Millennium Post

Three cornered fight

In politics, one plus one does not always equal to two. Sometimes it may be 11 or sometimes it may be zero. The recent assembly results of the four states seem like a political earthquake for the UPA government and the Congress party. The epicenter of which was the political capital and its tremors were felt at rest of three states (Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh) as well. The results show the worst ever defeat of the Congress party. Now why it happened is the core issue to study.

Narendra Modi has soared in opinion polls by emphasising on the development and corruption issue. Is he trying to corner the Congress or is the hidden effect of Arvind Kejriwal giving him an opportunity to flourish? Many believe that the recent electoral rout of the Congress in the four states was the reflection of a Modi wave but to me it seems the contrary. Some believe it is the anti-Congress wave and some say that the Congress must fear the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) more than Modi. While  the other lot believes Modi  should worry  about Kejriwal.

My hypothesis is that it is neither a complete Modi wave nor it is Kejriwal’s effect but it is a combination of  both. It seems Kejriwal’s surge is complimentary for the BJP to create a wave against the Congress. Why Modi is becoming the most popular leader in India? Is it because of the development work done by him in Gujarat or is it because he is more popular than Vajpayee?
It is learnt that the dual attack of the BJP and Kejriwal is demolishing the Congress party. Both parties raised similar issues such as corruption, inflation, slowing economy, policy paralysis and bad governance. These issues seem to weigh heavily on the voter’s mind. This is the reason why results indicated a deeper disillusionment. There is a real sense in which the Congress has failed to connect with voters, let alone enthuse them. The reason is not exactly the  Modi wave across the country including Delhi. Modi’s support is concentrated in the north and the west but the situation is not the same in the east and the south.

To find parallels for the magnitude of Congress’ defeat, we need to go back to 1977. Rarely in history has the Congress sunk to such low in north India. Even in 1977, during elections post emergency, the Congress had performed badly.  Congress’s strike rate in 1977 was 23.44 per cent, while this time it had reduced to 21.36 per cent. Even Modi’s strike rate in Gujarat assembly election in 2012 was 63.19 per cent while Congress’ rate was 33.52 per cent. The BJP scored 115 seats out of 182 seats while the Congress bagged only 61 seats. The BJP’s strike rate was 69.49 per cent in four states, more than the figure achieved in Gujarat. If Modi’s wave was felt in all states then he could have performed better in his home state. Hence it is not completely on account of Modi’s wave. Delhi was the political epicenter of this election and BJP has emerged as the single largest party bagging majority. It was not only the anti-Congress sentiment that did the trick but also the entry of a strong third front that changed the game.

However, while AAP did not exist in other three states, BJP received a thumping majority in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and formed government for third consecutive time in Chhattisgarh.

Modi held six impressive rallies in Delhi but unfortunately lost four seats in Ambedkar Nagar, Ballimaran, Sultanpur Mazra and Rohini. The appearance of Modi wave in the country is more of a media hype, trying to dilute the effect of Anna and Kejriwal. Modi is expected to be benefited due to the non-existence of AAP in many states. Another question that arises is that if Modi is so popular in north India, then how does the BJP explain the neck-and-neck battle in Chhattisgarh, where margins were razor thin? It is not an easy task to win three elections consecutively even after Maoists attack on Congress leaders in which many stalwarts were killed.

BJP’s victory was not spread across all regions of Chhattisgarh and was mainly concentrated in the central part of the state where it won 28 seats out of the 43. The Congress performed in the south and north Chhattisgarh and won all the seats in the Maoist influenced districts of Sukma, Dantewada and Kondagaon. It seems there is sympathy wave in favour of the Congress in particular clusters.

Modi wave has worked perfectly in Rajasthan. The electoral outcome of the assembly elections was a humiliating drubbing for the ruling Congress party-led by chief minister Ashok Gehlot and a massive and record break victory for the BJP-led by Vasundhara Raje.

The absence of the Congress party as a serious contender in large parts and no threatening impact of Kejriwal beyond Delhi and adjoining areas is giving an opportunity to Modi to train guns on the Delhi sultanate and its shehzada.

The poor results of the Congress in Delhi also indicate a bio-polar contest between the BJP and the AAP while the Congress slipped in other categories like independents.

In India, electoral coalitions and particularly state level electoral coalitions play a major role in the election outcome. It has been clearly seen that such parties make bigger alliance and form the government at the Centre. In 1999, the BJP under Vajpayee learnt the game and formed the government in 2004 and 2009.

Now, the results of four states indicate that something is happening for the first time against the Congress party while the BJP is still trying to expand its allies, two months before the final countdown begins.

The author is a political and election analyst
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