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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 50 December 9, 2023

Analysis of the Five Assembly Election Results of Dec 2023 | P. S. Jayaramu

Saturday 9 December 2023


December 4, 2023

The much awaited results of the Assembly elections were out a few days ago. It is time to analyse where things went right and wrong for the Political Parties which were in the race to retain power or acquire power. It is also necessary to reflect on the impact of the results on the Lok Sabha elections due in May 2024.

First let me deal with the results in major States like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where it was a bipolar contest between the BJP and the Congress Party. Regarding Madhya Pradesh, the primary objective of the BJP Government led by Shivaraj Singh Chouhan was to beat the ant-incumbency and return to power. Shivaraj Singh Chouhan’s Government was rocked by some controversies relating to corruption in recruitment to public services, having a direct bearing on his image, the unemployment problem etc, all of which had made the BJP high command not to project him as the CM face during the elections. But, the results have shown that Shivraj Singh enjoys immense popularity throughout the state, especially among women who were beneficiaries of his ‘ladli behena’ scheme and the earlier ‘Lakshmi behena scheme, for the benefit of women. As beneficiaried, women voted for him in large numbers. Additionally,his policies in the agricultural sector, leading to nearly 6 percent growth over the last few years, which received less media attention, were also very helpful in getting the votes of farmers. Moreover, P M Modi’s charisma in the erstwhile Jan Sangh that MP is, was also responsible for the BJP Government to beat anti-incumbency. The BJP won a massive majority by capturing 163 seats ( up 54) with a vote share of 48.55 percent.

The Congress Party which had a golden opportunity to wrest power from the BJP failed miserably due to multiple reasons like the fading image of Kamanath, his soft Hindudtva approach resulting the Party’s image and goals coming under a cloud. Also, the Congress High Command was unable to convince Kamalnath to accommodate new faces in seat allocation. The Party, perhaps banked excessively on Kamalnath for victory. Results show that it is time for seniors like Kamalnath and Digvijay Singh to be dumped from electoral Politics and make way for young blood in the Party. Rahul Gandhi should take up this job seriously. Election results show that the Party was able to win only 66 seats ( down 48) with a vote share of 39.53 percent. The Party needs to rebuild itself to be in some reckoning for the Lok Sabha polls next year.

In Rajasthan, despite Gehlot’s welfare programmes, the Party lost to the BJP on grounds of anti-incumbency, lack of youth support, shift of SC, ST and OBC votes to the BJP etc. It is widely known that the sidelining of Sachin Pilot and denial of tickets to his supporters cost the Party heavily. Congress got only 69 seats, down 31 seats from its 2018 tally. On the other hand, the BJP led by Narendra Modi’s blistering campaign and the appeal of Hindutva, resulted in the Party wresting power by grabbing 115 seats ( up 42) with a vote share of 41.69 percent. Like in Madhya Pradesh, the Party needs to redraw its electoral calculations and strategies to be in the race with the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections. In any case, the perception, backed by electoral victories, point to a strong consolidation by the BJP in the Hindi heartland.

In the case of Chattisgarh, contrary to popular expectations and even exit poll ‘results’, the Congress Government led by Bhupesh Baghel lost out to the BJP in the final analysis. Though the Party is yet to come up with a detailed analysis for the loss of power, reportedly it lost out largely due to the loss of tribal votes, due to the accute dissatisfaction of the Christian Adivasis with the Baghel government following his soft Hindutva policies. Baghel also failed to keep up his promise regarding devolution of power in the southern Bastar and northern Surguja regions, which account for 20 out of the 26 seats reserved for STs. The Congress had won 25 seats in 2018 in the region, but was able to win only four seat this time round. Here too, the Congress Party needs to drastically restructure itself if it has to play any meaningful role electorally in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Mizoram was a loss to both to the Congress and the BJP which had the erstwhile MNF government as its NDA ally. The BJP improved its seat position from 1 to 2. The Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) has defeated the Mizo National Front (MNF) by winning 27 of the 40 seats. The old binary position of the MNF and Congress ruling Mizoram has changed. The Congress Party secured only one seat.

Telangana was ones state where the Congress scored a resounding victory by wrestling power from the ruling BRS government headed by K. Chandrashekhar Rao, popularly known as KCR. The Party won 64 seats with a vote share of 39.26 percent. There were many reasons for the Congress Party. Firstly, the Party got into the poll mode more than six months ago, meticulously allocating seats on the advice of its strategist Sunil Killalol, who played a key role intbe Congress’s victory in Karnataka in the May 2023 assembly elections. Secondly, the organisational strength of the state party chief Revanth Reddy helped in a big way. Thirdly, the long padyatra carried out by the Party’s senior leader Mallu Vikramarka helped garner votes n the northern and southern regions Fourthly, the intense campaigning carried out by Rahul Gandhi, with his Bharat Jodo Yatra having a strong impact on the state, helped the Party win the elections. Telangana voters seem to have repaid their debt to the Congress Party which was instrumental for its creation. Finally, the muslim votes, coupled with a big chunk of SC,ST votes helped the Congress in a big way in registering its victory.

Despite his many welfare programmes, specially the Raitu Bandu scheme, KCR and the BRS failed to beat the anti-incumbency, largely because of KCR’s over-confidence. The Party won only 39 seats with a vote share of 37.35 percent. The BJP improved its tally from 1 to 8 seats, with a vote share of close to 14 percent.

Concluding observations:

1. The BJP has swept the Hindi heartland, by capturing power in Rajasthan and Chattisgarh and retaining power in Madhya Pradesh. It is a victory of its welfare schemes/ programmes and a vindication of Modi being the biggest vote getter. The Party machinery, its resources and the Hindutva factor too played a substantial role in the success at the hustlings.

2. Demonstrably, the Congress Party has a strong footprint in South India, being in power in Karnataka and capturing power in Telangana Some analysts have, unfairly, rushed to describe it a regional party. The Party will have to on a war-footing concentrate on restructuring itself by strengthening its second-line of leadership by asking the old guard to play the role of ‘margadarshaks’ only. More importantly, the Party needs to expand its social base and script an appropriate narrative to counter the BJP narrative, in terms of its vision for the country for the decades to come. Its women and youth support base too needs to be expanded. Equally importantly, focus should be on an expansion of the Party machinery with focus on augmenting the morale of its workers to take on the BJP in 2024.

3. The I.N.D.I.A alliance should quickly decide on the seat sharing issue in a realistic manner keeping in mind which party can win in which state, constituency-wise against tbe BJP.

4. There are fears being expressed by many that if the BJP wins the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, it might embark on the exercise of delimitation of constituencies to eventually load the Lok Sabha numerically in favour of itself by reducing the number of seats of the southern States. Such designs should be prevented through electoral and constitutional means.

(Author: Dr. P. S Jayaramu is former Professor of Political Science, Bangalore University and former Senior Fellow, ICSSR, New Delhi)

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