Vote for functional government

SURESH MENON
The results of the recently concluded Indian state elections are tarot cards of sorts.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) retained power in four states - Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur - while the Aam Admi Party (AAP) stunned everyone by sweeping Punjab.

The outcome says that Prime minister Narendra Modi's juggernaut will keep rolling for the immediate future.

It also had the Indian masala right with a sprinkle of soft or strong Hinduism and nationalism suited for the Indian voter palate as and when required.

But generally the results seem to reflect the prevalent feeling of what will work compared to the Congress party's fusion recipe.

The AAP, competitor to Mr Modi's BJP in the future, seems to follow the same method with milder spices - which in the long run could change the dynamics of Indian politics.

Castes and sects seem to have taken a back seat.

Both parties seem to have impressed the voters with last-mile delivery of basic services to the needy, especially women.

Mr Modi's throne can now be refitted for a shorter Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath if the Prime Minister chooses to abdicate for the spiritual embrace of the Himalayas.

Of course, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the parent body of the BJP, will dictate that in time to come.

The demise of the Congress has been predicted for long since the trio at its helm - Mrs Sonia Gandhi, her daughter Priyanka and son Rahul - have no appetite for wars let alone a pan-Indian battle.

A few days ago their loyalists repeated a boring drama: Vowed allegiance to the failed leaders. So the status quo stays.

AAP is the new kid on the block.

Since its Delhi assembly elections "Sweep Revolution" (the party's symbol is an Indian broom symbolising cleaning), the party has come far and now the drug-infested border state of Punjab is its new breeding ground.

Delivery will be the key here, too, before the party succumbs to pan-Indian ambition or obsession. Slow and steady should be the AAP's motto.

Muslims did not appear to be part of the demographic voter equation in these elections.

All parties appeared to follow the presidential format, projecting one leader, rather than the esoteric Westminster model, which is alien to the Indian mindset.

India's history is full of strong leaders having their way, including its modern father M.K. Gandhi.

As for tarot cards, the BJP will do well to remember that Hinduism is not a Semitic religion.

It will cost the party dearly in elections if its leaders shed too much Hindu tears in the absence of supporting documents of a threat.

It's jobs, women welfare and infrastructure or the economy in general that counts.

The liberals can now pin their Utopian hopes on the AAP. But, going by the recent past, the party is not going to be dramatically different from the BJP in ideology.

Indian voters are one of the most intelligent among the large democracies in the world.

A functional government seems to be their choice for now.

tabla@sph.com.sg

Suresh Menon, a former foreign editor with the Business Times, now lives in India.

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