The three political stalwarts of 2009

Until recently, he was busy discovering India. Now, India has discovered Rahul Gandhi: says the lead of an article in a leading Indian magazine. No need to mention that this is about the Congress’s emphatic victory in the 15th Lok Sabha elections.

One cannot dispute the fact that the 2009 elections in the world’s largest democracy saw three straight winners: the young and dynamic Rahul Gandhi, son and grandson of former prime ministers Rajiv and Indira. Considered by many to be a prime minister in waiting, Rahul was marketed by Congress to appeal to India’s 43 million first time voters.

The engineer-turned-politician Nitish Kumar, seen by many as the first leader to have transcended all complications in Bihar. After all Bihar is known for its fragile and competitive caste calculus. This makes the 2009 mandate stand out as the first post-caste election in the state.

The man with a clean and simple image: Navin Patnaik. With his decisive victory in Orissa, he became the first leader to become chief minister for the third consecutive term. His party Biju Janata Dal became the first regional party to come to power on its own in Orissa. Just before the elections, he snapped his electoral alliance with the BJP. It was a calculated risk to go it alone and the gamble paid off in spades.