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Assembly Elections Results 2018: The Election Debacle

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The results of the recently concluded assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram, though not unexpected, have delivered a wake-up call for the ruling dispensation. The details of the election results show that the BJP has actually done well in the face of expected disenchantment and anti-incumbency (of the two fifteen year-old state governments and one five year-old government in Rajasthan).

There is also no doubt that NOTA played a major role in BJP’s defeat, especially in Madhya Pradesh. Even though absolute NOTA vote shares have come down from 2013 elections in all states, yet NOTA and independent votes in BJP constituencies and strongholds shows that NOTA has, to an extent, undercut the party’s votes. The party also lost across demographics, ranging from urban to rural areas, thereby seemingly reflecting discontent with the government’s economic policies and farmer distress, and with the development paradigm in general.

Vote Share Distribution:

Madhya Pradesh:

Party              2018 vote share (%)             2013 vote share (%)

BJP                 41                                            44.9

Congress       40.9                                        36.4

BSP                5                                              6.3

Others           13.10                                      12.4

Source: The Wire

Rajasthan:

Party              2018 vote share (%)             2013 vote share (%)

BJP                  38.8                                        46.79

Congress +    39.8                                        34.27

BSP                 4                                              3.52

Others            17.4                                        15.42

Source: The Wire

Chhattisgarh:

Party              2018 vote share (%)             2013 vote share (%)

BJP                  33                                            41.41

Congress        43                                            40.71

BSP                 4                                              4.34

JCC                 8                                              –

Others            13                                            13.54

Source: The Wire

Telangana:

Party              2018 vote share (%)             2014 vote share (%)

TRS                 46.9                                        34.3

TDP                 3.5                                           14.7

Congress        28.4                                        25.2

BJP                  7                                              7.1

AIMIM           2.7                                           3.8

Others            11.5                                        14.9

Source: The Wire

Mizoram:

Party              2018 vote share (%)             2013 vote share (%)

Congress        30.2                                        44.6

MNF               37.6                                        28.7

BJP                  8                                              0.4

Others            24.2                                        26.3

Source: The Wire

The fact is that despite its relatively fine – better-than-expected – performance in comparison to the Congress party after more than a decade of incumbency in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, the BJP has materially suffered substantial losses compared to its own 2013 performance in these states. It has also fallen in the people’s minds, to some extent, from the high ideals from which it had started off in 2014.

Rajasthan (Seat share): (Majority mark: 100)

Party              2018               2013               Change (+/-)

Congress        100                 21                    +79

BJP                  73                    163                 -90

Others           20                    13                    +7

BSP                 6                      3                      +3

Source: Times of India

Madhya Pradesh (Seat share): (Majority mark: 116)

Party              2018               2013               Change (+/-)

Congress        114                 58                    +56

BJP                  109                 165                 -56

Others            5                      3                      +2

BSP                 2                      4                      -2

Source: Times of India

Chhattisgarh (Seat share): (Majority mark: 46)

Party              2018               2013               Change (+/-)

Congress        68                    39                    +29

BJP                  15                    49                    -34

Others            0                      1                      -1

BSP +              7                      1                      +6

Source: Times of India

Telangana (Seat share): (Majority mark: 60)

Party              2018               2014               Change (+/-)

TRS                 88                    63                    +25

Congress +    21                    21                    –

AIMIM           7                      7                      –

Others            2                      5                      -3

BJP                  1                      5                      -4

TDP                 –                       15                    -15

YSRCP             –                       3                      -3

Source: Times of India

Mizoram (Seat share): (Majority mark: 21)

Party              2018               2013               Change (+/-)

MNF               26                    5                      +21

Others            8                      0                      +8

Congress        5                      34                    -29

BJP                  1                      0                      +1

MPC               –                       1                      -1

Source: Times of India

From the above results, it is clear that while the BJP lost 48% of the seats it had won in 2013 across Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the Congress gained 137% from its 2013 tally. The overall vote share of the Congress, however, increased by much less – 6% in Rajasthan, 5% in Madhya Pradesh and by 3% in Chhattisgarh (IndiaSpend 2018).

Results That Do Not Explain the Failure

In the current assembly elections, it is clear that the ruling party’s well-calculated move of challenging the Supreme Court order diluting the stringent provisions of the SC/ST Atrocities Act, not only did not pay off, but also backfired. The intention to retain the SC-ST votes was motivated by the fact that, over the years, BJP had gradually succeeded in consolidating these communities behind it. While the SC support for BJP had doubled from 12 per cent in 2009 to 24 per cent in 2014 elections, the ST support had gone up from 19% to 38% between 2009 and 2014 elections (Tiwari 2018).

