Pointers From Assembly Poll Outcome
The outcome of the Assembly elections in five states across the country has made it abundantly clear that the grip of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has considerably weakened in the Hindi heartland and the party is no longer in the race in non-Hindi states. However, the straws in the wind do not carry a hint of a convincing resurgence of the Indian National Congress enabling it to take upon the BJP in the 2019 General Elections. While the BJP has been beaten back by the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the victory for the latter has not been an emphatic one. Except for Chhattisgarh, where the Congress secured a two-thirds majority, the results in the other two states point to a negative vote coming to the rescue of the Congress, rather than a positive vote by an enthusiastic electorate. As far as the verdict in the two other states, namely Telangana and Mizoram, is concerned, the Congress’ prospects of a revival appear dim. The party has lost Mizoram after having been in the saddle of power for two terms. In Telangana, it seems to have miscalculated and allied with a party, viz, Telegu Desam (TDP), which has completely lost the favour of the electorate in a state whose creation it opposed.
The message is clear: the Congress must ally with such regional forces that are secular and are opposed to the communal ideology and are committed to the welfare of all and inclusive development. Much against expectations, the Congress’ victory in Rajasthan has not been a runaway one. It could manage a tally that is shorter by two than the majority in the 200-member house. In Madhya Pradesh, it had been a neck and neck race, and although the Congress surged ahead of the BJP in the number of seats, it remained two short of majority and has taken allies from other parties. In terms of total tally of votes, Congress has secured lesser number of votes than the BJP in the state.
Overall, the Congress’ performance inspires hopes, while it is not depressing for the BJP as it is very much in the race and can expect to improve by the time general elections take place. Serious farmers distress, the disastrous impact of demonetization and GST on small and medium business, failure to keep up promises of bringing back black money, allowing fraudsters to flee the country, free hand to communal forces and cow vigilantes to go on mob lynching, have dented the BJP’s image of a party with a difference. Rafale deal has also shown that the party and its government are not above board when it comes to Defence deals.
Political observers have taken the Assembly elections as a semi-final for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. If that were to be true, the Congress will need to give up its arrogance in its bid to the power at the Centre. As of now, the pointers emerging from Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 MPs to the lower house, are disturbing. The Congress is being spurned by two major parties, the SP and the BSP, for an alliance. Had the Congress provided some foothold for them in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, it may have found some leverage to bargain for a position in the largest state of India. The party’s strategy for certain other states such as Odisha, Telangana, West Bengal and Haryana is not yet clear. It is yet to take cognizance of its total ouster from the North-Eastern states.
Overall, the installation of a Congress-JDS coalition in Karnataka and defeat of the BJP in five states go to prove that no party can aspire to continue for two terms if it fails to measure up to the people’s aspirations. Indian voters have shown that they cannot be taken for a ride and will vote out those who offer false promises.