The battle lines for winning state elections are drawn and the warriors are busy doing what they do best – hitting the campaign trail. At stake are five prized states; Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and Mizoram. So, why are the elections in these four states so crucial?
It’s the timing and the impact over the next five years for the next government coming to power in 2019. The forthcoming assembly elections are crucial for the ruling party, the BJP, as it sets out to continue its juggernaut of establishing a national footprint.
It’s already in power in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh, so why is it so crucial for the BJP? The results will give an indicator of the mood and sentiment of the people on how they presently feel about the BJP. For the Indian National Congress, it’s a fight for survival, both for the party and its vulnerable party head, Rahul Gandhi.
After a Cinderella-like dream run for the first three and a half years of his term, Brand Modi seems to have hit headwinds. Demonetization, GST, oil price rise, falling rupee, dropping exports, increasing fiscal deficit, farmer distress, socio-religious controversies like the beef ban, caste-based reservation agitations, and recent controversies surrounding the Rafale deal and CBI, have collectively eroded the PM’s assiduously cultivated image, especially in the international media. And so, winning the General elections in 2019 is a serious matter for both the BJP and PM Modi.
Rajya Sabha matters
But in the way are the 2018 Assembly elections, and they matter. Not just for perception and mood but hard numbers. The state share of seats in the Upper House, Rajya Sabha, is; Madhya Pradesh 11, Rajasthan 10, Telangana 7, Chhattisgarh 5, Mizoram 1.
After the dramatic win in 2014 General elections, Narendra Modi personally led the charge into winning Assembly elections in state after state. Despite holding a comfortable majority in Lok Sabha, it’s the Rajya Sabha that has acted as the Achilles Heel for passing of crucial Bills in Parliament. BJP did not have the requisite numbers in the Upper House.
So if the BJP fails to win in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh, all BJP strongholds, it will further erode the party’s strength in Rajya Sabha, and that is not a comforting prospect for the BJP if PM Modi does lead the party into another term in 2019.
For the Congress, its grassroots base as a national party stands overtaken by the rise of regional parties and the BJP. The party doesn’t seem to have grown any stronger but is banking on anti-incumbency and backlash against the BJP from some of the issues and controversies mentioned above. That’s leaving much to chance.
During the last four and a half years, the Congress has played spoiler to the smooth functioning of the Parliament, and if it were to wrest some additional seats by winning some of the larger states, it will only increase their disruptive power in Parliament rather than pose any serious political challenge to the BJP. Individually, PM Modi continues to be the preferred choice for the PM in 2019; it’s his party which is vulnerable to regional parties and collective opposition.
What are the chances for the BJP and Congress in the five states holding elections this year?
In Madhya Pradesh, CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan remains a strong political entity and dislodging him will not be easy for a weak Congress which itself is suffering for factional politics in the state. For Shivraj Singh, the challenge is not from the Congress but the backlash from distressed farmers who are reeling under severe financial stress. Controversies like the Vyapam Scam have not helped either. BJP may well retain Madhya Pradesh but may end with lesser seats and lower vote share than in 2013.
In Rajasthan, the BJP is most vulnerable to anti-incumbency, and the state may well see a change in government. The INC has its best chance in Rajasthan.
In Chhattisgarh, CM Raman Singh continues to remain strong in the face of weak opposition, and may well earn his fourth term, albeit with lower seats.
In Telangana, neither the BJP nor INC have much chance against the well-entrenched TRS. In Mizoram, CM Lal Thanhawla (INC) will not be easy to dislodge but may end up with lesser seats this time.
State share of seats in Rajya Sabha
- Madhya Pradesh: 11
- Rajasthan: 10
- Chhattisgarh: 7
- Telangana: 5
- Mizoram: 1