Municipal Poll Swings
The elections to the 32 municipal boards and 42 town committees of Assam have produced remarkable results. The fact that the BJP has established a convincing lead over the Congress and others would not have normally surprised anybody were it not for the fact that the recent faux pas of the BJP in the referring to the people of the Northeast as “immigrants” in the vision document published just before the Assembly elections of Delhi had angered all sections of the people in Assam and led to strong reactions against the BJP. In the context of this, the steady gains of the BJP over the Congress and others in the municipal elections here are as surprising as the fantastic and unprecedented victory of the AAP in the latest Assembly elections of Delhi. Of the 32 municipal bodies the BJP has won 19 and of the 42 town committees the BJP has won 25. The Congress which had almost swept the earlier municipal elections, maged to win only nine of the municipal bodies and 10 of the town committees. In terms of individual candidates, the BJP that had won only 66 wards in 2009, won 340 wards till 10 p.m. on Thursday. On the other hand, the Congress that had won 425 wards in 2009 won only 232 wards till the same time. The AGP that had won 102 wards in 2009, maged to win only 39 wards till 10 p.m. on Thursday.
Though municipal elections may not accurately reflect the changes in political trends within the State, they are nevertheless fair indicators of at least urban trends. It is not for nothing that political observers view of the municipal elections as the semi-fils for the State Assembly elections of 2016. True, they fail to reflect the rural trends that could be somewhat different from the urban ones. Even so, people all over the State are beginning to get a fair idea of what the results of the Assembly elections of 2016 are likely to be. The BJP has somehow maged to counter the adverse impact of people from the Northeast being dubbed as “immigrants” by the publishers of the vision document for the Delhi Assembly elections. But if the BJP intends the outcome of the Assembly elections of 2016 to match the results of the municipal elections, those elected to the municipal bodies and town committees will have to demonstrate the superiority of the BJP in terms of performance. The most visible electoral trend all over the country since the last Lok Sabha elections of 2014 is a veering away from corruption and inefficiency. This holds good for Assam as well despite the fact that the State government itself has encouraged large-scale loot of government funds by all and sundry by failing to punish a single corrupt officer or minister during the last 14 years. In one sense, the votes against the Congress both in the Delhi Assembly elections and the latest municipal elections in Assam are anti-incumbency votes of a kind as well votes against a dystic political party that has no place in a democracy. In fact, there is room to wonder what is likely to happen if the AAP were to contest the Assembly elections of Assam in 2016. In any case the clear message to the BJP in Assam through the municipal elections is that they can hope to garner the votes of the people of Assam only if there are clear initiatives within the year that the BJP intends to fight corruption at all levels and that it will not tolerate inefficiency and lack of performance at any level. Nothing short of this will ensure any significant change in voting patterns in the Assembly elections of 2016. And even if people are willing to try out another political party because the Congress has failed us so comprehensively in these 14 years, such choices are bound to be ephemeral if the elected political party cannot make the difference by way of combating corruption and ensuring efficient and pro-people governce.