Arun has in an earlier post already drawn attention to certain views about what Verdict 2009 means. I found two comments which are very interesting. The first is by Ashis Nandy in the latest Tehelka titled “End of Arrogance-The Hour of the Untamed Cosmopolitan” (here). The second is the Editorial comment in the latest EPW titled “Myths and Hypotheses” (here). The EPW editorial cautions against jumping to conclusions about the meaning behind the verdict. It merely identifies a few issues that need to be reflected upon for a period of time to achieve meaningful theorisation. The editorial is one of the most balanced commentaries so far on the results.
Ashis Nandy’s piece is more “conclusive” than the EPW editorial, but he makes some important points not only on the nature of India’s politics but also on the nature of Indian society. He believes that India’s diversity has been asserted through this result, in addition to the rejection of arrogance. While caste remains important, it is not the decisive factor because of the assertion of a number of castes. This last point is very interesting and was also borne out in a survey that DAKSH (a NGO, I work with) carried out in 2008 in Karnataka. The majority of the respondents said that caste was not an important criteria for them when choosing their representative in an election. While we dismissed this initially as a problem in the manner the survey was executed, discussions with sociologists revealed that in no constituency can a single caste determine the result on its own. A combination of castes have to vote for a candidate to win. Further, invariably there will be multiple candidates from the same caste resulting in a split of the caste votes. Leaving that point for a later and more detailed discussion, I think that both the EPW and the Ashis Nandy articles make a more realistic and sober assessment of the election verdict unlike various other gushing reviews. Among the gushing reviews, I found Fareed Zakaria’s views the most astounding and far fetched. On CNN-IBN, just after the elections, he claimed that the result was an indication of India embracing modernity! I do not find any written pieces where he makes the same claim, although he does claim that the results are India’s coming-out party in his piece in Newsweek (here), which is a more sober assessment.