Congress Party has bright prospects of victories in Assembly Elections
The results of assembly elections in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Mizoram are expected to have a huge bearing on political results in 2019. Out of these states Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan have 520 assembly seats and collectively they have 65 seats in Lok Sabha, which is eight percent of Lok Sabha seats. Accordingly, the outcome of these elections will have strong impact on 2019 general elections. In these three states Congress Party has better electoral prospects due to combinations of factors. These factors play an important role for Congress Party to secure majority of seats in assembly elections. Let’s examine what are those combination of factors in three different states.
In Rajasthan BJP-government led by Vasundhara Raje is not in a position to win majority seats. Farmers’ distress is main issue in the state, farmers suffer loss due to erratic monsoon and pressures of loan repayment. Farmers in the state are dissatisfied with Vasundhara Raje over the execution of agricultural policies and unfulfilled promise. In May 2018 five farmers committed suicide due to lack of support from government, this is new phenomena in state like Rajasthan. They are not satisfied with the announcement of minimum support price (MSP). Farmers demanded that Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations be used in the formula for calculating the MSP because it included the cost of the production from the farm to the market and presumed cost of land. In these terms the dissatisfaction of the farmers could cost the BJP a hefty chunk of rural voters. This is similar to what the BJP faced in the Saurashtra area of Gujarat during the 2017 assembly polls.
Unemployment is a issue in assembly elections of Rajasthan. In 2013 Vasundhara Raje had promised 1.5 million jobs,
her slogan was “Laathi nahi naukari duungi”. The youth feel feeling cheated by BJP because recruitment process has not begun, or recruitment process has been challenged in the court due to faulty advertisement. In this way whole process of recruitment has struck in the court. This section of unemployed youth are not going to vote for the BJP in coming elections.
Funds for old age pension, food security, free medicines has been drastically reduced by the BJP government. Like 2.5 million families have been removed from the food security scheme, 2 million people are unable to access the subsidised rations due to inefficient Point of Sale (POS) machines. Due to this factor poor are suffering at the expanse of digital governance. Apart from this, Centre sponsored social security scheme in the state are not implemented properly.
These are the issues which create perception of inefficiency of BJP-led government by Vasundhara Raje. Different section of society as well as rural and urban voters are favouring Congress Party and for them inefficiency perception of BJP is valid. It is very difficult for BJP to break this perception in these elections. During these election Congress Party slogan is “Kusasan Vasundhara Rajeka”
The state assembly elections before 2019 general elections is a litmus test for the BJP because for 15 years BJP is in power in the state. BJP came to power in 2003 in the first elections that were held after the bifurcation of the state. In Madhya Pradesh anti incumbency looms large. Large chunk of voters shifted to Congress Party in this context.
In Madhya Pradesh more than 65 percent of productive age group engage in agriculture. Farm distress is one of the major issues which negatively impact BJP in these elections. Issues, like loan waivers and better prices to the farmers for their produce is not addressed properly by BJP government. One study gives shocking report that about 1/10th of farmer suicides in the past sixteen years took place in a year from February 2016 and 2017. In 2017 six agitated farmers killed in police firing, this incident is still fresh in the memory of the people, its crates negative perception of the government. This issue dominate the politics of Madhya Pradesh in these assembly elections.
Young population is dissatisfied by the BJP government for not creating job opportunities in the state. The increasing number of unemployed youths in the state are going to vote against BJP. This section is also dissatisfied on Vyapam Scam. The Vyapam scam was unearthed in 2003 and from that time 25 whistle blowers and eye witnesses have died under suspicious circumstances. Non action by Shivraj Chouhan government over Vyapam scam allegations have dented his image which will have negative impact on BJP in these elections. On the other side Congress Party is constant in to bring issues related to Vyapam and this move create positive impression among people for the party which favours it assembly election. At the leadership level the Congress in Madhya Pradesh is in a better position as compared to the BJP. Kamal Nath is an experienced political strategist. He is nine terms member of Parliament from Chhindwara. Jyotiraditya Scindia is a campaign committee chief for the Congress Party in Madhya Pradesh. Jyotiraditya’s ability to connect with the youth which makes up 44 percent of the voters will help the Congress Party to garner large number of votes from this section. Part ticket distributed by Congress is the most important aspect which gives party an edge. The formula adopted by Congress is to give ticket only to those candidates who worked on ground level. This formula directly connects workers of Party with the leadership. JAYS (Jai Advasi Yuva Shakti) is a tribal outfit which has now entered into an arrangement with the Congress. The first list of candidates that was released by the party gave ticket to the founder of JAYS from Manawar constituency. Jays is led by Hiralal Alawa, a doctor from AIIMS, who started the party in 2012 as a result of dissatisfaction among the tribal with the government. There are 47 seats reserved for Scheduled Tribe population in Madhya Pradesh and Congress Party’s alliance with JAYS will be beneficial for the Congress in terms of electoral outcomes in assembly elections.
In the last assembly elections out of 90 seats, BJP had won 49 seats, Congress secured 39, BSP 1 and independent 1. This time Chhattisgarh assembly elections were held in two phases. Issues like Maoist threat in state, corruption, farmers distress, road connectivity and power shortage will give Congress Party an edge over ruling BJP in these elections. In 2006 then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh describe Naxalism as the single biggest internal security challenge. In 2009, the centre banned the CPI (Maoist) under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Raman Singh’s government has failed to tackle Naxal menace over the past few years. Naxals have launched deadly attack on security forces including the Darbha Valley incident, which killed Congress leaders Mahendra Karma, Uday Mudaliya Nand Kumar Patel, his son Dinesh and other political leaders associated with the party, who were campaigning ahead of the 2013 polls.
