Indian Elections: Can You Help Make Sense Of Them?

I realized five years ago, when the Congress Party came back into power after everyone had seemingly given them up for dead, that Indian politics is way too complicated to try and predict, especially from the outside.

Still, I wonder if readers have been coming across insightful articles or websites that explain what is happening in individual states or regions of the country, or analyze trends in a useful way. If so, could you put your recommendations in the comments below?

Here are two things I’ve read in the past day that I thought were interesting: the New York Times, on Narendra Modi, and Soutik Biswas, at the BBC, on why the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai is not likely to be a national election issue.

This time around, it seems impossible to read too much into what is happening on any given day. Nor does it seems necessary to pay all that much attention to the to and fro between the Congress Leaders, the BJP leaders, and third front leaders. It doesn’t seem particularly consequential in terms of how people vote. As far as I can tell, there’s nothing remotely similar to the glut of daily tracking polls we had in the U.S. with the elections last year, nor are there websites like, which synthesized all the polling data coming in. (Are there such polls and websites? Have I simply been missing them?)

It does seem clear that the steady, incremental shift from national to regional politics is continuing in the current election. On the one hand, that is bad, because it means that whatever government comes to power at the center will be inherently weak and coalition-based. On the other hand, that weakness at the center can also be a good thing in terms of maintaining overall stability — not always easy in a country with 1 billion people. Even if a far-right or far-left party comes into power next month, they will not be able to do anything too drastic for fear of losing coalition support.

Second, it seems like “Hindutva” has seemingly lost some of its force as a national issue. The BJP and its allies might still prevail, but they’re playing the “nationalism” card more than the communal card.

Third, caste politics seems to be more prevalent than ever. I find that to be one of the most depressing and deadening things about Indian politics.

Fourth, Varun Gandhi is Ram, Shashi Tharoor is on bail, and Sanjay Dutt’s daughter in New York is pissed at him.

255 thoughts on “Indian Elections: Can You Help Make Sense Of Them?

  1. Kumar,

    I am in total agreement with you about the ridiculous bias in Indian history. Shivaji, the Guptas, the Rashtrakutas, Vijayanagar, and the Pratiharas all get short shrift. That’s what happens when Romila and Arjun Singh have their way with the history textbooks.

    As for Akbar, cut me some slack, bhai. He was the best the of them, whatever his real record. Akbar was also declared a Ghazi when the Mughal Empire was almost snuffed out by Shah Hemu, aka Raja Vikramaditya, at the second battle of Panipat. He was only 13 at the time and Bairam Khan was calling the shots for the most part. I think it is safe to say there was some political expedience operating, since Babar did the same when he was in desperate straits at Khanua. To burnish some of my credentials here: Rana Sanga’s loss to Babar was the real tragedy. I think we all would’ve been better off had he won.

  2. I think Akbar is a Ghazi turned into a Kafir. Sheikh Imam Ahmed Sirhindi, a front runner of Al-qaeda, Taliban in terms of jihad, opposed the irreligious practices of Akbar and I have read that even Akbar’s funeral services was boycotted by the islamists. Akbar is as much a Muslim as Nehru is a Hindu.

    Anyways, except a few nutcases like Aurangazeb, I think all the Mughal rulers are into power / fun / alcohol and debauchery.

  3. Ponniyin, yep, probably due in large measure to his Din Illahi, where he conveniently positioned himself as head of the faith. I think he was a pragmatist more than anything else, hence the matrimonial alliances with the Rajputs that stabilized his empire. Although, bollywood enjoyed concocting a convenient national myth last year with Jodhaa-Akbar (it’s obvious that Hira kunwari had to convert and was most likely the Mariam az Zamani of the later records), I think his rule was definitely more acceptable to hindus by and large–esp after the jiziya was repealed. I think your characterization of the remaining Mughals is fair as well. Babur certainly loved the bottle before he almost got his clock cleaned at Khanua and swore an oath. Mohd. Shah Rangila prob best embodies the later Mughals–wastrel didn’t even put up a real fight against nadir shah…worthless…

  4. Accordingly, much has been written about how she has tacitly retained her Italian citizenship (sorry garv, nice try)

    much has been written about how obama is a secret muslim and not a natural-born american. such views only say things about the people who espouse them.

    See Y. Samuel Rajasekhar Reddy, CM of Andhra Pradesh

    niiicee… to proceed with the previous example, using “samuel” and (not on this thread, but in other cases) “khan” as pejoratives only says things about the people who do so. (yes, i know you intend “samuel” as a pejorative because the s in reddy’s name does not stand for samuel, but rather sandinti.)

    wry-ji, still waiting for the promised education. have your gurus given you your cliff notes yet?

    i am also glad to see that there is so much support for the taliban destruction at bamiyan etc. – demolish non-native structures to assert national/religious (what, there is a difference?) pride – among wry-ji, rob-ji et al.

  5. Time to move on, folks.

    Hopefully next time we have an election related thread there will be less ad hominem tit for tat and more civil conversation…