Politics, Race, The Economy

The NY Times technology section has a good article about some of the reasons the BJP lost the elections:

In a country of 180 million households, only about 45 million have telephone lines. Among India’s 1.05 billion people, only 26.1 million have mobile phones. And while around 300 million Indians still live on less than $1 a day, only an estimated 659,000 households have computers.

… Not only the B.J.P. suffered for this: in Karnataka, home to Bangalore, the center of India’s tech industry, voters turned out the Congress-run state government.

They did the same in the state of Andhra Pradesh, where the chief minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu, a B.J.P. ally, had turned Hyderabad, the state capital, into Cyderabad” by luring Bill Gates and others and trumpeting the ability of reforms and technology to transform the state.

But because of drought and his own failure to invest more in irrigation or other infrastructure that could have eased it, Mr. Naidu’s government lost this week as farmers turned on him en masse.

That defeat was not hard to predict on a recent trip to the state, and in particular the rural district of Warangal, about two and a half hours from Hyderabad. Close to 300 indebted farmers have committed suicide since 1997, according to government officials. Statewide, nearly 3,000 farmers have killed themselves.

Much has been made of the fact that the BJP was an advocate for reforms” and that Congress will likely have to ally with the Communists to form a government. But these groups are not as anti-reform” as the BJP would like people to believe. Here is what the Indian Communist party has to say:

Foreign investment is welcome, provided that they satisfy three conditions,” said CPM economics guru Sitaram Yechuri.

They must augment the existing productive capacities of the country, they must upgrade technology, and foreign investment must lead to employment generation.

In a globalized world, no country can remain insulated from foreign capital flow.”

Like Brazil, India wants to modernize its economy, it just doesn’t want to do it the American way” which has proved so disastrous for countries like Argentina.

But, of course, the election was not just about the economy. It is hopeful to see it, as does Chris Bertram, as a vote against communalism:

Amid all the bad news, we should celebrate the fact that in the world’s largest democracy the forces of secularism have triumphed and those of communalism have been defeated. Congress is far from perfect, but it is a great deal better than the alternative.

It is important to remember that the BJP are not the only political party to use communalism as a means to secure their own power. Congress has a long and complex relationship with the RSS and other communalist groups, who were used against the Communists in the 50s, and then to secure Indira Gandhi’s rule in the years after the emergency.

But there is hope that the vote does represent a certain degree of popular disgust with communalism. Salman Rushdie thinks it does:

The Congress Party’s success in Gujarat suggests that voters have been sickened by what they have seen, just as Gandhi’s fall in 1977 was an expression of national disgust at her government’s brutalities.

Amardeep Singh has some more thoughts on this, pointing out that just as the BJP has failed to properly investigate the communal violence in Gujarat, so too has Congress failed to properly investigate its own involvement in the massacres of Sikhs in 1984″:

Some people who can be directly held responsible for specific murders in 1984 are actually still in the Congress Party. People like Sajjan Kumar (of suburban Delhi) still hold elected office (there is a helpful account of his trial and acquittal at this Rediff article). The Congress Party should eject all people suspected of participating in mob violence based on its own review of the evidence.

Since lack of evidence is so frequently cited as the problem in these cases, the new Congress govt. should develop new methods for recording and investigating communal incidents. The authorities often know about these events as they are actually happening, and often claim that they can do nothing to stop them (sometimes this is even true). If it is impossible to stop them directly, why not send up some helicopters with video cameras when communal troubles are looming? Why not make more of an effort to gather hard evidence of these crimes?