(Inputs by: Praveen Priyadarshi, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Zakir Hussain College, Delhi University)
Desh badal raha hai, aage bad raha hai –A vision that lost its chagrin
The results of elections in five Indian states last week was an eye-opener for the political enthusiast, with three Congress chief ministers now in place in Hindi-speaking states of North India that were all previously held by the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). How did Congress manage it all while it seemed that BJP was well rooted?
Multiple farmers' protests and low food inflation, growing demands for farm loan waivers, growing agitations, etc. have enraged the farmer against the BJP and they are toying with the other option available in absence of a succinct deliverance.
For the Congress party, 2014 was lowest in terms of voter preference. Only in Punjab and Karnataka, they managed to scrape through with the formation of coalitions. This led to the realisation in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, that Indian National Congress (INC) has to convey a united front, like in case of Madhya Pradesh Kamal Nath holds the reins at the centre and Sachin Pilot is appointed to manage the grass root levels. Also in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, BJP has been fighting the incumbency for the last 15 years and the voters wanted change.
BJP lost more than 70% of constituencies where PM Narendra Modi campaigned during the recent five-state Assembly elections, according to an analysis presented by The Quint. Modi's vocal deliveries were not appealing to people. He further added that PM Modi's rallies were not well attended either as he lacked the conviction he had four years back. Some of the primary campaigns he led have lost their steam, such as 'Make in India' and 'Skill India'. These did not create the necessary mark and have literally not been able to take off the ground.
The Modi government is said to have created a feel good factor of the kind needed to lift the spirits of Indian citizens and fight the fog created due to stiltedness brought in by erstwhile Congress rule, but four years were either too short a period to dispel those clouds or too long to at least have created a strong foundation.
As may have been predicted at the onset of demonetisation, it is said not to have directly jolted BJP's reputation but the vote bank was affected with adverse impact on cottage and small industries. People at the ground level had dived to rock bottom as the narrative of Modi's government did not ring true.
Modi gave the country the vision of rise of the common man, an anti-elitist patron; however four years in power, the nation is yet to witness anything to the contrary. The BJP government came to be associated with slogan mongering and grand schemes but the vision continues to remain on paper. In most of Modi's messages, the baits are against Nehru and Gandhi family, but the voters find appeal in promise and realisation of a progressive future and not in apparent shaming of an opponent.
What does this predict for the General Elections in 2019?
The assembly elections this year could be a precursor to the General elections of 2019. Even if it weren't, it is a win that Congress party needed desperately for two particular reasons; first, there was a general belief that Congress in on a losing streak and cannot win elections. In Gujarat, people did not believe that BJP can be defeated and this win could trigger a major chain reaction. Secondly, before these recent victories, other political parties believed that Congress would not be able to provide a nucleus along which coalition parties could be built. But now the tables have turned and INC will be able to assert itself now.
Congress win in 2019 not a foregone conclusion
Public memory is rather short and so is the possibility that people are going to forget the assembly elections unless Congress leverages the situation and redoes their winning strategy. That will decide the fate of 2019 general elections.
In Madhya Pradesh, even though Congress won the seat, BJP was not lagging behind much despite being completely embroiled in the Vyapam scam or cow slaughtering in Rajasthan. What does that say about the voter today? He is tired of rallying against corruption, unlike his enthusiasm in 2014, and has assumed it as an inescapable part of daily life. It is as evident as global warming and people are reconciled that corruption is here to stay. Farmers in MP are not bothered about whether the ruling party is corrupt or not but they are worried about what's in for them in the deal.
While opinions are divided, it is suggested that BJP's absence of a very coherent narrative, and contesting on traditional issues like Ram Mandir and Triple Talak, and an ambivalent promise of development has not helped matters much. This indecisiveness was where Congress encashed. The Congress has started to ask questions very effectively and insinuating that BJP is playing with the public sentiments and using old cards like Ram Mandir again. Lack of performance along with the above factors has especially dwindled the BJP votes.