2023 Assembly Elections: Anti-incumbency may spoil the party

2023 Assembly Elections: Anti-incumbency may spoil the party

In Telangana, the battle lines seem to be getting clearly drawn between the Congress and the BRS. The Congress which had started mass contact programmes is also attacking the government on issues like Dharani portal and has pushed the ruling party into defence. The BJP, too, is reworking its strategies and is even contemplating to have some understanding with the TDP which still has good cadre base in at least 20-25 constituencies

Will the Congress party be able to continue its winning spree following the thumping victory it got in Karnataka? The party is on cloud nine at present and has shifted its focus to the three states – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh – which would go to polls soon. It had won all these three states in 2018 but lost Madhya Pradesh to BJP due to rebellion from within the party staged by Jyotiraditya Scindia.

Assembly elections are also due in Telangana and Mizoram. The Karnataka results have proved to be shot in the arm for the Congress party which was all but decimated. The elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have assumed a great importance as it would set the stage for the 2024 elections. The opposition parties which were pulling in different directions are now slowly trying to re-group and take on the BJP at the centre.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in power in Madhya Pradesh while the Congress is in power in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Telangana is governed by the Bharat Rashtra Samithi and Mizoram is ruled by the Mizo National Front (MNF).

Let us look at the state-wise electoral prospects and what is in store for whom. Madhya Pradesh Assembly has 230 seats, Chhattisgarh has 90 seats and Rajasthan has 200 assembly seats. Similarly, Telangana Assembly has 119 seats. The Congress party is aiming to come to power in at least two out of four states to give a tough competition to BJP in the Lok Sabha elections and to catapult to a position where it could make other regional parties rally behind it.

Congress war room and their social media teams are already holding meetings and trying to plan campaign strategies, first for the Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The action plan for Rajasthan would be worked out around last week of May, according to party insiders.

Rajasthan like Karnataka has a history of not re-electing the same party to power for second consecutive term. Added to this, the Congress party in Rajasthan is facing serious infighting and anti-incumbency factor which has become a major cause of concern and threatens to hurt the grand old party severely. BJP has a strong cadre and voter base in the state. The common man of Rajasthan has nothing against Ashok Gehlot and they feel that he had come up with some good welfare schemes. But Congress as a party, they are not happy with.

The banner of revolt which Sachin Pilot raised after Congress party’s victory in 2018 has caused severe damage to the image of the party. The people are also not so much impressed by the way the Congress high command has handled the situation. “Unke paas logon ke liye time kahan hai?” is what they ask. Then whom will they vote for, a cab driver and other voters who go to polling booths and cast their vote say, “dekho kya hota hai. Abhi ka mahol se lagta hai ki, Aab ki bar Modi Sarkar.” This feeling is more in the Mewar region of the state and the areas which are dominated by Marwaris.

Pilot was a key figure in ensuring Congress victory against the BJP in 2018; however, he felt he was not given his due. The revolt by Pilot on two occasions is certainly going to cause damage to the party. To counter anti-incumbency, Gehlot is rolling out freebies such as free electricity, cooking gas cylinders for Rs 500, and health insurance benefits, special law for gig community among others. Still it is not so easy a task to counter the anti-incumbency in the state.

As far as Madhya Pradesh is concerned, Congress may have an advantage if the sympathy factor works. It may be recalled that Jyotiraditya had walked out of Congress party with his group of 22 MLAs which led to the fall of Kamalnath government in 2020. Apart from the sympathy factor, the advantage for Congress is that the ruling BJP faces anti-incumbency factor as it has been in power for about two decades. What remains to be seen is whether people would accept the old horses if Kamalnath continues to be the face of the party for CMs post or not?

It may be mentioned here that in 2018, both the BJP and the Congress received almost equal share of votes of 41 per cent. The Congress came close with 114. The BJP won 105 seats.

The internal assessment of the Congress party suggests that both in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh the party should opt for new and younger faces. It is not just the freebies like gas cylinders for Rs 500, farm loan waivers and Rs 1,500 to every woman per month will not get anticipated results.

Chhattisgarh could have been advantage Congress, but again here the party is marred by infighting. CM Bhupesh Baghel is at logger heads with his health minister TS Deo as both are competing for the top post. One advantage the Congress still enjoys here is that the welfare schemes like Godhan Nyay scheme. The scheme under which the government purchases cow dung from cattle owners at Rs 2-a-kg and converts it into vermicompost by women’s self-help groups and sells back to farmers as fertilizers at Rs 8-a-kg seems to be earning good will for the government. Another advantage the Congress has here is that the personal contact programme of the CM with people – something most of the present-day CMs have given up. The BJP on the other hand lacks a strong leadership here and does not have enough ammunition to strike at the mineral rich region led by Baghel except for the Maoist insurgency for the past two decades.

The BJP has ruled the state for 15 long years led by Raman Singh. It got defeated in 2018 when Congress bagged 68 out of 90 seats and got 43 per cent of vote share. The BJP could win in only 15 seats and lost 8 percent votes and 34 assembly seats. There were times when the gap between these two major parties was just one percent vote share.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has also had some traction in Chhattisgarh. The party received six per cent votes in 2008 and four per cent votes in both 2013 and 2018. However, in terms of seat share, the BSP never managed more than one or two. In terms of percentage of votes, it was a little over five per cent but the single digit seats they won helped the Congress party in forming the government. The fight here still would be a close one. Even a marginal swing of one percent can tilt the balance either way.

As the Congress party has laid special focus on Telangana and the political heat has already picked up in the state. Not to take any chance, Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao and his son KTR are embarking on tours of districts. The ground situation is that here too there is an anti-incumbency factor despite various welfare measures introduced during last nine years of BRS government.

On the other hand, the BJP which had gone aggressive for some time is now facing some roadblocks. Not to be left behind, the Congress party has also decided to take up the campaign seriously. Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi would be frequently touring the state and address public meetings. The battle lines seem to be getting clearly drawn between the Congress and the BRS. The Congress which had started mass contact programmes is also attacking the government on issues like Dharani portal and has pushed the ruling party into defence.

The BJP, too, is reworking its strategies and is even contemplating to have some understanding with the TDP which still has good cadre base in at least 20-25 constituencies. Though it may not win many seats on its own at this point of time, they can prove to be deciding factor in these seats. But then TDP wants it to be a package. If the BJP wants its help in Telangana, it should agree to the formula of joint fight by TDP, Jana Sena and BJP in Andhra Pradesh Assembly elections. Overall, the fight in Telangana is going to be keen and tough but the ruling party at this point of time still seems to be having an edge. Mizoram, with its 40-member Assembly house, has been ruled by the MNF since 2018. The state has witnessed a long-standing battle between the MNF and the Congress. Between 2008 and 2018, Congress ruled the state. However, in the last Assembly election, the MNF won 27 seats with a 38 per cent vote share. The party could not get the majority, but with the help of other parties, it formed the government.

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