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28 May, 2009

Not a mandate against the Left’s social democratic policies


In the recently concluded 2009 general elections to the lower house of the parliament, the Social Democratic Left (SDL henceforth) in India, composed of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM), the Communist Party of India (CPI) and a bunch of smaller left-wing parties, has witnessed the severest electoral drubbing in a long time.
This year, the CPM won a total of only 16 parliamentary seats; compared to its performance in the last general elections in 2004 this is a whopping decline of 27 seats. The CPI, on the other hand, won four seats in 2009, suffering a net decline of six parliamentary seats from its position in 2004.

Does this mean that the Indian population has rejected even the mildly progressive and social democratic policies that the SDL tried to argue for at the Central level? Is this a mandate for the Congress party and by extension a mandate for neoliberalism? I think not. Rather, a careful analysis shows that this is a mandate against the SDL but not against social democratic policies; on the other hand, just like in 2004 when BJP's "shinning India" slogan was decisively rejected, this is a mandate against neoliberalism and for welfare-oriented policies. To the extent that the Congress was pushed by the SDL to partially implement such pro-people policies, it can possibly be interpreted as an indirect endorsement of Congress's late-in-the day populism.

Dipankar Basu is Assistant Professor of Economics at the Colorado State University. The above lines are taken from a long article in which he few comments on the Lok Sabha election results and tries to understand why the social democrats got such a drubbing in West Bengal, the bastion of the SDL in India. The article can be accessed at

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