Every year is an election year in India. Although the 2023 elections in five states are different, significant, and unique for several reasons. Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, and Mizoram are the states having Legislative Assembly Elections now. The verdict for the same will be out on 3rd December. This election will be an important verdict to understand the public mood ahead of the general elections next year. Four out of the five states heading to the polls are significant as they are geographically large, contribute largely to the Lok Sabha, and are important for political parties. Besides, people are voting to choose who will rule them for the next five years. Unlike other elections, there are multiple reasons why this election is unique compared to other elections that happen in the state.
Politics and Implications of the Elections
As far as parties are concerned, this election is very important. This is the first election happening after the formation of the INDIA alliance under the leadership of the Congress party. Hence, Congress will have to show good results to keep the alliance stronger. It is a direct fight between Congress and BJP in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh. The role of state and regional parties in these states is very less compared to other states and regions. Historically these states have strongly favoured both parties, but being a cadre party, BJP has always had the structural advantage. Madhya Pradesh historically has been the turf of RSS and the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. Rajasthan has been traditionally favouring the Congress. The party also has strong roots in the state with tall and charismatic leaders. Chhattisgarh has one of the most volatile and sensitive tribal regions in the country. The newly formed Telangana state has a strong regional party – Bhartiya Rastra Samiti (BRS) on the defensive with both Congress and BJP trying to fight for being the principal opposition. The city of Hyderabad will have AIMIM contesting in nine constituencies, which are part of the old city, which is its stronghold. Historically being the citadel of the Congress party, Mizoram is a state where new regional players Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) and Mizo National Front (MNF) have dominated state politics. Altogether the states indicate unique local politics despite possessing strong similarities with each other.
In all the states, it is a do-or-die situation for the Congress party where it needs to perform well. The situation is no different for BJP. The more seats won by a party at the state level give more seats to the Rajya Sabha. Currently, no party controls the Upper House. The ruling BJP would like to increase its tally while Congress will try maximum not to allow BJP to take control of the same. Since 2003, the trio – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh are considered as the swing of Indian Politics. The party that wins the state elections does not form the government at the centre. In all the states, the ruling party is in a better stature than it usually is. All parties are negatively affected by rebels, infighting, and a lack of coordinated effort needed. Even INDIA alliance members – AAP, SP, BSP, left front, and the Congress are fighting against themselves in several seats which will potentially hurt their chances. For regional parties, the elections are a means of survival in the states dominated by national parties. Hence, no party can ignore the result of the election.
Leaders, Issues, and Promises
The most peculiar aspect of the five states is the fact that all five Chief Ministers are popular with their welfare and populist policies. But mere popularity does not guarantee victory in the elections. Anti-incumbency exists against the MLAs of respective constituencies as well as against several sitting ministers. The rivalry between the leaders has hurt ticket distribution, resulting in a lack of enthusiasm for the party workers.
As always, BJP fights through a nationalized fashion under the Brand Modi, even for state elections. BJP has sidelined all its popular state leaders and put all the eggs in PM Modi’s basket. Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Vasundhara Raje, and Raman Singh are among many who are not receiving the support they should. Instead, BJP has brought in Union Ministers to contest locally. In Congress, it is the intra-party rivalry such as Pilot versus Gehlot that is hampering the party’s chances. Kamal Nath in Madhya Pradesh and Bhupesh Bhagel in Chhattisgarh are commanding the party in the respective states, sidelining other leaders. In Telangana, it is a direct Congress versus BRS fight with Revanth Reddy and K Chandrashekhar Rao without rivals within their party. Besides, there are several local leaders who are very strong in their respective constituencies and are trying to buck the trend statewide.
This election discussed varying issues ranging from national to local issues. BJP, for the first time, has played the card of welfare politics in all the states. In Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj government’s Ladli Behna Yojana has been very popular in energizing the women voters. BJP has also promised a lot of schemes and freebies in other states like never before. Congress is also playing the similar tactic with freebies, populist schemes, and promising caste census. Both Gehlot’s Chiranjeevi scheme and Bhagel’s farmer-friendly programs have already set an example of how that can be done. Kamal Nath, in addition to them, is practicing soft-Hindutva to attract swing voters. Chandrashekar Rao for the two terms has been fine balancing his PR image while practicing various schemes to target both urban and rural voters. Overall, it will be a tough challenge for voters to see who is giving them more.
Coverage, Opinion Polls, and Perception:
The national media has largely focused on national issues and the Israel-Hamas war, giving limited coverage to this election. Opinion Polls have largely been inclusive and have given mixed responses on the political future of these states. Despite this, opinion polls largely indicate the important takeaways. Congress has the upper edge in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh and is also giving a tough fight to BRS in Telangana. Besides, there is one opinion poll that even shows Congress might be winning the state, but the rest of them give an edge to the BRS. All hopes are not over for BJP as it has an advantage in Rajasthan and is marginally giving a tough fight to Congress in Madhya Pradesh. It is a clear lead for MNF in Mizoram with Congress pushed to the third spot by ZPM. Irrespective of what the opinion polls and exit polls might say, we will have to wait until December 3rd to obtain the accurate picture. As per the 2018 verdict, whether we can see a massive wave of change or will the status quo prevail is something to wait and watch.
Note: This Article is originally written by Jairam Prabhu