The much awaited results for the battle of the states are out and as usual, the Indian electorate has not failed to mesmerise. Here's a breakdown of the reasons that I could think of for the results.
I must say that an over two-thirds majority was very surprising, especially because the state has continued to languish even after two terms of Mr. Ibobi Singh as CM even when he had the help of Congress rule at the Centre. The only reason I could think of for this was the lack of a proper opposition in the state.
Charges of corruption, brazen illegal mining and nepotism - not only in government but also in distribution of tickets and a strong and clean alternative led to Congress' rout in the state. So pissed were the people with the Congress rule that even Catholics have voted for the BJP.
Putting Mr. Khanduri at the helm here seems to have worked for the party, though not so much for the hero himself in his individual capacity. A race for the CM's post between Congress and the BJP is on and everything will be thrown at the independents to win their support. 3 of the independents are rebel Congress leaders who where denied tickets and may/ may not find a way back to their party. Though BSP has lost votes and seats, its limited numbers may hold more sway than the last time in case the BJP chooses to woo the BSP.
Complacency and overconfidence along with the anti-Congress sentiment due to massive corruption and paralysis in governance at the Centre may have led to incumbent coming back to power first time in 46 years.
Of all the states, the result in Punjab is sure to sting Congress more and for long.
It was a strange election in many ways. No matter what they said, there were only two parties fighting to win power in the state - the BSP and the SP. Congress and BJP were only fighting for the third place and it was obvious from their campaign. Congress tried to play the identity card by promising a 4.5% reservation for minorities. The SP did one better by suggesting 18% only for Muslims. Rahul Gandhi must realise that the people may be illiterate and poor, but they are street smart and hence his poverty tourism of overnight stays in dalit homes will not translate to votes and nor will the parading of the pups of the Gandhi-Nehru family.
Shekhar Gupta had rightly pointed out while covering the elections that Rahul Gandhi tells the people what is wrong but does convey to them how he can help them. In a state filled with young, enthusiastic and ambitious men and women, the BSP and SP were fighting over development, infrastructure, laptops and computer education while Rahul only had MNREGA and NRHM to offer. Even his angry young man stunt did not cut much ice with the voters.
Ministers after ministers tactically violated the model code of conduct and took pot shots at the Election Commission. Mr. Beni Prasad Verma even raised the bogey of President's Rule midway through elections knowing fully well that the government did not have the numbers to carry the proposal through in Rajya Sabha even if it decided to do so. Moreover, its allies like the TMC would stifle any such move.
It is a strong mandate for the SP and Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh would do well not to tread the path of lawlessness that the state saw the last time the SP was in power or it may get wiped out from UP as did Lalu from Bihar. Mayawati is yet again proving to be a sore looser and is blaming everyone, from the other parties to media, but herself for her party's loss.
What does the result mean for the Union Government?
Immediately, do not expect anything radical in the budget. I do not see any of the much needed reforms coming through any time soon. If the government tries to be adventurous, which I do not think this government has the balls for, it will not last its full term. If it doesn't push through some reforms, it will stifle its own chance, if any, at getting back to the office in 2014.
It will further reduce Congress' strength in the Rajya Sabha and will make the election the the Congress Candidate as the President of India, elections for which are due later this year, even more difficult.
This means the Central government will have to hold broader consultations on pretty much every issue and the opposition will look to make it very difficult for the government to work.
In short, the UPA Government is destined to die a slow and painful death and it would a miracle if it lasts its full term.