Normally, it is difficult for me to be cynical like media pundits generally are. But after looking at election results in so many states since 2010, the one sad conclusion that I can draw is that the corruption card is being overstated and over-hyped. it appears as if allies and perception management play a bigger role in deciding elections than actual facts related to corruption and plunder.
This should be the biggest lesson that the top BJP leaders must draw from the elections. Compare two states and two parties and see what has actually happened. In Karnataka, the Lokayukta, Justice Santosh Hegde and his office accused the BJP government led by the then Chief Minister B. S. Yeddyurappa of corruption. These charges were related primarily to mining operations in Bellary. Subsequently, Yeddyurappa was forced to step down. At that time, my colleagues told me that senior BJP leaders based in Delhi had a bigger role to play in the ouster of Yeddyurappa than opposition parties! In a significant development, the Karnataka High Court actually absolved Yeddyurappa of some charges slapped against him. Despite this, Yeddyurappa was treated badly by the top leadership of the BJP and he quit the party a bitter and frustrated man to form his own party. Yeddyurappa vowed to ensure that the BJP is given a humiliating defeat in the Karnataka assembly elections. He has ensured that and the BJP has indeed lost very badly. This despite BJP leaders screaming loudly that they have purged the party of corrupt elements. Now look at what happened in Himachal Pradesh last year. Despite serious charges of corruption against him, the Congress made Virbhadra Singh the de facto candidate for the post of Chief Minister. There were loud whispers that this cynical move would prove costly for the Congress party since Indian voters were sick and tired of large scale corruption exemplified by the Commonwealth and 2G scams. What was the actual result? The ‘tainted’ Virbhadra Singh led his Congress party to a very comfortable victory and became Chief Minister!
So what does a surface analysis of the election results of the two states reveal? The BJP loses Karnataka very badly despite showing the door to a Chief Minister who faced charges of corruption. And the Congress wins Himachal Pradesh with a handsome margin despite giving charge to a former Chief Minister who faced serious charges of corruption! Of course, this is a surface analysis and many other factors must have played a role in deciding the elections in Himachal and Karnataka. But you cannot escape the sad conclusion that corruption is overrated as an election issue. And that really is the sad news for India.