SO, the Assembly elections are over. And the communists and the DMK have received their just deserts. The results, said The Times of India (May14) “not only mark important developments for those states, but also represent vital trends for national politics”. The paper said that “the culture of patronage stifling the state’s public institutions and economy” had eaten into the Left’s “elaborately constructed support base” and “in the end it was toppled by a woman clad in a crumpled sari and chappals”.
“The clear message” said the paper “is that, old-style politics – where nepotism and corruption can be covered up by appealing to caste and community interest or by handling out freebies come election-time – no longer appeals to today’s voter.” It added: “The loss of both Kerala and Bengal bastions should make the Left reconsider obsolete ideological formulae on pain of extinction”.
The Indian Express (May 14) said that while the results of the five Assembly elections do not appear to carry a “definitive political statement”, read together “the message is simple and straight, loud and clear – the people of India now want their elected representatives to give them a good and clean government (and) if they fail to deliver and misuse the instruments of governance for their own aggrandisement and enrichment, they will be booted out”. “If Mamata Banerjee has kept her date with history”, said the paper, “it is because the people of West Bengal were fed up with the vainglorious comrades who had deluded themselves in their own web of Marxist jargon while perpetuating their regime with the help of the mafia and systematic manipulation of the electoral process.” In regard to Tamil Nadu, the paper said that “most Ministers in the DMK government have bitten dust and the Congress has shrunk as never before” and Jayalalithaa should realise “that it is not as much a vote for her as a vote against the Karunanidhis…”
Deccan Herald (May 14) said that “overall, the electorate in no state was confused about its choices” but Mamata Banerjee’s victory “has seen a huge political quake” and is “the stuff of fantasy and history with even Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee losing his seat”.
The Hindu (May 14) said “for West Bengal, this was a watershed election, making the end of a 34-year rule”. As for Kerala, said the paper, “the 2011 contest will best be remembered for the performance of the loser, not for the victory of the Congress-led United Democratic Front”. As for Tamil Nadu, the paper added, “defying predictions of a close contest, the voters turned out in unprecedented numbers in town and country and vented their accumulatd anger against unrestrained corruption, against what was perceived as the inexorable movement towards one-family rule….”
Business Line (May 16) instructed Mamata Banerjee “to alter the work culture in the orgainsed sector in the state… and detoxify the government institutions”. The paper warned her against the likelihood of Marxists organising a “mass struggle” that meant “bandhs, dharnas, morchas and gheraos and less camouflaged violence in the rural areas” reminding her at the same time that “many of the bureaucrats are Communist Party apparatchiks and the unions are controlled by the CPM” and both of them can be expected to sabotage Ms Banerjee’s efforts to attract investment”. Firmly, the paper said “they will need to be neutralised” though “nearly three and a half decades of accumulated baggage” cannot be got rid of in a day or a week or even a year and “the process will necessarily be slow”. Cleverness, said the paper, lies in patience.
The Telegraph (May 14) went ga-ga. “Historic Thunder” said the front page headline and the Kolkata-based paper devoted page after page to the election results. “The West Bengal election results can be described as historic without any controversy. No one could have predicted, say, 10 years ago, that he would see the Left Front routed in an election. Most people had taken Left rule for granted in West Bengal and thus the defeat of the Left is thus a major rupture from the past”. The paper said that the challenge to the rule of the Left Front “came in the form of a woman who did not recognise the existence of the word ‘defeat’… A single woman against a system – that is the stuff from which history is made”. The event, said the paper “carries within it the potential to unmake and make history”.
“Bengal Mutinees” said the front page headline in The Asian Age (May14). Said the editorial: “The Left in India has suffered an epochal defeat”. The Congress, said the paper, “should be realistic enough to appreciate that its political capital has depleted in the nation as a whole although UPA-2 is at no risk whatsoever,” adding that “the Congress” stunning victory in Assam – putting it in power for the third time in a row in the state – should not lull it into thinking otherwise. “The party” said the paper “now needs to seriously reflect on organisational matters and the flatering grip of its government on the country’s political idiom”.
Columnist Swapan Dasgupta in an edit-page article said that “national politics has only a small bearing on election results in the states, yet, their outcome has a profound bearing on the morale of national parties”. He warned that while a much-weakened DMK may be expected to fall in line and be less demanding of the Centre, “any possible action by the judiciary against family members of M Karunanidhi could force it to become obstreperous and belligerently Tamil nationalist – a move that could add instability to the pre-existing problem of paralysis”.
“Didi Is The New Dada” shouted Hindustan Times (May14). The paper said that “a spectre is haunting India – the spectre of regionalism. It said: “The Assembly elections in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu have once again confirmed that in the more ear-to-the-ground hustings of state legislations, the dog that wags the tail is the one whose nose is set to the ground”. Its story said that Jaganmohan Reddy’s by-poll win from Kadapa, defeats at hands of dissidents in Puducherry and close shave in Kerala “are not good news for Congress”.