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Assembly Elections Results: A Decisive Change

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Assembly Elections Results: A Decisive Change

The recently held state assembly elections in five states have yielded results that indicate the firmly changing political equations across the country. The results have yielded a decisive victory of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) across three critical states, while the Indian National Congress (INC) won a state in the south displacing a powerful regional party. In the northeastern state of Mizoram, a new outfit won the elections, raising positive hopes about changes in the negativity surrounding the recent role of the state with respect to national security issues. The elections not only come as a positive harbinger for the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha elections scheduled in 2024, but also indicate that national sentiment, driven by awareness among people, can no longer be manipulated by petty politics of selfishness.

Significant Outcomes in the Assembly Elections

The assembly elections yielded victories for the BJP in the three states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh. These were the states which saw a clear two-party contest between the Congress and the BJP. In the southern state of Telangana, the Congress was led by the dynamic young leader, Revanth Reddy, who had incidentally started his political career as a member of the student wing of BJP viz. Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). The Congress surprisingly and firmly displaced the powerful incumbent regional party, Bhartiya Rashtra Samiti (BRS) which was led by K. Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR). In Mizoram, it was the Zoram Peoples Movement (ZPM) which snatched the victory, successfully displacing the powerful incumbent, Mizo National Front (MNF) which was led by former Chief Minister, Mr. Zoramthanga.

Madhya Pradesh:

In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP, defying all exit poll predictions of a close contest, secured its highest ever vote-share in the state and a super-majority of seat share as well.

Overall vote and seat share:

Seats share

Vote share (%)

2023

Change from 2018

2023

Change from 2018

BJP

163 +54 48.6 +7.5

INC

66 -48 40.4 -0.5

Others

1 -6 11 -7

Source: (Nihalani, Varghese, Loganathan, & Radhakrishnan, 2023)

Vote-share in reserved seats

General (%)

Scheduled Caste (SC) (%)

Scheduled Tribe (ST) (%)

2023

Change from 2018

2023

Change from 2018

2023

Change from 2018

BJP 48.8 +7.3 51.2 +9.1 46 +7.1
INC 39.6 -0.2 40.2 -2.3 42.9 -0.1

Source: (Nihalani, Varghese, Loganathan, & Radhakrishnan, 2023)

It is evident from the category-wise vote share distribution that the BJP has gained vote-share across all categories – unreserved, SC and ST – while the Congress has seen a marginal drop in its vote-share across all categories. This is significant as it exposes the limitations of the caste-based polarization agenda of the Opposition.

Region-wise vote share:

BJP (%)

INC (%)

2023

Change from 2018

2023

Change from 2018

Bundelkhand 48.1 +9.8 37.9 +3.3
Chambal 44.3 +9.7 41.1 -1.1
Madhya Bharat 53.9 +7.7 40.8 -2.8
Mahakoushal 47.1 +7.0 42.8 +0.7
Malwa North 52.1 +5.4 38.8 -4.2
Malwa Tribal-Nimar 46.9 +6.8 45.2 +0.9
Vindhya 45.4 +7.4 35.0 +2.2

Source: (Nihalani, Varghese, Loganathan, & Radhakrishnan, 2023)

In terms of region-wise vote share, it is evident that BJP has outperformed the Congress across all regions, although in Malwa Tribal-Nimar the difference between them is not much. The Congress has improved its vote share in Bundelkhand and to a lesser extent in Vidhya region. On the other hand, BJP has seen significant improvement in vote share across all regions.

Even in terms of urban-rural divide, the BJP has outperformed the Congress across urban, semi-urban and rural areas. In urban areas, the vote share of BJP was 56%, while that of Congress was 41.1%. In semi-urban geography, the vote share of BJP was 48.4% while that of Congress was 38.1%. Finally, in rural areas, the vote share of BJP was 47.5% while that of Congress was 41.3%. In rural areas, both BJP and Congress improved their vote share over 2018 result – the BJP by 7.5%, while Congress by 1.4%. Across all other geographies, the BJP improved its vote share while the Congress marginally reduced its own.