Understandably, the party wanted to retain these groups in the three states – Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh – where these groups constitute more than 30% of the population. But its seat tally declined immensely, contrary to calculations, from 71 in 2013 to 31 in 2018 in SC seats and from 57 in 2013 to 28 in 2018 in ST seats (Tiwari 2018).

The incumbent BJP in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh has lost at least a third of its seats across the SC/ST constituencies. Across the three states, the BJP lost 120 of the 180 seats reserved for SCs and STs, while in 2013 it had won 77% of these seats. The Congress, on the other hand, won 62% of these seats up from the 23% it had won in 2013 (IndiaSpend 2018).

In Chhattisgarh, where the SC-ST seats account for about 43% of the total seats, the BJP won only 4 (down from 11 in 2013) of the 29 ST seats, while the Congress won 24, and in the 10 SC seats, while BJP won only 2 (down from 9 in 2013), Congress won 6.

In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP won 16 of the 47 ST seats (losing 15 it had won in 2013), while the Congress won 29 seats (gaining from the 15 seats it had won in 2013). In case of the 35 SC seats, while the BJP won 17 (11 down since 2013), the Congress won 18 (a marked improvement from 4 it had won in 2013).

In Rajasthan, out of the 25 ST seats, the BJP won 10 while the Congress won 13. The BJP is down 8 seats from 2013 while the Congress is up by 6 seats. Out of the 34 SC seats, the BJP won 11. It had won 32 of these seats in 2013. After losing all SC seats in 2013, the Congress won 21 this time.

The party’s poor showing in SC-ST seats across the three states shows not only rural distress, but is also a lesson in the fact that calculations can carry one only so far. The numerous steps taken for the welfare of the Dalits has not yielded desired effects – not because they were ineffective, but because the BJP’s overtly calculative strategy combined with a sense of power and complacency failed. Yes, it challenged the Court ruling amending the Atrocities Act, yet the SC-ST groups were not satisfied, because of the crackdowns during Bharat Bandh and initial uncertainty on the part of the government in challenging the ruling. At the same time, the upper castes and OBCs felt they were utterly betrayed. The entire episode and the government’s inability to take a stand had a negative impact from both SC-ST and upper caste-OBC voter groups.

At the same time, the experiment of Hindu consolidation cutting across caste lines that was started during the UP elections of 2017 was apparently damaged by the government’s complacency. Its support of the Act and its inability to retain the SC-STs has dealt a blow to this incipient nationalistic consolidation, which could have meant a lot more than mere vote banks. It is correct that the government may have lost because it was seen to have defected from this Hindutva cause. The divisions fostered over the politics over the Atrocities Act were harmful.

Thus, even the upper caste, OBCs and urban voters ditched their traditional party of choice. In Madhya Pradesh, about 30 per cent upper caste and 41 per cent OBCs voted for the Congress, making a big dent in the traditional vote bank of the BJP, all thanks to the support for the Atrocities Act. The BJP supported it purely for political expediency, knowing that its facetious support will not bring welfare to the real condition of the SC-ST groups. That it diverted from the Hindutva nationalistic cause in taking this whole issue for granted, was even worse. 

In a state like Madhya Pradesh, the fact that Congress lagged behind the BJP in terms of vote share and did not do so well despite such a strong wave of anti-incumbency shows that the people still do not prefer the party. Likewise in Rajasthan. In both states, it was more of a vote against the BJP than in favour of the Congress. In Chhattisgarh, the dynamic is such that even a slight vote swing can result in a very high swing in seats.

There is another factor to be considered viz. in the first-past-the-post election system like ours, the seat share to vote share ratio works in such a way that even less votes can translate into higher seat share if there is unity of the opposition or if some voters strategically vote to oust a party.

vote share ratio

Source: Hindustan Times 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In UP in 2017, when the opposition unity was in disarray, BJP’s seat share to vote share ratio was very high. In the current assembly elections, it is clear that the vote share of BJP is almost the same as that of Congress and the latter has not gained much from the last election in terms of vote share viz. the popular support base of the BJP remains largely undented, but because some voters chose to vote strategically for independents, BJP’s seat share suffered even though the vote share was viable.

The fact that most of those who may have earlier voted for BJP – including SC-ST voters – chose to go for NOTA also dealt a blow to the party. In the close fight, the BJP seems to have lost to NOTA or independents in many of its strongholds where it was expecting to win, even as Congress has also lost many of the constituencies held by it earlier. However, in absolute terms, the share of NOTA was less in these elections as compared to 2013. In Rajasthan, the NOTA share fell from 1.91% to 1.3%; in Madhya Pradesh, it fell from 1.9% to 1.4% and in Chhattisgarh, it fell from 3.07% to 2% (ET Bureau 2018).

