The political map of India today is changing. There is a blue patch across the middle of the country that was not there yesterday, as those States were still coloured in saffron. But the people have spoken and the voters of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and then Telangana and Mizoram have derailed the Bharatiya Janata Party’s dream of a Congress Mukt Bharat. The results are in keeping with the trend that was set in Goa in 2017 and endorsed by the voters of Karnataka earlier this year. It was close in MP (with counting on till late in the night but Congress holding the edge), a simple majority in Rajasthan, a large majority in Chhattisgarh, a sweep by the TRS in Telangana and a sizeable majority for the MNF in Mizoram. BJP that held power in three States was nowhere.
With just about four months to go before India elects a new government, these State elections that were dubbed as a semi final for the big event have shown that the mood of the nation is swinging away from the BJP. The argument that people vote differently in the parliamentary and assembly elections stands, but what can play a major role in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls is that there will be Congress governments and chief ministers in the northern belt, a fact that the BJP that came through with a simple majority in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, just cannot afford to ignore in its bid for a second term in the Lok Sabha.
As it took a stumble in the State elections, BJP is searching for positives in the results and is seeking to find solace in the fact that after 15 years in power in MP it gave a good fight and that the party is still very prevalent across the State as it has not been rejected outright by the voters. It was close, and came down to the wire, with Congress just managing to edge out the BJP. Anti-incumbency would have played a major role in the BJP loss, but that, however, for the party is merely a balm to be applied to soothe the wound, while the other party distributes ladoos to savour the sweet taste of victory. This vote was also an indication of the people’s perception of the BJP’s policies and its politics.
The biggest takeaway from the election results is that the fragmented vote share has now crystallized to the national parties and there is a shift back to the Congress in the Hindi belt. That, however, doesn’t take away the fact that the BJP which swept this belt in 2014 still has a sizeable presence in the three States, with the exception of Telangana and Mizoram, where it fared badly, but then so did Congress in these two States. Here regional parties have managed to hold on to the voter base, even increase it, with the National parties falling far behind. Congress lost power in Mizoram, a State it had won by a large majority in the last election.
The election story is not over with these results. There now starts a new chapter as India gears up for the Lok Sabha elections in the coming months. The results will bring into focus the Modi factor, which had brought BJP to victory in 2014. Is it on the wane? There definitely has been a dent, but is it so big that it could make a big difference in the coming months? It is also the question of whether these elections have positioned the Congress as the fulcrum of a mahagathbandhan of the opposition around which the other regional parties will revolve. Answers to these will be provided in the coming months.