Power shortage is one of the prominent issues in Chhattisgarh assembly election. Raman Singh government has failed to give twenty-four-hour supply of electricity to the people. According to Financial Express report in 2018 a rise in demand for electricity and dearth of coal supply has pushed power plants towards outages. As per the government data, power plants are suffering from coal shortages and because of this factor power plants which are generating 10,500 MW, 2,700 MW, and 4,210 MW are declared as non-functional.
It means government has no clear policy on electricity and whatever has implemented is suffering from clear objectives. In this context BJP chief Amit Shah claim of 24-hour power supply achievement by Raman Singh government is false and has no relation with ground realities. In this scenario Congress Party has better prospects to get majority of votes because of better alternative provided by the party as compared to the BJP.
Chhattisgarh was curved out of Madhya Pradesh with the aim to provide the native speakers of Chhattisgarhi language their own independent state and to ensure that the region’s large Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe population are represented adequately. Nearly one third of the state’s population is from ST communities, while 11.6 percent of it are from SC group. However, statehood, it appears, has done little to improve the lives of the poorest in the state. A report by Rangrajan Panel had found that nearly half of Chhattisgarh population 47.9 percent was below the poverty line, which is highest among all Indian states. Apart from this the Augusta Westland chopper case and the public distribution scheme scam came to light in recent years, where the state government has faced irregularities. In these terms Congress party has natural advantage in assembly elections.
In its campaigns, the Congress Party has focused on the plight of farmers in Chhattisgarh. 70 percent population is engaged in agriculture and allied activities. The Congress has been raising the issue of farmers distress in state constantly and intensify its attack on state government. The Congress raised the issue of minimum support price, the previous Congress led UPA paid to farmers as against the MSP the ruling BJP led government pays them. The congress has accused the current BJP govt pf going back on its 2013 poll promise of providing 2100 MSP and 300 as annual bonus.
These factors clearly show a comfortable electoral margin for congress party in these assembly elections. Now let us discuss the impact of these assembly results on 2019 general elections. The outcome in the next round of assembly elections in crucial Hindi dominated states of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh is going to be extremely crucial for 2019 general elections. Survey, media reports from ground show that mood of the electorate is inclined in favour of the Congress party in these states. In Rajasthan electorates are in favour of Congress. It is there because of combined force of anti-incumbency, fractious political battles within BJP and maturity shown by the top two leaders of congress party. If Sachin Pilot’s rise in Rajasthan politics proves that hard work ultimately pays rich dividends in the longer runs, Ashok Gehlot’s prominence demonstrates his firm grip on the party organisation. In Rajasthan BJP is going to suffer heavy electoral loss and CM Vasundhara Raje is not able to attract votes of the electorates. This is because the manner in which she ran her government, marginalised the loyal party workers and antagonising the seasoned leaders. As her popularity rating continues to go down, the vacuum has been ably filled by the Congress Party. In these terms Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot are now the new favourites of the electorate. The Rajasthan assembly elections are focused on state level issues and personalities as the so-called Modi wave seems to have lost its sheen. In Rajasthan, Rahul Gandhi is proceeding in right direction in terms of electoral strategy, for example he is using respective advantage of Ashok Gahlot and Sachin Pilot without prematurely deciding party chief ministerial candidate. It goes to the Rahul Gandhi credit that BJP’s central leadership, including Prime Minister himself has been forced to acknowledge his name in recent months, testifying his increasing political confidence. Their attack, most personal, on Rahul Gandhi have intensified. It would not be an exaggeration to argue that the road for the congress in 2019 general elections goes through Rajasthan.
In Madhya Pradesh Congress Party has favourable circumstances. Anti-incumbency is almost comparable to Digvijay Singh’s time way back in 2003. Tribal Dalit and general voters will be consolidated under Congress and its allies. It means this will have a deciding effect on 35-40 seats because Congress won the by-poll in Kolaras and Mungaoli, this vote bank is naturally inclined towards Congress this time. In 2003 BJP won 44.88 percent vote share against Congress 42.67 percent. BJP got 165 seats while Congress only got 58 seats. A 2 - percent vote share difference is enough to create a 100 plus seat difference. This arithmetic will work because Modi effect has already broken down. Modi’s message would be less appealing to an agrarian and urban population of Madhya Pradesh. In Madhya Pradesh farmers, Dalits, Youth and state government officers are not happy with the BJP government. Congress Party has consolidated itself under leadership of Kamal Nath and Jiyotiraditya Schindia. In these terms Congress is determined, and focused campaign will definitely favour the party in elections. Factions inside the state congress have been united like they were under Madhav Rao Schindia back in early 90’s. Trouble makers and bad names are sidelined in election campaign.
In Chhattisgarh assembly elections Congress Party has favourable environment. During last election there was only one percent vote share difference between Congress and BJP. In 2013 election, BJP won 49 out of 90 seats with a vote share of 41.04 percent while Congress won 39 seats and secured a vote share of 40.29 percent. From this perspective, for first time in many years, circumstances are favouring Congress Party. The exit of Ajit Jogi from Congress Party is advantage for it. According to media reports there is a strong sentiment in favour of Congress Party because people understand that vote for Ajit Jogi will mean support for BJP. With Jogi factor out from Congress, this will be helpful in winning back the support of upper caste, OBC, traders and employees who had shifted their allegiance to the BJP due to Ajit Jogi. As part of its strategy, the Congress leadership has deliberately decided not to name Chief Ministerial candidate following the assessment that announcing the face will trigger internal struggle and hurt party’s electoral prospects. This analysis is a true reflection of ground realities. All the possible factors discussed here show that Congress Party is going to secure majority in these assembly elections.
(Author is an Assistant Professor with JDM College, DU)