avatarJairam R Prabhu

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The Election to Five Indian States- Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Mizoram

Here’s the article on everything to know about the Elections to Five States in India. Know more about Political Parties, Who’s winning, the issues of the day, leaders contesting and competing, the number game and much more.

We have now come to the most important state elections in India not only because of its numbers but also for multiple reasons. These are also the elections where the national parties are the strongest and local parties are weaker but are important.

Most importantly, these elections are seen as the semi-final of the Lok Sabha or General elections that will happen in 2024. Additionally, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh are considered as the swing states of Indian Politics.

They have always voted opposite to the national mood in state elections since 2003. This time we are yet to if this is the case too. Also, six months later, they will vote totally differently in national elections. With such peculiarity, this election is going to be tightly contested and fought.

Credits- The Indian Express

Features of the Election

The election will happen in the second half of November and the result will be officially out on 3rd December. Only Chattisgarh will see elections being held in two phases while rest four will only have a single one. This will also be the first important election after the formation of the INDIA Alliance and Congress being at the forefront in all states on behalf of the INDIA Alliance.

The three states- Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh have always seen neck-neck fights between Congress and BJP at the state level. In Telangana, the major party is BRS while the runner-up position is fought between Congress and the BJP. Hence, Telangana is different from the rest of the states. Mizoram for the longest point in time was a Congress stronghold, it even won 40 out of 40 seats.

While in the past two elections, BJP has cleanly swept these three in the Lok Sabha elections. As said always before, BJP dominates the cities and Congress dominates the rural areas and a few suburbs. The only cities which have significant Congress presence are Gwalior, Jabalpur, Rewa, Chindwara and Morena. In Rajasthan and Chattisgarh, Congress has played tighter in big cities that have worked well for the party. Congress still controls the Jaipur Heritage Municipal Corporation (Old Jaipur).

While in Telangana, the loss of the Majority for BRS in the Hyderabad Municipal elections is a shocker. Congress which was once strong in the city has been decimated in the same election. It was the BJP that reaped most of the election. The BRS was forced to make an unholy alliance with AIMIM.

BJP was able to succeed here through the massive use of resources, extensive campaigns by national leaders and Hindu-Muslim Polarisation. BRS has changed a lot since 2020 and is planning to make alternative strategies and remain dominant. Congress is trying to improve its tally in both Mizoram and Telangana.

Stakes for different sides in the Election

BJP

Being the centre of Indian Politics for close to a decade right now, it sets the agenda, has the maximum resources and has a strong Teflon leader- PM Narendra Modi. BJP has now become a centralised party with very weak state leadership. The current state leaders are sidelined and for the past five years in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh; the BJP has failed to correct a lot of mistakes. Instead, BJP has fielded central ministers in the state election to overcome the statewide anti-incumbency against MLAs.

BJP takes each and every election seriously and hence this election, especially the big three states is prestigious for the BJP. In the other two states, BJP is striving for the second position. Telangana is very important for BJP to enter the south. Other than Karnataka only state where the BJP has a couple of MLAs is in Telangana.

BJP which is now controlling a large portion of North East now, Mizoram will be a significant test for the party. Moreover, the BJP if it wins many states this time, will be hailed as a victory for PM Modi, the popularity of his governance and policies. It will also add to larger rhetorics of Double Engine Government, Hindutva and Nationalism.

Congress

Since 2013, the party has never been confident as of today. Congress after the victory in Himachal and Karnataka. The well-planned and executed Bharat Jodo Yatra backed by the Party’s Presidential election that brought a Non-Gandhi and OBC leader Mallikharajuna Kharge gives a lot of confidence and hope. Also, Kharge was successful in bringing reforms and strengthening the party. Also, the onground situation has improved for Congress in many states. It has also ramped up its social media strategy, catching up to BJP in the information warfare. In most of these states, Congress is using soft Hindutva to counter the hard Hindutva of the BJP.

