This refers to National Interest: Still Mandal,still Mandir by Shekhar Gupta,(IE,March 2). First,the vote shares of the Congress in 2009 (28.55 per cent) and 1996 (28.80 per cent) are not comparable because 2009 was achieved by contesting 440 seats while 1996 was achieved contesting 529 seats (roughly 17 per cent fewer seats). The BJP contested 471 and 433 in 1996 and 2009,respectively (that is,8 per cent fewer seats in 2009). Unlike data for the state elections,for national elections,the Election Commission does not have an additional column for votes polled in seats contested. Nevertheless,a first-cut estimate of the votes polled in the seats that the Congress contested in 2009 is 34.32 per cent. As pointed out,elections are increasingly fought by one alliance (the UPA) versus the other (the NDA),hence it is better to compare vote shares of the alliances than of the parties at a disaggregated level. Second,a small,albeit important,factor was that Mamata Banerjee fought the 2004 election as an NDA ally (she had quit in 2001 and then returned). The BJP contested 13 seats in Bengal and the TMC 29. The NDA won only one seat in 2004,that of Mamata herself. It reinforces the articles point about how Modi was at least in part responsible for Muslim consolidation against NDA in 2004. Here was an ally who chose to remain within the NDA in 2004,unlike Ram Vilas Paswan,the DMK and Chandrababu Naidu,and had to pay a heavy price for it: she was reduced from 8 seats in 1999 to 1 seat in 2004. In large parts of the media,it was considered to be the victory of Congress ka haath garibon ke saath over India Shining,whereas it might have been Modi defeating Vajpayee. These facts do not change the core of the articles argument,that there have been no major shifts in national politics since 1991,and most elections are won on the basis of alliances stitched at the state level.
INDIA followed its eight-wicket win in the first Test against Australia with a comfortable victory in the second Test (India vs Australia: All and sundry congratulate MS Dhoni and team,IE,March 5). The performances of Cheteshwar Pujara,M.S. Dhoni,R. Ashwin and R. Jadeja are to be commended.
Vijay D. Patil
THE biggest test for Gujarat CM Narendra Modi is whether he can match his words with his actions (Narendra Modi in focus,BJP sounds poll bugle,IE,March 2). During his sadbhavana drive,he spoke of religious harmony but refused to accept a skull cap presented to him by Muslim clerics. Will he change as he bids for the post of PM?