This year, Democracy went through another round of tests with a two month election process in four states of India – Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry. The election process in India is dramatic in itself with no stone left unturned in campaigning and the relentless coverage across media channels. The election results have been breathtakingly surprising this year, considering the states involved had a substantial contribution in Lok Sabha. The electoral scene in India has been turning to a battlefield each year as political parties go through endless scrutinies and play the blame game with higher intensity and rules like never before.
This year, the poll results have been unforgiving for Congress, raising a question about their future and relevance in India. On the other hand, BJP has been colouring India saffron with its victory over Assam and its fortunate alliance in Tamil Nadu. While the elections have set their own trends this year and we look forward to seeing a bigger picture in the coming months too, we bring to you the entire story through the words of bloggers who had their own take about the political warfare and the results.
Ashish gives us a perfect start, talking about the phase of apprehension that the exit poll results fueled while we were still waiting for the final results to come. He gives a sure shot comment on the likelihood of Congress losing its battle as BJP bags seats in Assam quoting his doubt on the fate of Tamil Nadu-
“Now the exit polls for these states have emerged after the state elections have been held, and if these polls are an accurate reflection of the trends, the Congress continues to be in a position where it sees no hope. It held a government in the states of Assam and Kerala, and these are significant large states. However, the exit polls show that the BJP has taken a march over the Congress in Assam, although that is the only strong point for the BJP. The expected increase in seats in the other states has just not happened, with the party being belong the support levels that were seen in the Lok Sabha polls.
For the Congress, if it loses in Assam, will be another jolt, since it would mean that its strategy of not forming an all alliance with the AIUDF has not paid off; there were some pressures within the party about whether to form an alliance or not and given that the party was likely to face serious anti-incumbency, there was some expectation that it would form an alliance.”
One of the biggest trends that this election saw was the undeniable local support the regional parties continue to enjoy. Despite the presence of BJP or the Congress at the centre, regional parties have kept a strong hold on their respective states. West Bengal proves the same as Didi, despite the scams bothering her election campaigns, tasted victory yet again. Mamata Banerjee, has come back again as the political miscalculation of the CPI-M aligning with Congress remained ineffective in taking her place. Kalpojyoti Kashyap through her piece talks about the quite evident victory of TMC discussing the contributing factors that led to the former Chief minister with yet another term.
“All in all, it can be concluded that Mamata Banerjee has proved that in the absence of a non-Left opposition, she is one of those leaders who is beyond scams and collapsed flyovers which would otherwise seriously dent the prospects of any average politician. The Congress has once again proved that it’s a bad ally to have in present circumstances unless the equations overwhelmingly favour the dominant party of the alliance. The Left needs to do a serious reevaluation of its strategies and whether it can actually continue to support Anti National elements without damaging its electoral prospects. The BJP can complement itself on a job well done as it has increased its vote share tremendously. If the TMC continues to be marred by scams, the Left continues to falter and the BJP maintains its momentum, it won’t be too long before West Bengal Assembly Elections become a three way battle with the Left at the bottom of the ladder.”
Kerala remained out of reach for BJP, bringing back its Congress-Communist monopoly as PM Modi committed the blunder of comparing the state with ‘Somalia’, losing the party all its potential voters as they raged in response to his comment. TJS George gives his comments on the self damage the party unknowingly did at the end of a race they could have probably won.
“But the biggest setback for the BJP came unexpectedly from its star campaigner, Narendra Modi. He compared Kerala, of all places, with Somalia, of all places. BJP spokesman later explained that the Prime Minister was only referring to the infant death rate among a section of Adivasis in Kerala. But even that offered no scope for comparison because Somalia was way down. The important thing is that people got the impression that Modi was comparing Kerala, India’s number one state in socio-cultural parameters, with a country that had collapsed into wretchedness on all counts.”
Tamil Nadu emerged as a mysteriously surprising state this time. Jaya and M. Karunanidhi have been tossing power like a ritual every five years since 2001. This year, Jaya almost broke the jinx, winning over the public despite being a constant presence in the media owing to her legal disputes over ‘disproportionate assets’. While she battled her legal wars, her enigma was quite visible through multiple suicides by her fans. Her modus operandi of providing 100 per cent subsidy to micro farmers made sure her iron grip on her public remained intact. G. Pramod takes Jaya’s victory as a reflection of the political scenario that might be cooking up in the state considering the time still unripe for a third party in the state.