Besides, in 2013 Congress won Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh; hence took charge of the government. Today it is on the defensive in these states. Congress CMs are extremely popular but there’s massive anti-incumbency against the Local MLAs of the party which can hurt the party’s chances in the upcoming election.

Also, Congress’s need to save its big states is more important than the BJP taking them back. It also needs to win to show that Double-Engine rhetoric is a farce and that even an opposition party can get re-elected in Modi’s New India. Most importantly Congress wants to use this as a starting point to recover in the country.

State parties

Despite the contest largely being between the Congress and BJP, Mizoram and Telangana have strong regional parties. With the defeat of Congress in 2018 in Mizoram, it was a sunset for the party in the North-East. NDA ally Mizo National Front (MNF) has come into power and is playing a key role in the state.

Since 2014, Congress lost its major political position in the state of Telangana. BRS has taken the pole position mostly eating the Congress vote and taking advantage of the Telangana sentiments. The breakaway party Rashtriya Lok Tantrik Party (RLP) is at odds with the BJP and is doing well on its turf.

There are minor parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) that are important in both Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Rajasthan is also a state where local leaders and independents still have a lot of clout. Now let’s come to a statewide understanding of the elections and what makes each state unique.

Madhya Pradesh

With 230 seats in the fray, it is the biggest prize in this election. It is a BJP-Congress state with a slight edge to BJP but it doesn’t mean Congress is inferior in any way. BJP has always had a strong place in MP since the birth of RSS in the 1980s. In 2018, Congress defeated the strong BJP and ended the three-consecutive term of Sivaraj Singh Chauhan.

With the help of smaller parties, Congress ruled for two years until the BJP toppled the Kamal Nath government. BJP did it for two reasons, it wanted to take away the great leader of Congress- Jyotiradithya Scindia and overturn the power. Secondly, Scindia is from the Congress stronghold of Chambal-Gwalior which BJP is eyeing to barge in.

Mahakaushal and Chindwara area is commanded by Congress strongman Kamal Nath who has been credited with the development of the region. Currently, Digvijay Singh is working on the sidelines.

Currently, the ruling BJP is facing extreme anti-incumbency. Just like in Rajasthan, CM Chauhan is very popular but there is a problem with BJP MLAs, the ruling party and those who defected from Congress. Hence, the BJP is facing massive defeat if not dealt with properly. BJP has been facing extreme disagreements and disappointments with ticket distribution recently.

Congress on the flip side, is facing infighting between Kamal Nath and Digvijay Singh. The fight has temporarily subsided. The situation is in favour of Congress which is trying to bank on. Traditionally, Women votes in the state have largely voted in favour of BJP primarily Shivaraj Singh Chauhan. The recently announced Laldi Behna Yojna is a game changer.

Currently, the BJP is using two strategies- invoking pre-2003 underdeveloped MP under Congress and the other is to Nationalise the election under PM Modi’s name. Congress in order to rival the BJP is also using a soft Hindutva plank.

BJP is active in big cities, Bhagelkhand, Bundelkhand, Narmada, and Bhopal regions. Congress is strong in Chambal, Mahakoshal, Malwa and Gird regions. Despite jumping ship, Jyotiradithya Scindia and his MLAs haven’t received tickets from the BJP and is the biggest loser of the time. Besides, UP-based parties SP and BSP also have a few seats and have supported Congress in the past well. Congress is trying to form a tactical alliance with the SP. Currently, the state is under a tight fight, the state is vulnerable to flipping any side.

Rajasthan

This state is a tight fight between Congress and BJP in North India every election. Both parties have more than 40% committed vote share although there are minor parties in the state as well. It is also one of the very few states in India that votes for a government change every election. Will the government change this time or will it create a history? is yet to be seen.

