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December 09, 2008

Is development finally on the political agenda?

Political analyst Prem Shankar Jha writes in the Economic Times that the results of the recent state elections indicate that Indian voters are finally attaching a significant weightage to development-related parameters.

The Congress’ success in retaining Delhi for the second time is relatively easy to understand. At 12% per annum since 2003, not only does the state have one of the highest growth rates in the country and therefore an abundance of new jobs, but it has in Sheila Dikshit a chief minister who is scrupulously honest, easily accessible and a good administrator. In short Delhi is to the Congress what Gujarat is to the BJP.

Once may be happenstance, but twice reveals a pattern. Sheila Dikshit’s success in Delhi has, therefore, strongly reinforced the message that was sent out to all political leaders by Narendra Modi’s success in retaining Gujarat in December last year for the second time. Modi won because Gujarat too had been enjoying a 12% growth rate since 2003 and, whatever his other shortcomings, Modi had proved honest, accessible and a good administrator.

...The past five years have, therefore, seen the coming of age of the electorate. Voters have so far looked backwards, at their origins and inherited relationships to decide whom they should vote for. Today they are looking forward towards what the government they elect will be able to do for them. This change is sweeping even Kashmir. That is the only explanation for the unexpectedly large turnouts in the 15 constituencies in the Valley that have gone to the polls so far, and for the voters’ oft-repeated assertion that they are voting not on Kashmir’s future but on how they want to be governed from day to day.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of information and networking services to the private equity and venture capital ecosystem in India. View free samples of Venture Intelligence newsletters and reports. Email the author at arun@ventureintelligence.in