In a result with national repercussions, the spotlight falls on federalism and governance amid TMC’s sweep of Bengal, DMK’s return to Tamil Nadu’s helm, LDF riding Kerala’s huge pro-incumbency wave, and NDA garnering consolation victories in Assam and Puducherry. PM Modi and his deputy Amit Shah had unleashed BJP’s formidable resources on the quest to add Bengal to their awe-inspiring saga of political conquests even as the second Covid wave gained pace. But in a David vs Goliath fight to the finish the feisty, diminutive Mamata Banerjee had the last laugh.
BJP rode into Bengal high on showmanship and the aura of commanding a central government that brooks no political opposition. But in failing to replicate its 2019 Lok Sabha performance, the Bengal results are a reality check for BJP. Consider Pinarayi Vijayan who upturned Kerala’s history of alternately swinging between LDF and UDF. His inspired handling of multiple crises that befell Kerala has reassured the large floating voter base to stick with LDF again. In effect, amidst all the showmanship and the overpowering 24×7 political campaigns Vijayan may have tried what’s become in today’s circumstances a novel tactic: governance.
Coupled with Kerala’s success in negotiating the pandemic, Vijayan’s daily Covid press briefings have also been a novelty in a country where the political leadership only intermittently takes people into confidence or attempts to assuage the growing panic. TN is the other state showcasing a robust governance and public health model in this crisis. Given that – compared to the despair and chaos that have gripped the north, with the national capital literally gasping for oxygen – Kerala and TN have performed reasonably well in tackling the Covid crisis this may also have reflected in AIADMK, led by the low profile EK Palaniswami, acquitting itself decently in TN. The state has a tradition of wiping the floor with the incumbent party, but Palaniswami headed off that fate even as MK Stalin came up trumps – strengthening opposition forces along with Mamata and Vijayan.
This may be overall a good outcome for national politics as the record today shows that a single party dominating politics isn’t good for governance. This is true not just for the Centre but states as well. So hopefully BJP with its phenomenal 2019 national mandate can course correct and handle the pandemic much better, even as TMC improves its governance record in Bengal given BJP’s emergence as a potent opposition in the state.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
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