My colleagues and fellow bloggers Sunil Mukhi and Rahul Siddharthan have substantially said all that I would have liked to have said about this verdict of the masses. So this post is really just to show my hand and celebrate this victory of the UPA and the (probably sadly temporary) fall in fortunes of the left and the right.
Here I would like to make a distinction, which I think is important. I think the BJP (along with its fellow travellers the Shiv Sena and the MNS) are the truly retrograde parties of India. They have no redeeming features. L. K. Advani and Narendra Modi (the projected future PM) have the blood of thousands of people on their hands (even if they never fired a single shot) from the early 90s when Advani started the Babri Masjid movement with his Rath Yatra that left a blood-splattered trail of riots in its wake and whose effects continue till today.
The left on the other hand -- in the hands of the demagogic Karat - is just a prisoner of the past. Its economic policies are infantile, and in some of the greatest real life experiments in the world, been shown not to work. Its mindless anti-Americanism, a relic of the Cold War, has been jettisioned by all of America's former antagonists, those from whom presumably Mr Karat obtains inspiration -- China, Russia, Vietnam (the US is Vietnam's largest trading partner). People like Karat and Bardhan are unable to make a nuanced distinction between individual policies of people like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and the advantages of two of the world's largest democracies having close relations, yet maintaining their independence. It's laughable when Karat accuses Dr Manmohan Singh of jettisoning India's independent foreign policy. If anything, India's foreign policy today is far more independent than that during the Cold War when we essentially behaved (perhaps helplessly so) as a surrogate of the erstwhile Soviet Union. The denouncing of the nuclear deal between the US and India by mainstream, 'liberal' newspapers like the New York Times as a 'sell out to India' clearly showed that this was not one which was obviously only to the US's advantage, but clearly to India's too. However, Karat's blinkered and knee-jerk reaction to anything American precluded any reasonable debate on the issue.
Having said that though, I believe that the left has a very constructive role to play, not just in secular matters, but also indeed in economics, if it could only get more pragmatic and less dogmatic and ideological. The tendency to follow a laissez-faire capitalist model with no regulations, allowing the markets to correct itself is a view propagated by many of our business houses and right wing economists, with results that are now there for all to see. Relaxing labour laws, in a country with no safety net, allowing private banks to play with people's hard earned pension funds are actions that are ill-suited even to the US, let alone India and it helps to have a gentle restraining hand to curb some of these excesses. The Montek Singh Ahluwalias of this world, (tipped now to become the Finance Minister) trained in some of the discredited policies of the IMF and World Bank need this control and now with the left having, well, left, we hope that Mr Ahluwalia has learnt some lessons from the disastrous actions of his Wall Street friends to not try and emulate that environment.
The challenges to the country (even in the absence, if that were possible, of the al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the LTTE) continue to be many, the hopes of hundreds of millions continue to remain unfulfilled, but for now, let us celebrate the return of the Congress and, please pardon this rhetorical flourish, the diminution if not the destruction of Darth Vader and the Dark Force.