While the outcome of the Madhya Pradesh election still hung in the balance, the results of the five Assembly polls marked a resurgence of the Congress in northern India. The Congress’ rise and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) below-par performance can be ascribed, in part, to people’s anger at the latter’s failure to address agrarian distress and rural poverty.
By voting the K Chandrashekar Rao government back to power in Telangana, the electorate rewarded the only state government that had a record of positively intervening to alleviate agrarian distress and put money in the rural economy. The Rao-led Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) swept the polls and increased its vote share by as much as 12 per cent.
Note: Figures include seats won as well as leads, except for Mizoram where the final tally has been declared; #: polling took place in 199 seats. Data is till 2315 hrs IST. Source: eciresults.nic.inThe electorates in Mizoram, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan threw out the incumbent governments, and Madhya Pradesh seemed on the cusp of a change as well. The Congress secured a surprisingly convincing win in Chhattisgarh, ending the Raman Singh-led BJP’s 15-year term. Rajasthan has never elected an incumbent government in 25 years. The BJP lost, but the Congress just about managed to reach the halfway mark. In Madhya Pradesh, the Congress was nearer than the BJP to the halfway mark of 115 seats. The Mizo National Front ended the 10-year Congress rule in Mizoram.
The election results will change the political map of India, with the Congress making a comeback in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh after 15 years. The results deal a body blow to the BJP’s hopes of reaching the majority mark in the Rajya Sabha in the years to come. The results will also decide the course of not just the winter session of Parliament, which began on Tuesday, but also the contours of the final Budget of the Modi government, and the political discourse in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls.
Already, Sangh Parivar outfits have hit the streets, demanding the Modi government bypass the Supreme Court to bring a Bill in Parliament to pave the way for early construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. With the BJP’s poor performance attributed to not only local factors in the three north Indian states but also agrarian distress, lack of jobs, cash crunch in rural India and continuing effects of demonetisation, the Modi government could come under pressure to do more for rural India in the months to come.
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While it can be fallacious to extrapolate assembly poll results to that of Lok Sabha elections, the results will be interpreted to forecast a more difficult 2019 Lok Sabha elections for Modi and the Amit Shah-led BJP than were earlier anticipated. The BJP had won 62 of the 65 seats on offer in the three states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
After the results trickled in, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said the Modi-led BJP can no longer take a win in 2019 for granted. He said the Congress was now resurgent and a united opposition would make it a difficult fight for the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls. He said his party, and the rest of the opposition, would continue to ask Modi why he did not deliver on his promises to the youth of the country, farmers, and other sections.
He said the PM was “paralysed” by the Opposition attack, and unable to respond. Gandhi said the results were a message to Modi that people were unhappy because of demonetisation, lack of jobs, agrarian distress and GST. He said Modi was elected on an anti-corruption plank, but now people had started asking questions about the Rafale fighter jet deal.
BJP strategists said the ‘Modi factor’ should not be discounted in the Lok Sabha polls, particularly when the choice in front of the people would be the PM, who continues to have immense credibility, versus a motley coalition. Congress leaders credited their party chief, who completed a year as Congress president on Tuesday, for their party’s wins. Gandhi said the Congress questions on electronic voting machines, or EVMs, were still on the table. He said EVMs have been rejected the world over.
Reacting to the election results, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his party accepted the people’s mandate with humility. “Congratulations to the Congress for their victories. Congratulations to KCR Garu for the thumping win in Telangana and to the Mizo National Front (MNF) for their impressive victory in Mizoram.”
The PM said the family of BJP Karyakartas worked day and night for the state elections and he would salute them for their hardwork. “Victory and defeat are an integral part of life. Today’s results will further our resolve to serve people and work even harder for the development of India,” he said.