Expect things to heat up as voters cool What is common between the Assembly elections of Tripura, Meghalaya , Nagaland, Assam, Bihar, Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Punjab , UP, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and the general mÃªlÃ©e which enabled the UPA to settle in for another five years in 2009? Not the politicians. They could hardly be more different. The lifetime savings of Manik Sarkar, Tripura's Marxist leader, who has just won a fourth term, amount to a few thousand rupees, a small fraction of what most of his fellow CMs spend on themselves each day. Nor does ideology determine victory: the spectrum of success extends from red to blue to saffron to purple to confusion. The last is probably the most accurate description of any party's convictions. Shift from politician to voter, and you get a pattern. Despite the multiple identities of an Indian electorate, voters are no longer disparate. They now vote decisively. Whoever wins, does so by a comfortable distance. This is not as obvious in prospect as it might seem in retrospect. Pundits get paid a pittance compared to pollsters , but neither predicted Mulayam Singh Yadav's huge victory last year. The Congress, trusting statistics instead of human beings, gambled away Rahul Gandhi's reputation by placing its bets on a hung assembly in which Congress would get 80 or 90 UP seats. This year, bookies in Gujarat, who are normally more accurate than the pundit-pollster clan, lost money as well as face when they estimated Modi would win only between 90 and 95 seats. If the bookies had been right, Modi would have been teetering on a precipice rather than staring at Delhi from an easy chair. In Punjab, the Congress, encouraged by the media, was busy completing a Cabinet until the ballot machines chattered out a massive win for the Akali Dal. No one foresaw the Tarun Gogoi avalanche in Assam. In Bengal, the Marxists were prepared for a dent here and there, but not for the hammering they got. Ironically, the only exception to this emerging rule came in Kerala, where the Marxists were expected to sink but remained afloat. This is bad news for victors. The blood of the Indian voter is turning cold. Warm blood generates emotion; emotion fuels confusion. Cold blood encourages clarity at all stages of the electoral process: voting , government and then accountability. In 1967, when voters first turned against the establishment and defeated the Congress in assembly elections from Punjab to Bengal, public anger was intense but unfocused. Passion dissipated amid a welter of dysfunctional 'United Fronts' and the voter went back, a trifle sheepishly, within five years to Congress. Now, paradoxically , a less partisan mood delivers more partisan results. Clarity has come even to that most fractious of states, Meghalaya. Congress' victory might not seem impressive; it got only 29 out of 60 seats. But by Meghalaya's standards this is historic. For the first time in over four decades the state will see a single party last a full term. Parties no longer command loyalty; governance does. A comfortable majority eliminates any alibi for nonperformance . The electorate has become mature enough to realise that good governance begins at home. But after fulfilling his part of the deal, the voter expects government to honour this trust, not abuse it. Accountability rises in direct proportion to the legislative majority. Disappointment can have a drastic fallout. In Bihar, Nitish Kumar should note the growing crowds at Laloo Yadav's rallies. In Bengal, Mamata Banerjee can comfort herself with excuses, some of them valid. But the story there is the possible return of the Left. The Congress suffered most in this week's by-elections , losing two sitting MLAs in its bastion. The sharpest swing came in Nalhati, a constituency which Pranab Mukherjee, now President, won by 15,000 votes in 2009. Four years later, the Left has taken it by over 7,000 votes, which means a swing of 22,000. We do not know if Congress will risk a general election this year; but there certainly will be a string of assembly polls. Most, if not all, states will fall into pattern. The emergence of single-party dominance in the states will continue to change the internal balance of alliances at the Centre, reducing marginal forces. An important difference between UPA I and UPA II is that Congress does not have the Left to kick around anymore. Whenever economic reform was discussed during UPA I, Congress leaders would roll their eyes like Othello and point wearily at Iago the Marxist. The audience threw Iago out of the drama in 2009. Result? Othello has no one now except himself to blame for his misfortunes. The mood is anti-Congress now, but no election is won until the last vote is counted. Only one thing is clear. Whoever wins, will win big. Expect things to heat up as voters cool by The Siege Within : MJ Akbar's blog-The Times Of India ************************************ MJ Akbar is right when he writes - This is bad news for victors. The blood of the Indian voter is turning cold. Warm blood generates emotion; emotion fuels confusion. Cold blood encourages clarity at all stages of the electoral process: voting , government and then accountability. The 2014 elections will be up for the grabs and none will be wiser over the outcome. However, what is crystal clear is that the once impregnable Congress is sitting on a sinkhole. It seems to riding into the sunset like Lone Stranger and Ponto. HI yo UPA away!