The rate of NOTA was particularly high among the ST voters across all three states – 2% in Chhattisgarh, 1.4% in Madhya Pradesh and 1.3% in Rajasthan – exceeding even the vote share difference between the BJP and the Congress (The Indian Express 2018). The fallout over the SC-ST Atrocities Act also played out in prompting the upper caste constituencies to vote against the BJP. For instance, in Madhya Pradesh, the trend was clear. The BJP lost 12 seats where the NOTA margin was more than margin of loss. In Chambal region, where Thakur voters are believed to have voted against the BJP for backing the SC atrocity legislation. Bundelkhand and Malwa regions too drew the highest number of NOTA votes.

In at least 11 seats where the Congress won, NOTA got more votes than the winning margin — Biaora, Damoh, Gunnor, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Jobat, Mandhata, Nepanagar, Rajnagar, Raipur and Suwasra. NOTA also polled more votes than the victory margin in Bina and Kolaras, where BJP candidates won (Upreti 2018).

Yet, these figures where the vote was proven to be against the BJP and not so much in favour of the Congress, are cold comfort – at the end of the day the performance of a party and a government that was supposed to have become the vanguard of Indian nationalism and had started its term by making repeated references to India’s spiritual heritage, has been dismal. This should be the deeper lens from which the BJP’s defeat needs to be viewed.

Narrowly, to derive comfort from the sense that its vote share was higher than the Congress  or that droves of disenchanted upper-caste voters voted for NOTA (None of The Above) is not the best way of introspection or explanation.

A False Development Narrative

The election results underscore that the vote was against the BJP rather than being in favour of the Congress. This is substantiated by the fact that the Congress could not even cross the majority mark in Madhya Pradesh and was not able to gain all that much from the 15-year old anti-incumbency sentiment in Madhya Pradesh and of the strong anti-incumbency in Rajasthan. It is clear that the discontent among the people – both material and psychological – was due to the disease spun by the development narrative.

In these elections, the BJP was not only faced with so-called rural distress and farmers’ anger, but also supposedly anger of business and trader classes at steps like demonetization, lack of jobs and the implementation of the GST. This was natural – the well-intentioned and near-revolutionary policies such as these will clearly not be vote-getters. The populist and utilitarian mindset rebels against steps that are designed to shake up the existing system. We will discuss in another article, the same thing happened in China, where Xi Jinping is drawing flak for taking near revolutionary and nationalist economic steps.

The intentions of the government may have been sound – it supposedly created a lot more in terms of rural infrastructure and assets than previous governments and ensured affordable medicines, low interest rates and low inflation, but this was too short a time for them to bear fruition. These steps and policies were vilified because of the temporary income and business stagnation and job lay-offs that followed the shocks of demonetization and the GST. The set back from the government’s stand on SC/ST Atrocities Act further cemented the upper-caste ill-will.

One after another, Mr. Modi undertook great overhauls and got the stagnant government machinery working. He implemented policies that were already present on paper but required courage to implement in a polity that goes for polls nearly every year in some state or the other. He also made more efficient the earlier government’s policies on Aadhar and welfare distribution.

Yet, the failure was due to two factors. First, four years is too short a time to consolidate the longer term gains from these clearly longer term policies. And second, by rigidly following an endless development pathway and seeming to repose utter faith in the bogey of development, the government soon, unbeknownst to itself, began to go against the tide. In the case of the SC/ST Atrocities Act, the government had a historic opportunity to correct the misuse of the Act and yet chose to maintain facetious appearances only.

Similarly, to talk about development is okay up to a certain point. But to indiscriminately and complacently – even arbitrarily, since many businesses suffered as a result of cash crunch unleased not so much by demonetization and GST as by government choosing to divert money to populist welfare schemes in such trying times – is unacceptable. The government not only lost the popular good will by taking things for granted, but also betrayed the need of the hour by talking about the meaningless paradigm of development.

Development is an illusion since in the present times of inevitable material and vital crisis – and utter moral degradation – facing us, no welfare is actually possible. And four years should be enough to realize that.

The results show, not any particular pattern of voting, but a psychological wave of discontent against a party that was seen to have slid into complacency and deviated from its core ideals. The theories that are doing the rounds hold little water due to their inconsistencies. It is being said that farm distress was a major cause of the failure of the incumbents in states like Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

It was voted in, primarily, not simply to deliver roads and houses, but also because it rejuvenated the national psyche and channelized the popular outrage against an earlier materialistic system that had completely engulfed the nation and fallen into fatigue.

In 2014 general elections and in 2016 and 2017 assembly elections, there was support for the BJP from both forward and backward castes. But when the BJP fails to distinguish itself sharply from the Congress – as Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s BJP had failed to do – the purpose is defeated. Thus, contrary to what many secular analyses are imagining, the failure is not because of Hindutva and nationalism, but because of a lack of it. These elections are, thus, a timely reminder to the party about not losing steam or calculatedly promoting its own narrow selfish interest which, in truth, is self-defeating.

