Return of the Congress
The results of the semi-final ahead of the 2019 general elections in the country have been declared and it's advantage Congress. Of the five states that went to polls, Congress has won all the three BJP-ruled states including Chhattisgarh, where the party has won a two-thirds majority. Despite optimism about its chief ministers, BJP has decisively lost in all three states. In Telangana, K Chandrasekhar Rao's TRS has been able to improve its performance as the party has won 25 more seats than its previous tally of 63. In Mizoram, where the Congress was in power, opposition MNF has won 26 seats in a house of 40 members. However, for BJP, the Assembly election results are not as disappointing as the opposition would like to paint it. While all the three-BJP ruled states have been impacted by anti-incumbency, the party has been able to give a tough fight. It has won 110 seats in Madhya Pradesh, 74 in Rajasthan, 14 in Chhattisgarh, and one each in Telangana and Mizoram. In terms of how the party would fare in the all-important upcoming 2019 parliamentary elections, going by this round's election result, the BJP can expect to win at least 40 per cent seats in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. With the defeat of the party in the three states, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emerged as the undisputed Prime Ministerial candidate, without having to face any credible challenge from within. The message that the election results have put forth is that none of the BJP leaders, no matter how entrenched they may seem to be, have the charisma to win elections on their own, something that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is believed to have in ample measure. However, the defeat of BJP in three crucial states is going to have an adverse impact on the Lok Sabha elections next year.
This round of Assembly elections were as much about opposition politics as it was about BJP's game plan. With three states in its kitty, Congress once again comes up as an emerging force in the country's fractious opposition politics. Over the past few years, Congress has been at the receiving end of opposition politics, where the party was ignored by other opposition parties and leaders. Before this election, some of the opposition leaders were working to form a federal front of non-BJP, non-Congress parties to take on the BJP at the Centre. The exclusion from a potential grand alliance of opposition parties was both inexplicable and greatly demoralising for the Congress, which, as the biggest opposition party, was aiming to bring together other opposition parties to take on the BJP at the Centre as a united force. After this election, which has once again brought Congress to centre-stage, opposition parties such as Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will have to recalibrate their strategy and mend their relations with the Congress. Before the election, BSP was in talks with Congress for a seat-sharing arrangement for Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh but backed out of any arrangement when it was denied a 'respectable number of seats' to contest by the Congress. BSP then joined forces with Ajit Jogi's Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) and formalised a seat-sharing formula with the party. While BSP has won seven seats in Chhattisgarh, JSS has won none. In Madhya Pradesh too, BSP, which went alone in the election, has won just two seats while Congress has won 116. Clearly, BSP cannot claim to have fared any better after junking the seat-sharing talks with Congress ahead of the elections. In Telangana, one can understand why KCR was against Congress even though he was leading to form a federal front of opposition parties. Though TRS has improved its tally drastically, Congress remains at the number-two slot with 21 seats.
As was expected, the Assembly election results will set the tone for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in the country. The victory of Congress in three crucial states makes the upcoming election a tough proposition for the BJP, which will now have to work on every single seat that it thinks it can win. The saffron party will also have to seek new friends and care more for the existing ones. For the opposition, Congress is finally in the driver's seat. And, with this round of electoral successes, the hard work put in by Congress President Rahul Gandhi, despite being mocked as Pappu by his opponents, is for everyone to see. However, for him, the road ahead is not a laden with roses. Congress' victory in the three BJP-ruled states has been on expected lines. But to continue this winning streak, Rahul Gandhi will have to work on many fronts, from forging new alliances to providing inspired leadership to the demoralised opposition.