Asia Times online

Something’s rotten in the state of India

Monday 8 December 2003, by K Gajendra SINGH

In Delhi state, the government obviously won credit for better governance because of Supreme Court-led efforts to control pollution in India’s capital, traffic disarray and other such issues as rape. Which begs the question, why have a government in Delhi state when it fails to discharge its functions?

While celebrating the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) unexpected victory in three major states last week in the Hindi heartland of India - Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh - the party’s jubilant leader, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, asked: "We are called communal and are accused of practicing communal politics. But what about this election?" He then added: "Hum ko bhi aisi asha nahi thi. Hum logone socha tha two-two ayega" (Even we didn’t expect this. We thought it would be two-two). As it turned out, the opposition Congress only managed to win in Delhi, of the four states contested, where it had been in power.

In Delhi state, the government obviously won credit for better governance because of Supreme Court-led efforts to control pollution in India’s capital, traffic disarray and other such issues as rape. Which begs the question, why have a government in Delhi state when it fails to discharge its functions? The BJP leadership is generally held responsible for the ills of Delhi, made worse during its rule, and the return of its former chief minister would have only made matters worse.

The Congress, India’s oldest political party, founded in 1885, and led in the past by Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, has mostly had things its way since 1947 post-independence India, and it still rules in 11 states. Its chief spokesman, Jaipal Reddy, said: "In Madhya Pradesh, we have been in power for 10 long years. And in Rajasthan and Chattisgarh for five years. We see the results mostly as a product of the anti-incumbency factor." Downplaying the debacle, he added that the Congress had been losing and winning in these states in a cyclical manner over the past three decades.

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