“Jaya’s continuation in office also tells quite a bit about Tamil Nadu politics, the most distinct being how strongly the Dravidian parties dominate the state and how non-strategic the opposition parties are. Whether it’s a landslide for Jaya like last time or a decent victory like the one this time, chunk of the votes are vertically split between AIADMK or the DMK. This bipolarity leaves no scope for a third player, however hard one tries. The 2016 election clearly demonstrated the futility of attempting to expand this space. Besides the AIADMK and DMK fronts, there were three more players in the fray this time—the DMDK (and its front called the PWF), the PMK and the BJP—all with single digit vote-shares. All of them had some successes in the past when they had aligned with either the AIADMK or the DMK, but the moment they leave the Dravidian fold, they become practically nothing.”
The most significant result of this elections has undoubtedly been BJP spreading wings for the first time in the North-east, winning Assam. The credit goes to the anti-incumbency factor, with the public finally looking for a change after a 15 year old stronghold by Congress, the young promising face of the future portrayed by Sabananda Sanowal combined with BJP playing its cards with its promising ‘Hindutva’ concept. John Elliot throws light on how BJP might have learnt its lessons from Delhi opening its doors in Assam.
“Assam is the first state that the party has won in India’s North-East, and it has provided Modi with the boost that he needs two years after he won a landslide general election. Last year he suffered two disastrous personal defeats in Delhi and Bihar state assembly elections, and his government’s image has been declining.Having learned from making Modi the focal point of its campaigns in Delhi and Bihar, the BJP changed tack in Assam and projected other leaders. It also focussed more on development than anti-Muslim rhetoric, though it tried to win votes from the state’s resident Muslims by playing on their fears of being swamped by an influx of Muslims from neighbouring Bangladesh.”
With the results out, there are quite a few things one cannot fail to notice. The biggest being that India’s opposition party Congress is losing its game in the country. As the results declared stakes being high for regional parties and BJP, Congress seemed to be left out by the voters of the country. With the ‘Modi’ wave sweeping across the country, Congress’ popularity has definitely seen a dramatic drop this year. Deepak Parvatiyar peaks about the biggest fall seen this year and sympathises quite sarcastically.
“For a child initiated to English medium schooling, it is well impossible to avoid the “great fall” that Humpty Dumpty had. Can the century-old Indian National Congress’ drubbing at 2016 Assembly elections be seen as analogous to that of the fall of Humpty Dumpty? As the proverb goes, A drowning man catches at straw. But what if the straw fails him? This is exactly what is happening to the Congress at the moment. The more it is looking for support from outside, the more it is getting fragmented within. Of late, this has been a trend assuming the proportion of a joke and it poorly reflects the dire straits that the party has plunged into, particularly after its disastrous performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Overnight, the rulers had become beggars, not just figuratively but literally.”
As the just concluded elections cement the performance records for the BJP for 2019 elections, they also form the perfect recipes for the extinction of Congress. Are we moving towards a time too dark for the latter with India becoming Congress free or should the party rethink its strategy and buck up to exist? Sagarika Ghose writes-
“The big picture for Congress therefore is one in which it has lost Assam, lost Kerala, and failed in its experiment of allying with the Left in Bengal. In both Kerala and Assam Congress had strong and autonomous chief ministers, but was unable to beat back history. The grand old party’s umbrella coalition appears tattered not just on the edges but at its very heart. From Gujarat to Orissa and across central and north India, it’s hard to find a state where Congress can claim to make a comeback in a direct fight with BJP. In fact history shows that except Andhra Pradesh, there is no other state where Congress has returned to power after facing two consecutive election defeats.”
The elections might have given us a glimpse of the political terrain that has formed in the country, a lot is yet to be seen with elections in Punjab and UP coming next year. It cannot be negated that BJP is balancing its wins and losses quite well, yet Congress and other regional parties are close enough to be a threat to the party. The elections have reiterated that the voters are not naive and have finally started looking beyond traditions and sham alliances. There is hope for good days to come when it comes to responsible voting on the citizens’ part in the coming times. And that’s good news for the world’s largest democracy.