December 4, 2023
NEW DELHI – As Modi’s charisma worked across States, the Congress dream of being an alternative to the BJP at the national level received a big blow in Sunday’s results of Assembly polls in four major States.
The BJP wrested Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh from the Congress, and retained Madhya Pradesh even after 18 years of rule, moving towards a two-third majority in the 230-member State Assembly.
As results moved towards finality, the BJP and the Congress won 115 and 69 seats in Rajasthan and 166 and 63 seats in Madhya Pradesh, respectively.
The Chhattisgarh score was 54 BJP and 36 Congress in the 90-member Assembly. In Rajasthan, 199 of the 200 seats went to the polls as one candidate died. The BJP’s victories in the three States were decisive.
The Congress had the consolation of dislodging K Chandrasekhar Rao’s Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), which was in power for two terms in Telangana and suffered from anti-incumbency and over-confidence. The Congress won 63 seats and the BRS 40, while the BJP got nine and the Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM six, in the 119-member State Assembly.
The BJP’s victory in the three other States showed the party had a big connect in the politically significant States, and the party would remain a dominant force in the next Lok Sabha elections, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The BJP’s campaigns in all four States received a big support from the Prime Minister who addressed several public meetings and brought a wider perspective before the people. He explained in simple terms the issues at stake, and how people must know what they are voting for.
Modi always said people had seen Modi, and the work of his Government while stressing at length why the pace of development must not suffer. He made the option of voting for the BJP an attractive one by reminding people how the “double-engine” government of the BJP in a State and the Centre, could ensure a hundred per cent saturation of public welfare schemes.
Doubts were raised about the BJP’s performance in Madhya Pradesh as the State had seen Shivraj Singh Chouhan as Chief Minister for four terms. But the results showed there was no fatigue with the Chief Minister, who had rolled out several popular schemes for different sections of people while getting crucial support from the Prime Minister’s campaigns.
Rajasthan never voted for the same party for 30 years, and the Congress had to fight the anti-incumbency factor. While Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot was confident of Congres’s victory because of the State’s popular schemes, particularly cheap cooking cylinders, and big publicity campaigns, the Prime Minister’s public rallies proved fatal for his rule.
Modi never failed to mention the Congress government had brought the State to such a low standing as never before. Describing the State as the crime State of the country, with the highest number of crimes against women, Modi showed there was little hope from the Congress whose leaders at the top level fought for dominance, and had little regard for public sentiments or needs.
The Congress in Chhattisgarh appeared to give a tough fight to the BJP but soon crumbled, as the leads narrowed. Congress Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel too was confident of the State’s popular schemes. Here too, the Prime Minister made particular appeals to the huge tribal population of the country and told them their poor lot was due to traditional Congress governments in the State.
Of the 90 Assembly seats in the State, 39 are Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes seats. Taking advantage of the tribal factor, Modi reminded people how the BJP had honoured long-forgotten tribal freedom fighter Birsa Munda, and worked out special schemes for the tribals’ welfare. The strategy was difficult for the Congress to beat.
The Congress has recorded a major victory for itself by dislodging a strong regional party in Telangana. The BRS suffered from strong anti-incumbency, allegations of corruption, and family rule. The BRS advocated Muslims’ welfare but the Congress benefited from its old secular image. The BRS was quick to accept defeat, just after 2 pm. The State result would comfort the BJP as well as it cut to size the BRS which opposed the BJP too.
The Congress Party shrunk in the country mainly because of the emergence of strong regional parties, which took birth because of the Congress’s neglect of regional issues and leaders.
The results showed the Congress could be a force where it did not face the challenge of the BJP. This is likely to give the Congress a stronger voice in the Opposition group INDIA, which is largely built up of regional parties.
Early trends showed the BRS fighting the Congress in Telangana, the BJP leading in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, while the Congress was ahead of the BJP in Chhattisgarh. By 9 am, the Congress appeared winning Telangana, the BJP was comfortable in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, while the Congress was still the major contender in Chhattisgarh. The picture changed in a few hours, the most surprising result coming from Madhya Pradesh.