Decoding electoral results

The results of Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh need to be decoded for their national importance and what they mean for the general election in 2024

In the Gujarat Assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party has created a record by winning the seventh time – and with the biggest tally ever. In 2002, when the party went to polls under the leadership of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, it won 127 seats. Riding on the popularity of Prime Minister Modi, it won 156 seats in the Assembly of 182 members. Modi represents national development and when he’s able to turn a state election into ‘Modi versus who’, he slays the competition. Even in Himachal Pradesh, the party stopped just short of forming the government, getting only .9% less votes than the Congress. For an incumbent party to get almost the same number of votes as the winner is no mean feat. Clearly, if the party had managed its dissidents, who fought as the Independent candidates, the result could have been different.

In Gujarat, the Congress gave the BJP a virtual walkover. It did not fight with passion. Its top leaders, including former president Rahul Gandhi, were conspicuous by their absence. No wonder, the December 2022 election has been the party’s worst performance. The Congress got a mere 17 seats and 27.28% votes. The BJP’s vote share is 52.50%. The BJP goes to all polls with its full might. Remember how BJP president JP Nadda and Union home minister Amit Shah campaigned for the party during the Hyderabad civic polls in December 2020. Even during the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections, the party pulled out all the stops. Even though it was a local election, Union cabinet ministers and chief ministers of states were campaigning for it. For the BJP, no election is small and no election can be fought casually. This is something that all political parties in the country need to learn. Rahul Gandhi thought the Bharat Jodo Yatra was more important than campaigning in Gujarat and Himachal. Arvind Kejriwal fled from Himachal Pradesh during the last phase of electioneering and pumped all his energy on Gujarat.

The BJP under the leadership of Prime Minister works tirelessly to win elections. It doesn’t discriminate between elections and works equally hard to win all of them. So, even though it lost Delhi civic polls to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), it did not end with a whimper. The BJP won 104 wards out of total 250, which is not a bad performance after 15 years of incumbency. If the MCD results are decoded on the basis of 2020 Assembly elections in Delhi, the party has managed to retain 39% vote share; AAP’s vote share fell from 54% to 42%.

In state after state, the BJP is able to continue its winning march because of the hard work and passion with which it goes to polls. The year 2022 has been a good year for the party so far – it won Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa. Next year (2023), elections are due in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram. Some states have the Assembly elections with the Lok Sabha polls in 2024. The BJP may find some challenge in the states, but when it comes to the national scenario, it seems to be far ahead of any political party. The oldest national party in the country, the Congress, is on its way of losing the status of a national party and appears to get weaker by the day. The party leadership seem to have missed the plot and are content on their traditional vote base, which is also shrinking by the day. The regional political bigwigs do harbour national aspirations but also realise their limitations so they prefer to hold the fort in their states. These regional players have strong worker network but they want to save their energy for the state polls – Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, DMK in Tamil Nadu, BJD in Odisha, YSR Congress Party in Andhra Pradesh and Bharat Rashtra Samithi, formerly known as Telangana Rashtra Samithi, in Telangana. The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party can expand their wings in other states but they appear to be disinterested. After its performance in Gujarat, the AAP has got the status of a national party but it may not completely occupy the space ceded by the Congress.

This leads us to conclude that the 2024 national election will be a triangular fight among the BJP, the Congress and the AAP. AAP’s national performance will depend upon its performance in states it doesn’t have any presence yet. The party led by Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal doesn’t have much of a grassroot network in many states. After its victory in Punjab, it tried to cause some political ripples in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. But the Himachal Pradesh results show that it did it only half-heartedly. There’s no word on the Assembly elections in J&K yet but whenever the Union Territory goes to polls, AAP will most likely take the space of the Congress and will be pitted against the regional players, National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party. AAP is yet to develop the kind of workers base that is required to take on the mammoth election machine that the BJP has become. Depending upon how the BJP performs in states going to polls in 2023, the party is most likely to have an easy run at the national elections in 2024.

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