The incumbent Rajasthan government is run by Congress. In 2018, Congress hardly managed to form a government which is opposed to multiple opinions and exit polls. It was hard for then-PCC President Sachin Pilot to increase the Congress tally from 21 (in 2013) to 100. But the good news for the party started with a lot of internal conflicts.

Who will be the CM- Gehlot or Pilot was the main focus of the party. For the next three years, the rivalry took away party of the screen time and the government was extremely dysfunctional. It was only in the last two years the government was doing something effective that too with Sachin Pilot getting sidelined.

Most of Ashok Gehlot’s policies are extremely popular. Chiranjeevi Scheme and the Old Pension Scheme have gained wide acceptance. People have accepted him as a great CM, unlike Vasundhara Raje in 2018. But as discussed before, massive anti-incumbency exists against the local MLAs of the Congress. Sachin Pilot is extremely sidelined in the state which is negative for the party at large.

BJP on the other hand is facing all the problems, Congress is also facing. Multiple factions and many leaders are competing for the leadership post(s). Their top leader Vasundhara Raje is sidelined by the national leadership which has heavily weakened the party. Due to this BJP is unable to perform well as expected.

The only factor working in favour of the BJP is anti-incumbency. In 2018, despite anti-incumbency, BJP got 73 out of 200 seats which is not a bad tally. In an experiment, the BJP has decided to field a lot of central ministers and overcome state-level disappointment. BJP had also started campaigning and preparation early on.

Beyond BJP and Congress, there are both national and state-level parties active here. RLP as said before aligned with the BJP in the Lok Sabha until the end of 2020, to break away from the BJP on the issue of farmer’s protests. It gets significant support and votes from the Jat community. BSP is the only regional party that has a lot of committed vote share and won six seats in 2018.

Unlike popular perception, CPI-M has a strong foothold in many constituencies and it won two seats last time. The Gujarat-based- Bharatiya Tribal Party entered in 2018, which can be a spoiler for both national parties. Rajasthan has a lot of strong independents who can win seats on their own.

The main issues in the election include welfare policies of the government, the Jat issue, Farmer’s distress, students’ issues, unemployment, violent crimes, OPS, ED raids against opposition leaders, and much more. It is easier for the BJP to win 25+ seats and come to power than for Congress to defend its existing tally, which makes the state hopeful for a flip this time. Mewar and Shekhawat are the strongholds of the BJP, and it is expected to do well in these regions. BJP is banking on Rajputs, upper-caste and OBC votes. Congress might hold on to Marwar and Harouti; expect a decent tally and forge an alliance with local parties. It does very well among Jat, Meena and Gujjar votes.

Chhattisgarh

Bhupesh Bhagel is the strongman leader of Congress and the only CM in the party is extremely clean, powerful and can challenge the high command. It is also the only state where Congress is sure shot to get re-elected. He has tight control over the party. He defeated the three-time BJP CM Raman Singh in 2018. After his election, the first decision he took was a loan waiver for farmers. He has promised it again this time. With various populist policies and leadership during COVID-19; CM Bhupesh Bhagel is very charismatic and popular amidst the allegations of corruption.

BJP as other states has sidelined its main leader Raman Singh. Today, the BJP in Chattisgarh is a headless chicken which is unable to do anything much in the past. BJP totally banks on Brand Modi and Double-Engine rhetoric. Other issues are crimes, students’ issues, unemployment, improper conduct of government exams and much more.

Basthar has always been a Congress stronghold, but this time there are more contenders which will not make it a cakewalk. Also, the issue of conversions and the role of Christian missionaries on the ground is grappling the region. The most peculiar part of the Chattisgarh election is going to be that, AAP is also in fray trying to cut the votes of Congress. As usual, the BJP is running a national election while Congress is running a local election.

