The peculiarity of the latest
election results is they will please no major national party.
Instead, three regional outfits - the Trinamool Congress in West
Bengal, the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and the so-called NR Congress
named after its relatively unknown leader, N. Rangasamy, in
Puducherry - will be satisfied with the outcome.
Neither the Congress nor the Left nor the Bharatiya Janata Party
(BJP) will be pleased with the voter's verdict.
The most disenchanted will be the Left despite an unexpectedly
good showing in Kerala, where it came close to beating the
Congress. But the outcome in Kerala, where it nearly upset the
five-year cycle of alternately sharing power with the Congress,
has been overshadowed by the drubbing the comrades received in
However, the resultant further weakening of the Left at the
national level may not bring much joy to the Congress. The reason
is that the latter's Achilles heel has been exposed in West
Bengal, where it is very much a junior partner of the Trinamool
Congress, and in Puducherry, where it has been evicted from power
after more than a decade by the newly-formed NR Congress.
What is more, the successes of these two breakaway groups in West
Bengal and Puducherry highlight the mother party's organisational
deficiencies, which made it first alienate the two potential
winners and then play a subservient role to them. Evidently, both
Mamata Banerjee and Rangasamy are more popular locally than the
party to which they originally belonged.
But it wasn't only the local Congress leaders who were blind to
their popularity, presumably because of their own personal
ambitions, but the national leaders too. The so-called "high
command", did not have the foresight to retain these match-winners
in their side. The result is that as the Congress plays second
fiddle to Banerjee in West Bengal, the latter is now in a stronger
position than before to assert herself at the centre, especially
on sensitive issues like the land acquisition bill on which she
differs from the Manmohan Singh government's views.
The Congress can derive some satisfaction from its victory in
Assam, the third in a row by Tarun Gogoi, who has repeated Sheila
Dixit's similar feat in Delhi. But Assam is too far away to have
much of an impact on the national scene just as Delhi is too small
to be of consequence despite its location.
Since it is the big states which matter, the Congress' focus will
now be on elections in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Punjab, which
are among seven states that will go to the polls next year. But
the party is unlikely to be hopeful about either Uttar Pradesh or
Gujarat although in the former, the anti-incumbency factor is
bound to hit Mayawati even if the gains of her opponents are
divided, and dissipated, between the Samajwadi Party, the Congress
and the BJP.
It is not only in West Bengal, Puducherry and Kerala that the
Congress' position is under strain, the overwhelming victory of
former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy's son,
Jagan Mohan, over the Congress candidate in the Kadapa
parliamentary constituency, and of his mother in an assembly
constituency, have exposed the Congress' weakness in yet another
But even as the Congress copes with lacklustre electoral
performance and unforced errors - to use a term from tennis - like
including the names of suspects who are in India in the list of
the "most wanted" sent to Pakistan, none of the two other national
organisations - the BJP and the Left - can derive anything more
than muted, vicarious satisfaction from their opponent's
While the commissars will have to mull over their ideological and
organisational inadequacies, including the in-house criticism of
their "arrogance", the BJP is still groping for an issue which can
give it the kind of boost it received in the 1990s.
However, after the loss of power at the centre in 2004, and with
their two seniormost leaders, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani,
in their twilight years, the party hasn't been able to put its
house together either on the ideological or on the leadership
Its only solace is that it has fairly stable governments in states
like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Himachal
Pradesh and Bihar, which is more than what can be said of the
Congress. But the BJP's position is apparently weakening in Punjab
and Uttarakhand, which are facing elections next year.
India presents a curious spectacle, therefore, of a country with
weak national parties but reasonably strong regional outfits which
include, apart from the Trinamool and NR Congress, the Bahujan
Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh, the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, the Janata
Dal-United in Bihar and the Biju Janata Dal in Orissa.
(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be reached at