What is now being dismissed as rhetoric and empty charisma in PM Modi’s speeches by his own fatigued supporters is nothing but a reflection of the complacency – and some deviation from the goal – that the BJP government seems to have slipped into.

Yet it is extremely significant to understand that the push and the fire behind Mr. Modi’s words has never been simply rhetoric: it meant something and has had a powerful impact on the national psyche, because behind all professions and words, the nation was the object, and this spirit never failed to sway.

Despite all the losses due to drastic, but needed, steps in economic sphere, this impulse of identification with the national spirit saved the day in the Uttar Pradesh elections of 2017. The moment the ruling dispensation’s basic identification with the national spirit began to cease and as it began to descend into and be engulfed by the materiality of vapid policies and electoral calculations, its electoral campaigns were bound to acquire superficiality. This reflects in the state of the nation and the people today and in their diluted zeal towards the government.

The national unification – based on the foundations of Hindutva and Indian spirituality – is irreversible. But vapid economics of selfishness – as preached by think-tank like NITI Aayog – and social redistribution or corporate well-being, serve no purpose, unless it has its basis in the need of the hour for the country. You can promise the masses the sky and give them all possible social benefits, yet, it is not necessary that you will win the next election, since there is no end to this vital and material greed. Here, more is always less, and a government which diverts from the national and spiritual purpose and gullibly believes that there is any kind of permanency in material things is falling into a trap of illusion and failure. They are no guarantee of even something as basic as votes.

If these material benefits alone – and their supposed help in clinging onto power – are the sole objects of the government of the day, then any party will do and the experts of the Congress will be as good as the BJP. As a matter of fact, all indicators of economic growth were reasonable during the UPA government and social schemes like MNREGA and others were doing fine, there was less rural distress and agricultural sector was performing, as were the businesses. Yet, the outrage against the Congress in 2014 was about “intangible” issues like corruption, which did not pinch a person’s everyday utilitarian or selfish interest individually – which means that despite the basic infrastructure of material benefits being in place, it was a movement or uprising of discontent in the national psyche which voted the Congress out. As the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 2004 – despite all excellent performances – simply because it had ceased to grow, had lapsed into complacency and had distanced itself from the national cause. Thus, no matter how materially successful a government is, selfishness, we hope, has ceased to be a successful short-cut to political power.

It is the Divine movement that decides the destiny of nations and the working of this movement has become more visible than ever in today’s times, all over the world. Scaling the heights of selfishness and utilitarianism, we are now facing a crisis – environmental and technological – which threatens destruction in a short space of time. The criterion is simple – being in harmony with this divine movement will decide who gets the crown.

With the kind of governments that are retaining or coming to power world over, we see the clear-cut destruction of the excesses of the old liberal-capitalist order. The Modi government in India came to power as a part of this larger movement. Hence, it is easy to see and draw comparisons between utterly different political systems like Brazil, India, China, Turkey, United States, eastern Europe and some parts of Western Europe (like the current France). It is not simply popular discontent, but a common convergence on nationalism (in both Leftist and Rightist governments). What moves governments is now beginning to be decided by intuitive movements, rather than blind materialism of the ‘90s liberal order.

This means that the nature of political power itself has changed. Political power – slowly and gradually – is ceasing to be a stooge of calculations and manipulations. And the elections nearly everywhere, including in India in these five states – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram – may be looked upon as a testimony to this reality.

 

Bibliography

ET Bureau. 2018. Economic Times. December 15. Accessed December 20, 2018.

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/did-nota-play-a-decisive-role-in-the-recent-assembly-elections/articleshow/67109885.cms.

Hindustan Times. 2018. Hindustan Times. December 30. Accessed December 30, 2018.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/from-invincible-to-vulnerable-bjp-s-seat-share-to-vote-share-ratio/story-Y8sNL9bHhGVQCyVjwuqcwO.html.

IndiaSpend. 2018. Scroll.in. December 13. Accessed December 28, 2018.

https://scroll.in/article/905569/elections-2018-bjp-lost-48-of-the-seats-it-had-won-in-2013-congress-gained-137.

The Indian Express. 2018. The Indian Express. December 21. Accessed December 27, 2018.

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/assembly-elections-in-three-states-nota-votes-follow-a-pattern-high-in-tribal-seats-5503065/.

Tiwari, Amitabh. 2018. Swarajya. December 19. Accessed December 30, 2018.

https://swarajyamag.com/politics/caste-concerns-why-bjp-must-clear-up-the-muddle.

Upreti, Deepak K. 2018. The Daily Poneer. December 14. Accessed December 26, 2018.

https://www.dailypioneer.com/2018/page1/dismayed-at-sc-st-act—upper-castes-opt-nota.html.

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