The assembly elections of December 2018 are crucial, which is probably why the campaigning has been ugly.
The last month saw some fairly aggressive campaigning in the build up towards the assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and even Mizoram. Prime Minister Narendra Modi held multiple rallies in MP, speaking about naamdar and kaamdar while Yogi Adityanath promised to rename Hyderabad to Bhagyanagar.
TRS chief K Chandrashekar Rao and his family campaigned extensively across Telangana, promising sops and freebies. Rahul Gandhi too campaigned extensively, Jyotiraditya Scindia in tow, searching for that election win which has eluded him for many years, leading to even his own partymen questioning his leadership. He spoke about janeus and gotras while, peculiarly, Congress leader Kamal Nath was seen in leaked videos speaking about the necessity of capturing 90 percent of the Muslim vote in Madhya Pradesh.
All things considered, the assembly elections of December 2018 are crucial, which is probably why the campaigning has been ugly.
The election commission has declared the results for the Mizoram assembly election. The Mizo National Front, led by former secessionist leader and former chief minister Zoramthanga, has swept the election in the northeastern state. Of the 40 assembly seats up for grabs, the MNF has won 26 while the incumbent Congress party won just five. Surprisingly, the BJP has made inroads in Mizoram, winning a solitary seat while independent candidates won eight seats.
This is surprising because Mizoram’s population is over 85 percent Christian. Mizoram CM Lal Thanhawla lost from both the seats the contested in - Champhai South and Serchhip. According to data on the election commission website, the MNF captured 37.6 percent of the vote share while the Congress won 30.2 percent. While there is talk of BJP being keen on an alliance, such a development seems unlikely given that has MNF 26 seats in an assembly of 40.
But we would also do well to bear in mind that in 2014, MNF formed an alliance called United Democratic Front with seven other parties including the BJP to contest the only Lok Sabha seat in Mizoram. Given that bit of history, I’d imagine Amit Shah enters the picture.
Speaking to the media, 74-year-old Zoramthanga said, “Since I’m going to form the government now, my first priorities will be 3 things—to impose a prohibition on liquor, repair roads & implement Social Economic Development Programme ( or SEDP) which is our flagship programme.”
The Economic Times reported that since 1986, the government has shifted between the Congress and the MNF — none lasting more than two terms. The MNF won elections and formed state governments in Mizoram twice - under Laldenga between 1986 and 1988, and again under his son Zoramthanga from 1998 to 2008.
The strong anti-incumbency wave in 2008 saw the party end up with a paltry 3 seats in the elections. In light of that drubbing, this is a strong comeback from the MNF.
Also, with the MNF’s win, the Congress, for the first time ever, is no longer in power in any of the seven northeastern states. So, Mizoram is a moral victory for the BJP perhaps, given their preoccupation with making all things Congress-mukt?
Very interesting state, Mizoram. Too bad that the tyranny of distance ensured it didn’t receive appropriate coverage, thanks to the impending carnage in Rajasthan and the utter walloping that the Congress dealt to the BJP in Chattisgarh.
Meanwhile, Telangana, a state most well known for having Hyderabad as its capital, saw the Telangana Rashtra Samithi sweep the election. As of this podcast, TRS has won 72 out of a total of 119 assembly seats while the Congress party has won 18. BJP has nearly no presence in the southern state, winning just one seat.
BJP’s estranged friend TDP has won two seats while the AIMIM has won three seats. TRS has captured more than 45 percent of the vote share as of 8pm, a huge lead over the second placed INC which has a 28.5 percent vote share. In another minor surprise, the BJP is shown as having a 7 percent vote share in Telangana, more than even AIMIM, for whom Telangana is home turf.
But we could see some correction in that statistic yet. BJP’s erstwhile NDA partner TDP also has just over 3 percent of the vote share, a somewhat worrying sign for TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu.
There was, of course, major drama before the election. The CM had dissolved the assembly in September, a good eight months ahead of schedule. It was a political gamble that has paid off handsomely. TRS was expected to improve on its previous tally of 63. Also, its numbers rose to 82 after defections from TDP and Congress right before the elections. KCR’s party is currently at 68, with 26 seats still being tallied.
The campaigning in Telangana was a bit bizarre - we got to witness Rahul Gandhi accusing TRS of dynastic politics!
But the buzz in Hyderabad - besides the fact that the renaming of the city to Bhagyanagar will have to wait - is that TRS will form the government once again. TRS chief K Chandrashekar Rao was elected CM in 2014, and this will be his second term at the helm of India’s youngest state. Meanwhile, the TDP is the biggest loser in Telangana. Senior TDP leader Ravula Chandrasekhar Reddy told PTI, “We were expecting to get more seats. The results are not to our expectations. we have to analyse and introspect where it went wrong, and we have to work together.”
Of course, no election in India is complete without complaints about EVM fraud. In Telangana, the Congress party, according to the Economic Times, claimed it suspected “manipulation” of the Electronic Voting Machines, and demanded that all votes be counted using the VVPAT, or Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail, to ascertain the exact number of votes polled by each candidate. Telangana Congress chief N Uttam Kumar Reddy is quoted as writing, “All Congress candidates should submit letters to their returning officers demanding counting of VVPAT paper trails.” The Communist Party of India also seemed disgruntled. CPI general secretary Suravaram Sudhakar Reddy said, “Huge distribution of money, particularly on the last day (before the election)...purchasing the votes..this must have resulted in this victory for TRS.”
He also said it was only a technical victory for the TRS, but not a moral victory. Whatever that means.
And now we come to the big one. Madhya Pradesh. The closest contest this year, one that is going down to the wire - a real nightmare for certain deadline driven podcasts.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been a pillar of strength for the BJP. He has developed and changed Madhya Pradesh over the last 15 years, all the while ensuring it was a safe bastion for the saffron party. He is, in large part, responsible for changing the perception of MP from a BIMARU state to a fast developing state.
But the sitting chief minister is battling anti-incumbency after 15 long years in power. With a resurgent Congress that undertook a strong campaign led by Rahul Gandhi, MP is the humdinger that could see either party end 2018 on a high. But, with two states in the bag, MP would be a great third win for the Congress in a month of very good news.
As of 8pm, the election commission’s website has the INC on 23 seats while the BJP has won 21. In an assembly that has 230 seats, 116 is the magic number that will decide how 2018 ends for the two largest political parties in India. Will Rahul Gandhi establish himself as a proper leader?
The BJP has the most slender of leads in vote share - 41.2 percent against 41.1 percent for the INC. With a hung assembly being projected, word on the street is we could see the BSP, which is leading in two seats and is forecast to win 4 or 5, play kingmaker. For haters of coalition politics, brace yourself - they’re back. Most interestingly, NOTA accounted for 1.5 percent of the vote in MP!
For the record, NOTA also accounted for 2.1 percent of the vote in Chattisgarh, 1.1 percent in Telangana, 0.5 percent in Mizoram and 1.3 percent in Rajasthan. In constituencies like Mandsour, Malhargarh, Garoth and Suwasra - which saw farmer unrest in 2017 - the incumbent BJP seemed to be leading, as per the Financial Express.
Like in Rajasthan and Chattisgarh, the Congress has not revealed its CM candidate in MP. All leaders say party president Rahul Gandhi will pick the chief minister.
As of this writing, Madhya Pradesh is too close to call.
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