ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Verdict 2009: Myths and Hypotheses

The verdict demands a reflective understanding of why voters in different states voted as they did.

It has been a week since the votes of the month-long elections to the 15th Lok Sabha were counted and yet we remain far from possessing a coherent understanding of Verdict 2009. The only certainties are the results themselves: the triumph of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the dramatic surge of the Congress Party’s tally of seats in the lower house of Parliament, the convincing defeat of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the rout of the Left and the decimation of the Third/Fourth Fronts. Rather than contribute to the cacophony of voices in the media, on television in particular, it may be appropriate, for now, to refrain from making sweeping generalisations. It may be more useful instead to dwell on the outcome, discuss what the verdict does not mean and very tentatively offer multiple hypotheses. A period of reflection and a study of the voting patterns could lead to a more meaningful theorisation of what the verdict does mean.

That the NDA was fortunately denied a second opportunity to govern from New Delhi was not a surprise in itself. Though most observers did not expect any pre-poll alliance to get a majority, it was more or less certain that the UPA would emerge ahead of the rest. The surprise that does not lend itself to simple explanations is the UPA achieving a near-majority on its own and the astonishing performance of the Congress. This has been converted in the age of the two-second sound bite into a “spectacular” result. But such an assessment has little going for it. Since 1967, the Indian electorate has rarely if ever ceased to shock the pundit and the pollster, e ither in the outcome of the Lok Sabha elections or in the scale of victory of one or the other party. It would take just a moment’s r eflection to remember that the surprise in Verdict 2009 is far less than the stunning outcomes in Verdicts 1971, 1977 and 2004, and the triumph of the victorious was far greater in Verdicts 1980 and 1984. Many unexpected outcomes of the past have been, in retrospect, easy to explain; not so Verdict 2009 which has thrown up both a surprise and complex regional patterns.

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