What is the Indian Electorate Waiting For?
December 17, 2008
Many in India expected India’s ruling Congress Party to be defeated in recent state elections because of its inept handling of the Mumbai attacks and the souring economy. It didn’t, proving yet again that politics is local. In the forthcoming general elections, however, these global factors of terrorism and the economy will matter.
In Mumbai and throughout India, there is public outrage not only against the perpetrators of the attacks and their supporters, but against an utterly ineffective intelligence and security infrastructure. The Indian electorate is waiting to see the Congress Party’s response to the terrorist attacks; this will determine the Party’s fate in the Parliamentary elections, to be held in mid-2009.
The attacks in Mumbai last month stunned the nation and the world. From November 26 to 29, citizens across the globe watched armed men using automatic weapons and grenades to attack India’s financial capital on live television. The attacks started at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station and simultaneously covered the Cafe Leopold, a popular hangout for Western tourists, the Cama Hospital for women and infants authorities — and the main targets: the Trident Hotel, Taj Mahal Hotel, and the Chabad House, where several Jewish families live. At least 173 people were killed and at least 293 were injured in the attacks.
In an almost surreal fashion, while terrorists held Mumbai hostage, state elections were well underway. Ballots had been cast in the states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh well before the attacks; on 29 November, the last day of the attack, voting took place in Delhi and Mizoram. The only state where elections took place wholly after the attacks was Rajasthan. India has not been immune to the global financial meltdown, rising inflation, and soaring prices for essential commodities, and this had led experts to predict that the Congress party would not fare well on Election Day. Anti-incumbency is not always a reason to vote out a government, but ineptness always is. That could be why the Congress held their own in Delhi and the BJP got a drubbing in Rajasthan. Make no mistake: terrorism is very much on the Indian electorate’s mind. But they want to see concrete action taken against the terrorists and their supporters. They clearly don’t want terror to be politicized or to be given a hasty response. Before the election, the main opposition party, the BJP, campaigned heavily on the terror issue and quickly tried to capitalize on the Mumbai attacks by sending Narendra Modi — Chief Minister of Gujarat and a BJP stalwart — to Mumbai. This was not well received by the Indian people.
Pakistan, which has been accused by India of harboring and supporting the terrorists, has been taking steps under strong US and international pressure. The Pakistani government stated it will ban Jamaat-ud-Dawa — the political arm of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), to which the sole surviving terrorist in Indian police custody, Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, is said to belong. The Pakistanis have detained Masood Azar of Jaish-e-Mahammad and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Zarrar Shah, the two members of LeT whom India has blamed for the attacks in Mumbai. However, Pakistan has made it clear that it will not hand over the detained individuals to India, but would take action on the basis of provided evidence.
The specific actions beyond the symbolic steps Pakistan has taken so far will have a bearing on the Indian response to this tragic event and decide how the electorate votes in the Parliamentary elections.
Balu Iyer is The Asia Foundation’s Director of Field Operations, South Asia, for The Asia Foundation. He can be reached at [email protected].
About our blog, In AsiaIn Asia is a weekly in-depth, in-country resource for readers who want to stay abreast of significant events and issues shaping Asia's development, hosted by The Asia Foundation. Drawing on the first-hand insight of over 70 renowned experts in over 20 countries, In Asia delivers concentrated analysis on issues affecting each region of Asia, as well as Foundation-produced reports and polls.
In Asia is posted and distributed every Wednesday evening, Pacific Time and is accessible via email and RSS. If you have any questions, please send an email to [email protected].
ContactFor questions about In Asia, or for our cross-post and re-use policy, please send an email to [email protected].
The Asia Foundation
465 California St., 9th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104
PO Box 193223
San Francisco, CA 94119-3223
THE LATEST ACROSS ASIA
Deutsche Welle: Asia bids farewell to Barack Obama
January 20, 2017
Q&A: Minister Han Sung-Joo on Korea’s Constitutional Crisis & President Trump
January 18, 2017
Reflecting on 17 Years as Country Representative in the Philippines
January 18, 2017
Asian Views on America’s Role in Asia: Special Events in Asia
Asian Views on America's Role in Asia
Recommendations for the Incoming U.S. President on Policy Towards Asia