Hereon elections are going to be a closely contested affair and, thus, can hardly turn out to be a cakewalk for either the BJP or the Congress. This has to be more so with regard to the next Lok Sabha polls in 2019. Congress has made a stunning comeback through the vast swaths of the Hindi heartland and the BJP is bound to re-strategise in view of this.
People’s verdict in three State Assembly elections spread through the Central – Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — and Western parts of the country like Rajasthan has, indeed, put Congress back on its feet. And, thus, this can be a bit unnerving for the BJP and its larger Parivar, or RSS-led ideological fraternity.
As for the South and northeastern parts of the country it may be a different case since regional powers are more deeply entrenched there than the Hindi speaking areas of the North though there can be a few exceptions to this. Both Telangana at the gateways of the South touching the borders of neighbouring Chhattisgarh with which it also went to polls and far off Mizoram in the deep East have endorsed a regional push of sorts, putting both the BJP and Congress in the cold.
The message from the results or leads of Assembly polls in five States that came on December 11 evening is simply that the BJP’s sway over the better part of the country now faces a more profound challenge than what used to be the case before. And the clear beneficiaries of this are going to be both the Congress and regional outfits provided they are able to continue their surge against the BJP’s extraordinary store of resources and veritable organisational capabilities.
So the question that arises is: Is it going to be the beginning of end of the BJP rule at the Centre and in several States where it went on forming governments one after the other?
Not really so is the answer at the moment mainly because of the little difference between percentage of votes polled by Congress and the BJP in the two bigger States in the Hindi belt. In Madhya Pradesh BJP polled almost equal or slightly more than what Congress could get and in Rajasthan BJP was marginally edged out by the Congress as both parties scored around 40 percent of votes in the two States on Tuesday evening when counting of votes was in its last phases.
It is only in Chhattisgarh that the Congress could swing substantially sizeable votes in its favour cornering 45 percent of votes polled and leaving BJP at 33 percent and, thus registering a huge difference of double digit or 12 percent of votes. But then Chhattisgarh is small State that will elect only 11 members in the Lok Sabha elections in next year’s parliamentary polls.
In the other two major States of the Hindi belt the difference in terms of seats is more in favour of Congress than the percentage of votes won by the party. In Rajasthan Congress could hit just the majority by polling 41 percent votes against BJP’s 39 percent while in Madhya Pradesh the vote percentage of the BJP turned out to be nearly 43 against Congress’ 42 towards the end of the counting of votes. Congress was just below the majority mark in MP with the BJP a little behind with a few seats at the time of writing this analysis.
So in Madhya Pradesh’s case of Congress getting more seats, or 115 against BJP’s 108 despite scoring a slightly lesser or almost equal percentage of votes as compared to the BJP in the 230-strong Vidhan Sabha it is clear that the BJP candidates are often registering their victories with a higher margin than those from the Congress. If this kind of scenario is to continue in the Lok Sabha polls the difference in the number of 29 parliamentary seats that the State has between the two parties may not be very large. But then the BJP had won 27 of these 29 seats in 2014 and, thus, its tally from the State in the Lok Sabha polls would nevertheless be reduced to the half of its present strength in the Lower House if today’s results are to be projected to set the trend in 2019.
So with the poll results at hand now BJP may well be down in Madhya Pradesh but not out of the scene. This may also hold true for Rajasthan as well where Congress has got a simple majority with 101 seats in a House of 200 with BJP at 73. It is another matter that in 2014 general elections the BJP had won all the 25 Lok Sabha seats that the State elects. As per today’s tally in Assembly polls this can well be reduced to less than half, or a paltry 10 Lok Sabha seats or so in 2019.
Overall the three Hindi speaking States that went to polls since last month have 65 Lok Sabha seats that await elections in 2019 and through last Lok Sabha elections BJP had got no less than 62 seats. This was in 2014. The poll pundits predict that the BJP is going to be heavily reduced in terms of seats in the next Lok Sabha which are to be announced in about five months time from now if the trends made available by the Assembly polls are to continue until the next countrywide general elections.
The BJP is obviously more acutely aware of this than anybody else. And, thus, the steps taken by the party are going to be assiduously watched in the days to come. As one would remember that after a crushing defeat in Bihar Assembly polls the BJP could so overwhelmingly win Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls only in a little over a year’s time as to invite doubts about tempering EVM or electronic voting machines.
As of now it is true that Congress is on way to reviving its fortunes. Yet, a substantial or an emphatic victory has eluded the party both in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Except Chhattisgarh where Congress has got over two-thirds majority against the BJP, its victories elsewhere are far from being impressive despite having the benefit of a decade-and-half’s anti-incumbency in case of Madhya Pradesh at least.
Besides this, Congress has lost Mizoram where it had had a Government in place before going to polls on November 28. In Telangana Congress alliance with N Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party has not been able to cut the ice for any of the two aligning parties though this may turn out to be more useful in Andhra Pradesh at the time of the Lok Sabha polls.
So the Congress may well be up but yet to get running to beat the BJP at a national level showdown. And to be able to do so it requires more focused alliances in different regions than what has turned out to be the case in Talangana.
Thus, this is a time when both Congress and the BJP will try their best to woo regional satraps and make friends with them and the more of them the two get onto their side, the merrier vis-à-vis the next Lok Sabha polls.