Telangana

In 2018, CM Chandrashekhar Rao dissolved the assembly 2018 which is nine months earlier than the prescribed date of May 2019. He didn’t want to nationalise the election and let the election be hijacked by BJP. This step proved beneficial to the party. Under Utham Reddy and L Ramanna, the primary opposition alliance led by Congress and the Telegu Desam Party (TDP) failed to make any improvements. TRS in turn gained more than 25 seats mainly decimating the TDP. BJP hardly managed to secure one seat which is their stronghold of Secunderabad.

Since the creation of Telangana, TRS or BRS has had a one-sided space in the state. But there has been a massive fight between three parties at two different times for the second place. Before 2019, it was between Congress and TDP and now (2019-) it is between Congress and BJP. In recent times the BJP has been able to make heavy dents in the state.

BJP is the second largest party in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation election where BJP grew to the extent of both Congress and BRS. Also, the BJP was able to win a few by-elections to both Assembly and Lok Sabha. Polarisation has been used as a major tool in getting a lot of Hindu votes mainly from big cities.

BRS today is banking on his populist policies, welfare schemes and freebies. He gets a lot of support from farmers, backward classes and women. BRS has done a lot for the development of Hyderabad city by bringing record investment. The new Congress Chief Revanth Reddy has done a lot of hard work and he has tried to strengthen the party’s foothold.

Congress has also fielded former cricket players like Mohammed Azharuddin and many stalwart leaders too. Also, Telangana is one of the handful of states with a strong base for Congress and proper vote share. A single opinion poll out of many shows Congress closer to a victory in Telangana, but such a prediction is far-fetched as of now where KCR is the most popular leader in the state.

BJP has used Hindutva polarisation, central agencies and replacing Congress as the challenger. It has portrayed KCR as a corrupt leader and his party of nepotism. Region-wise, TRS has a strong foothold across the state. Congress is strong in border areas and a few urban pockets. TDP is marginally present on its border with Andhra Pradesh and may not make any significant impact this time.

Mizoram

North East politics has always been extremely unique. There always exists a strong national party and multiple smaller parties. Earlier Northeast was dominated by Congress, now it is the BJP. In all the states, Congress had faced successive humiliating defeats but it is only Mizoram that gives some hope for revival.

In 2018, Mizo National Front (MNF) defeated Congress after a very long time to take control of the state. At the same time, a new party the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) also made its footprint present. Congress then lost 24 seats in the 40-seat assembly. BJP although having only a single seat forged an alliance with MNF and ruled the state together.

Just like last time Mizoram will be the state this time where there is a triangular congested. Congress is trying to topple the MNF government. Despite being a new party ZPM was able to clean sweep the Lunglei Municipal Council this year. Hence, Mizoram will indeed be a neck-neck with the advantage of NDA.

Conclusion and What to expect?

From an opinions-polls perspective, Congress has an edge in Chattisgarh. Both parties are even in Madhya Pradesh; whoever wins the state is subject to local issues such as allies, and seat sharing. BJP is ahead in Rajasthan but is giving a tough time to Congress in MP.

In Telangana, Congress is poised to stay as the runner-up with improvement in its tally and victory for BRS. MNF is set to form government in BJP will be a distant third in both Mizoram and Telangana. The role of state and local parties will be a spoiler for both sides which makes opinion polls not so reliable.

From a macro-level point of view, the elections will indicate whether both Congress and BJP politics are sustainable in the long run. On one hand, Congress’s state leaders are dominating the picture here while BJP High Command is making a risky gamble interfering too much.

BJP’s tactic of asking Central ministers to contest the election shows a lack of confidence in state leadership. BJP’s sideling of popular CMs shows it is replicating the Congress-style high command culture which has backfired. BJP is making the same mistake as Karnataka.

Whether 2024 will be a different picture than the verdict of 2023 is yet to be seen. Largely both state and national elections have different and distinct characteristics. The only way of measuring 2024 being viewed from 2023 is to see how parties have changed since previous elections and how they have learnt from their mistakes. More or less opinion polls have gone wrong multiple times in India, hence it is ideal to wait for the results to see how the verdict has been.

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