Caste/community-wise vote shares:

INC (%)

BJP (%)

Upper caste 21 74
OBCs 35 55
Dalits 45 33
Adivasis 51 39
Muslims 85 8

Source: Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey

In contrast to Congress-ruled states, in MP, which was assumed to have a factor of anti-incumbency, the people were satisfied with the performance of central as well as the state government. Charges of corruption and misgovernance that had plagued the incumbent governments in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Telangana were missing here. Similarly, the number of people genuinely benefiting from the state welfare schemes was high and these voted for the BJP. This, combined with astute political organization and the appeal of Mr. Modi, helped the BJP to take on the combative Congress.

Rajasthan:

The BJP victory in the state of Rajasthan was yet another significant milestone. Here again, despite the confidence of Congress, boosted by the media bubble and exit poll indications, the election was not even close, with the BJP winning a decisive majority.

Overall vote and seat share:

Seats share

Vote share (%)

2023

Change from 2018

2023

Change from 2018

BJP 115 +42 41.7 +2.9
INC+ 70 -31 39.7 +0.1
Others 14 -12 18.6 -3.0

Source: (Nihalani, Varghese, Loganathan, & Radhakrishnan, 2023)

Vote share in reserved seats:

General (%)

SC (%) ST (%)
2023 Change from 2018 2023 Change from 2018 2023

Change from 2018

BJP 41.8 +3.2 43.5 +4.0 38.5 -0.2
INC 40.1 +0.9 41.3 +0.2 35.4 -4.3

 

In Rajasthan, the vote shares of the two parties are relatively closer. Across all social categories – unreserved, SC and ST – BJP is marginally ahead of the Congress. In terms of ST vote share, both the parties have lost some percent of vote compared to 2018, but the loss of Congress has been more significant compared to the minor loss of the BJP.

Vote share across regions:

BJP (%)

INC (%)
2023 Change from 2018 2023

Change from 2018

Central 45.7 +5.9 41.6 -0.1
Haroti 46.6 +0.3 42.4 -3.7
Matsya 39.9 +7.1 41.9 +2.5
North 39.2 +2.9 39.9 +0.7
South 40.2 -2.2 34.9 -2.3
West 41.2 +3.2 39.6 +1.7

Source: Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey

From the vote share distribution in the state, it is evident that there is not much difference between the two parties, even across the region-wise spread. Both the parties have lost marginally their vote-shares in the South. Across all other regions, BJP has made gains. The BJP gains in the Central and Matsya region have been particularly significant. The Congress has marginally more vote share than the BJP in the Matsya and North regions.

In terms of rural-urban divide, the vote share of BJP (53.2%) is significantly greater than that of Congress (43.4%) in the urban region. In the rural region, the two parties are more or less at the same level, with the BJP (40.3%) only marginally ahead of the Congress (39.7%).

Caste/community-wise vote share:

INC (%)

BJP (%)

Upper caste 32 61
OBC 33 45
Dalit 48 33
Adivasi 35 30
Muslims 90 5
Others 23 40

Source: Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey

The BJP has been ahead of the Congress among nearly all caste groups except the Dalits. Congress also completely swept the Muslim vote-bank.

In Rajasthan, there was an overall perception of increase in corruption under the former Gehlot government. Other factors included rise in crimes against women as well as the increase in support for the BJP during the campaigning phase, especially due to the Modi factor. Caste census and the mobilization strategy of the Congress through the Bharat Jodo Yatra turned out to be damp squibs. The BJP was also able to mobilize support from young voters aged below 25 years. Further, the educated classes voted for the BJP in double the numbers compared to the Congress.

Chhattisgarh:

In Chhattisgarh, the BJP won comfortably, despite the contrary predictions of exit polls and the false hype created by the mainstream media. Due to the corrupt governance of the Congress-led Baghel government, the BJP outperformed the Congress across all regions and categories. It was ahead of the Congress in rural seats, urban seats, farmer-dominated regions and ST seats.

Overall seat share and vote share:

Seat share

Vote share (%)
2023 Change from 2018 2023

Change from 2018

BJP 54 +39 46.3 +13.3
INC 35 -33 42.2 -0.8
Others 1 -6 11.5 -12.5

 

It is evident that while the vote share of the Congress has generally remained intact, the BJP has significantly increased its vote share by 13.3% over the 2018 result.

