The Saffron bird sings a new tune

Once roads, electricity (and telephones) become the issues on which elections are contested there certainly is a great positive change in the air. And this happened in MP and Rajasthan. Given a sufficiently strong mandate the BJP is sure to push a robust reform programme. Its much too early to tell, but it looks like Indian democracy was successful in pulling back the BJP from the extreme religious right with five-years of coalition governments exerting the moderating influence.

But at the start of (Uma Bharati’s) campaign she told me Hindutva was a matter of her personal faith.

She promised a campaign based on development – criticising the Congress record after 10 years in power in the state. In particular, she criticised the state of roads in Madhya Pradesh and the lack of electricity. Development was also the major issue raised by the BJP in the other three states that have voted.

The results show its importance. The Congress had ruled all four states that voted.

The only one they have managed to save is Delhi where the chief minister had established a reputation for good governance, with improvements to the roads, fewer electricity cuts, cleaner air and better schools.

In the other three states the BJP convinced the electorate that Congress and development don’t go together.Mark Tully, BBC

(The BJP that won is) a party that does not need those divisive issues to court the voter, for one. Even before the postmortems rush in, it is blindingly clear that these elections were not won on the temple or other hoary things. If in Madhya Pradesh the BJP was able to catapult voter dissatisfaction about sadak and bijli into the issue at the hustings, in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh too its appeal to the voter was crafted of governance and development issues, save in a few pockets… It could even ask itself: does it need Modi and Moditva as much as it once convinced itself it did?

…The BJP that has won three of the four states is a more professional organisation, more attuned to the changing lay of the land and flexible enough to alter its strategy accordingly. It is a party that is becoming more mainstream every day and accommodating — yes, more like what the Congress once used to be. Basically, there is a new voter out there who is more demanding, more assertive in the demand for bread and butter and flyovers. The BJP needs to remain the organisation that can silence its rabblerousers to hear this voter. Indian Express editorial

Elections 2003 have shown that the voter is drawn to visions for development in which she has a tangible stake. After a decade and more of often painful economic reforms, the voter has announced his preference for progress over populism. It is ironic that the Congress, whose own government at the Centre kickstarted those reforms, has rewinded further back in history to supplement outdated populism with incoherent critiques of liberalisation and reform. It is also reaping the bitter dividends of believing that a charismatic leader, one touched by the Nehru-Gandhi mystique, is enough to rally the crowds and guarantee votes. Therein lies most of the trouble. By relying on diktats from the Leader, by allowing mechanisms for intra-party democracy to erode, they have stopped debating issues. Once, in the Congress party’s internal conversations the narrative of India was played out. Now, in the silence at its headquarters at 24, Akbar Road, the party’s estrangement from the voter is being enacted. Indian Express editorial