Why stability won over change

May 16 has reinforced my two inter-related beliefs about the behaviour of the Indian voter. First, there is nothing fortuitous about the outcome of an election in a democracy where elections are held in a free and fair manner. And Indian democracy, with all its obvious drawbacks, has a proud tradition of conducting elections in a largely free and fair manner. In other words, no party or alliance has ever won by a stroke of luck. There has always been a compelling inner logic to its victory, and this is also true about the Congress party's victory in the polls to the 15th Lok Sabha.

My second belief is that there is something, which can most appropriately be called the 'National Mind', at work through which the nationally unifying logic operates. The concept of a group mind or a collective mind is one of the most complex subjects of study in mass psychology and organisational behaviour. Nation being a natural organising framework of human collectivities, the more so in a continuously living civilisational entity like India, this living being has a mind of its own which knows what is good for it under a given circumstance. It surveys the internal political situation, assesses the external scenario, weighs different considerations and arrives at a sound and rational judgment. Thus, transcending all the caste, communal and regional considerations that were being discussed threadbare in the run-up to the elections, the National Mind summoned a unifying rationale and made it assert itself in the final verdict of the electorate.

According to me, the National Mind was weighing between two options in the just-concluded elections: change and stability. Change was the need of the hour since there was nothing exceptional about the performance of the Congress-led UPA government between 2004 and 2009. Barring a few welcome initiatives like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the UPA government's track record was average on some counts and dismal on most others. Judged solely on the basis of its performance, the government deserved to go. However, the voters rarely oust a government on the criterion of performance alone. They also look for a viable and stable alternative.

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