumbency is the only way out. Also, high voter turnout signals more towards a definite decision of voters rather than mindless anti-incumbency.
The second myth broken is that the minorities will never vote for the BJP or that they will always prefer Congress to BJP if given a choice between the two.
However, the Gujarat election has a meaning and significance far beyond demolishing a myth of this kind. First, never before has development been debated so much in the state-level electoral arena of our country. The literature on political economy of development is full of classical examples of why politicians do not invest in development because it does not win them votes. In fact, it is often argued that development takes a long time to yield benefit whereas politicians are only interested in short-term gains.
What Modi’s victory has shown is that development pursued with the strategy and sincerity of purpose is viewed by the electorate as such and it can become the plank for re-election not withstanding anti-incumbency, and natural vagaries like drought.
Critical elements of Modi’s development performance were a steady GDP growth in double digit and agricultural growth rate which were higher than the national average. If a later needs a special mention, because Modi’s claim of 14% growth rate in agriculture were strongly disputed and many economists were quick to point out that the growth was not more than 6%.
However, even this low figure was higher than the national average and laid the basis for large-scale rural satisfaction towards his rule. Even more notable was the element of consolidation of growth. These aspects were process oriented and cannot be measured just in terms of outcomes.
For example, managing a three-phase supply of power and continuous supply of electricity to agriculture were achieved more by consolidation of existing facilities and cutting out on distribution loses.
While Chandrababu Naidu faced a lot of opposition when he imposed tariff on power in Andhra Pradesh, Modi was able to sail through because of demonstrated efficiency of his measure. Once the benefits were evident, popular opposition was contained.
However, today electoral outcome shows that Modi has been able to gain votes from across social castes and communities more significantly. He seems to have gained votes of Muslims and tribals who had traditionally been considered the voters of the Congress party. With this gain in social ways he has dealt an effective blow to the Congress’s social coalition of KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasis and Muslims), of which the last two are the new voters and seem to have voted in his favour.
This victory could clearly be seen as a clear rupture in the development politics relationship where following a strategy of growth Modi seems to have brought in the lower segments of society along with him.
In the past, these slogans have not worked either in state elections (remember Naidu’s promotion of the image of Swarna Andhra Pradesh), nor in national elections, where his own party, the BJP lost when it put forward the Shinning India campaign.
Clearly then Modi’s development strategy had a wider basket wherein there was an appeal both for growth and social inclusion. This does mark a turning point.