Nipun Malhotra
Freebies no more!
This article originally appeared in CRI content has now been subsumed in The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of

With national elections just six months away, the set of state elections in November – December 2013 were considered a preview or semi – final to the finals that are the Lok Sabha elections.

This became even bigger as Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan and Chattishgarh together make up for 72 seats in the Lok Sabha, states in the heartland of battle 2014.

While the writing is on the wall with a clean sweep victory to BJP and the Congress being decimated there are some interesting points that can be taken from these results.

The lesson from today’s story: strong leaders on the ground matter – Vasundhara Raje who on being given a free hand in Rajasthan won 80% seats with a remarkable 12% higher vote share compared to the Congress party. All this done the hard way, ground up by working tirelessly through the state for nine months. This in comparison to an inefficient Gehlot government that has not only been removed, but decimated.

Next, let’s look at Madhya Pradesh. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan had been in power for two terms. However, with a model of good governance leading to prosperity he fought off a younger face in Jyotiraditya Scindia to come out victorious. What was interesting, was that unlike BJP and Rajasthan where Vasundhara Raje was announced the CM candidate and worked through for nine months, Jyotiraditya was just the ‘campaign chief’ and given only two months to prove himself!

Due to great governance by Shivraj Singh Chauhan, and the laziness of Congress Madhya Pradesh today is becoming another Gujarat. It is difficult for an opposition party’s structure to survive without being in power for so long. The disintegration of Madhya Pradesh Congress is on the cards in a manner similar to Gujarat Congress.

Chattisgarh was a unique story. Much more heartening in that sense. Grapevine was that a sympathy vote will see Ajit Jogi through as the top leadership was wiped out by Naxals. The voter proved again that he wasn’t dumb, the clean and effective CM getting another run.

It is interesting that Congress faces this problem today. The original Congress, which we all respected and was a face of the independence movement, was a party with a bottom up structure – an umbrella for strong local leaders.

However, all this changed with Indira coming to power. She centralized functions. Loyalty to the country was replaced with loyalty to Indira and her family.   She deliberately nurtured this concept because it benefited her and her family, even though it would destroy the party in the long term. Strong local leaders were discouraged, and ever since their CMs have been loyalists to the high command with no base at the state level. What this did over the years, resulted in them losing more and more states!

Compare that to BJP – whether it’s Manohar Parrikar in Goa, Shivraj Chauhan in MP, Narendra Modi in Gujarat or Raman Singh in Chattisgarh. Leaders with independent views, looking after the interests of their states and being accountable for what they do.

The Urban City – State of Delhi is what has created history in a different way. BJP might be winning, but with AAP participative democracy has taken a whole new meaning. This was a state where an anti – corruption movement was started by a few idealists way back in 2011. They were laughed at, ridiculed and dismissed.

However, they caught the nation’s imagination, managed gathering crowds and demanded a strong ombudsman (Lokpal) to abolish corruption. There were hunger strikes by them and there were water cannons with which the government responded. There were first dismissed, and then embraced. A joint committee was formed which resulted in nothing.

There were attempts to divide this group, but the group had other plans. They created a party, contested Delhi and today find themselves as the second largest party in Delhi. They have done things differently and worked with constituency based manifestos.

Their policies are simply not practical – reducing electricity rates by 50%, free water and enlarging government through a Lokpal. They even once stated onion prices should be decided by the common man! However, they have touched a cord.

The young, urban, educated voter has got interested in electoral politics. He feels involved, and a part of the movement. This to me is a victory of democracy. The skeptical class has come out in large numbers and voted for a party they connect with and history they have achieved. Today, the face of the movement has beaten the three time Delhi CM, who often ridiculed him, by approximately 22,000 votes!

What this movement has shown is the voter wants change, and is anti – corruption. Not populism. For if populism is what the voter wanted, Congress would have got a thumping victory in all states. After all, every Congress leader has mentioned the Food Security Bill and other assorted freebies in almost all speeches.

Today, India is seeing something far apart from the rest of the country in Gujarat. We have growth, prosperity and harmony. We have state of the art infrastructure, record employment levels and income mobility. Markets have been embraced, and the results are there to see. Technology has been deployed, and red – tape has gone down. This is what the rest of India is looking for. Now it’s for BJP to market it.