The Congress’ victory in the Hindi heartland states is a boost to Rahul Gandhi’s presidency, but its performance in Rajasthan and loss in Telangana and Mizoram shows how tough the 2019 Lok Sabha polls are going to be
The results of the assembly elections held for five states offer a mixed bag for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress and the regional parties — they won some, they lost some.
Hindi heartland for Congress
No one really was talking about a BJP rout in Chhattisgarh. Many political pundits were speculating the margin of victory vis-à-vis the 2013 results, and of how the Ajit Jogi-Mayawati factor would harm the Congress. However, the results have brought down BJP’s Raman Singh, who has led the state for 15 years. The Congress, with this victory, has defeated two adversaries — the BJP and Ajit Jogi.
Rajasthan has stuck true to its behaviour of changing governments every five years. The Congress has won Rajasthan, but it has not defeated the BJP in the state. This is because instead of securing an easy and thumping victory, it has just about managed to cross the halfway mark. It also helped the Congress that incumbent Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje was unpopular. If the BJP was to take a leaf out of Congress’ Gujarat election diary, the saffron party can claim to have won a ‘moral victory’ — interestingly, this phrase was tweeted by Ashok Gehlot who was Congress’ Gujarat in-charge.
Madhya Pradesh has gone down to the wire and this primarily shows two things: one, the BJP got complacent and expected an easy win in the state. BJP spokespersons are now talking about the voter fatigue with three-term Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan — did this not occur to the party before the polls? Two, despite the infighting among the state leaders, the Congress can work as a unit towards a goal. It’s a lesson the Congress can take to other states and tell its regional leaders.
As I had mentioned in an earlier article, the Telangana results are the most crucial in this round of elections. This is because of the multiple implications the results bear. Initially, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) was seen to be on the back foot, but towards the end of the campaign it picked up steam and played the ‘outsider’ card against the Congress-Telugu Desam Party Prajakutami. Incumbent Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao went on the offensive while the grand alliance was on the defensive explaining that they would not rule from either Delhi or Amaravathi.
TRS’ massive win will ensure that the regional party stays relevant in the state and can now focus on the Lok Sabha elections — not only in Telangana, but also in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. The TRS is also pitching to play a vital role in forming an anti-BJP, anti-Congress alliance at the Centre.
With this defeat, N Chandrababu Naidu is on a weak wicket when it comes to the grand alliance of opposition parties. The Congress might have done better had it not joined hands with the TDP — this thought will have an effect on the alliance formation during the Lok Sabha polls.
After two consecutive terms, the Congress has been defeated in Mizoram. When the electoral arithmetic of India is discussed, Mizoram (along with other Northeast states) often does not get the attention it deserves. However, with the loss of Mizoram, the Congress has been wiped out of the Northeast. To rehash a political phrase, with six states already under the NDA rule and Mizoram going to the Mizo National Front, the BJP has achieved a ‘Congress Mukt Northeast’.
Mixed bag for BJP, Congress
The BJP can take solace in the victory of the TRS in Telangana as this would make consolidation of opposition parties difficult, and in the victory of the MNF in Mizoram. The defeats are a setback but it is unlikely to have a direct impact on the 2019 polls. Also voting percentages and margins of victory in many seats in the Hindi heartland states are not significant to be happy about.
For Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party President Amit Shah, who have made winning a habit, the loss in the Hindi heartland takes the sheen off the electoral glow that Modi and Shah have earned in the last four years. However, to extrapolate that the results will be reflected during the Lok Sabha polls is to read too much, too quickly.
The Congress’ performance in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh should be commended. Its performance here is a testament of party President Rahul Gandhi’s vision and planning. It is a morale booster for the party, its rank and file, and will give the party the much-needed shot in the arm to face the Lok Sabha polls.
However, the Congress also has reasons to worry. Its performance in Rajasthan shows how it almost snatched defeat from the jaws of a comfortable victory. The party will have to re-examine the Sachin pilot-Ashok Gehlot equation if it needs to avoid such nail biting (and embarrassing) finish.
The grand old party’s loss in Telangana shows that it has to choose its allies wisely for the 2019 general elections — a good strategy would be to go in for post-poll alliances as it did in Karnataka rather than a pre-poll grand alliance as seen in Telangana. The former approach will be validated if Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) extends support to the Congress in MP.For more Opinion pieces, click here.
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