Return of the Economist: My Reflections on Indian Elections 2009

Front-page photo in Indian Express on May 16, 2009

Front-page photo in Indian Express dated May 17, 2009

[If you are unfamiliar with Indian politics, you may want to skip the details!]

To mark the culmination of the Indian elections 2009 today, I thought it appropriate to share with you some of my reflections on this mammoth exercise. These are purely my personal opinions, and you are welcome to disagree.

I should confess that I am not a dispassionate observer of Indian politics; I take sides based on an issue at hand — but have no particular political affiliation by-and-large. From the beginning of this election process, I had been passionately rooting for Manmohan Singh till as recently as a week back. To a slightly lesser degree, I was against LK Advani, mainly because of his opposition to Indo-US Nuclear deal (which seemed opportunistic to me) and the recent Varun Gandhi blunder.

That was when I read this article by Razeen Sally, “Congress deserves to lose India‚Äôs elections,” Financial Times. It made me see Indian politics with a different eye at least for a week before the counting day. On the hindsight, I think it is important for us as responsible citizens and voters (unfortunately I could not vote!) to open our ears to the issues raised by both sides of political divide.

All said and done, I am delighted (and hopefully you are too) that a stable government is returning to New Delhi, with perhaps most-respected middle-class economist politician that India has produced at its helm. However many grouses we may hold against the last five years of UPA government, we can be reassured that Manmohan Singh will neither take Indian governance in a terribly wrong direction, nor will represent a repelling face that can leave India vulnerable as a whole.

Perhaps, the defining statement of this election is that the days of fooling people with:
  • identity politics of caste or
  • using religion as a political tool or
  • ideological rigidity or
  • sheer incompetence and corruption

are over, hopefully forever. It is upto the politicians concerned to read the writing on the wall: To survive in Indian politics today, you need to show some progress in your report card on development. Manmohan Singh, Nitish Kumar, Naveen Patnaik, Shiela Dikshit, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Raman Singh, and let me stick my neck out, Narendra Modi represent the face of an Indian politician today, much more than the stereotypical caricature with a Nehru-style topi and a suitcase making hollow promises.

This, to me, is the sign of a maturing democracy. It gives me immense satisfaction to see such a thriving democracy in India, surrounded as it is by countries prone to dictatorships, military takeovers, communist monarchies, and worse, terrorist regimes. This election says there is a reason and a sound chance for an Obama-style Hope in India.

May God bless India!