Vote share across reserved seats:

General (%)

SC (%) ST (%)
2023 Change from 2018 2023 Change from 2018 2023

Change from 2018

BJP 48.7 +14.8 42.0 +12 43.3 +11
INC 41.6 +0.2 45.9 +0.8 41.7 -3.4

It is evident that BJP has made double-digit gains in vote share across all categories. However, BJP vote share in SC category continues to be behind the Congress, even though the former gained 12 percent vote share in these elections. BJP also swept the tribal seats, while the Congress saw a decline in its tribal vote share.

In terms of rural-urban divide, the BJP (57.5%) vastly outperformed the Congress (35.3%) in urban seats. In rural seats, the BJP (44.1%) was again ahead of the Congress (41.7%), although not by such a vast margin.

Caste/community-wise vote share:

INC (%)

BJP (%)

Upper caste 39 54
OBC 39 49
Dalit 48 39
Adivasi 42 46
Muslims 53 27

Source: Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey

In Chhattisgarh, the incumbent Congress government was plagued by allegation of corruption and misgovernance. The BJP further had an advantage across most of the demographics as well as social groups.

Telangana:

The victory of the Congress in Telangana came from the large number of seats the party managed to wrest from the BRS. Of the 65 seats won by the Congress, 47 seats were wrested from BRS, while it held onto 14 seats. Significantly, the BRS – despite a number of schemes put in place by KCR – lost in farmer-dominated seats and in rural regions, while it gained only in urban seats. The BJP also made significant inroads into the state, increasing its vote share by 7% over the 2018 election and its seat share from 1 to 8 seats. Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM continues to be a marginal player, but has managed to thoroughly monopolize the Muslim vote, with nearly all the Muslim candidates of the BRS and the INC losing.

Overall vote share and seat share:

Seat share

Vote share (%)
2023 Change from 2018 2023

Change from 2018

INC+ 65 +46 39.7 +10.9
BRS 39 -49 37.4 -9.5
AIMIM 7 0 2.1 -0.6
BJP+ 8 +7 14.2 +7.2
Others 0 -4 6.6 -8.0

In terms of overall vote and seat share, it is evident that Congress has gained majority of its vote and seat share from the loss of BRS, while BJP has managed to carve out a niche voter base of its own in the state.

Vote share in reserved seats:

General (%)

SC (%) ST (%)
2023 Change from 2018 2023 Change from 2018 2023

Change from 2018

INC+ 36.8 +9.4 48.9 +17.6 48.3 +12.3
BRS 37.2 -9.8 39.0 -10.7 36.2 -5.4
AIMIM 2.9 -0.8 0 0 0 0
BJP+ 16.6 +8.3 6.5 +2.9 7.6 +4.4

Source: Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey

It is evident that the Congress has won handsomely among the SC and ST categories, far outperforming the BRS. Incidentally, the AIMIM did not make any gains among the reserved categories. BJP improved its vote share among all categories, especially the general category.

Strike Rate of Muslim Candidates:

Muslim candidates

Win %

BRS 3 0
INC 6 0
AIMIM 8 87.5

Source: Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey

The data shows that all Muslim candidates of BRS and INC lost the elections, while from AIMIM only one Muslim candidate lost. This may come as a reality check on the politics of appeasement often practiced by parties like BRS and INC. The AIMIM was successful in stealing away the religious plot from BRS, despite best efforts by BRS to appease the minority community through various policies and schemes.

Vote share across regions:

INC+ (%)

BRS (%) AIMIM (%) BJP (%)
2023 Change from 2018 2023 Change from 2018 2023 Change from 2018 2023

Change from 2018

Hyderabad 25.2 +9.3 39.1 -1.3 9.8 -2.7 21.7 +8.3
North 41.8 +10.5 34.6 -12.4 0 0 16.0 +10.4
South 45.9 +12.4 39.3 -11.1 0 0 7.8 +3.0

Source: Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey

From the regional vote share, Congress and BJP made gains across all regions, while BRS lost out across regions. Interestingly, the BJP made impressive gains in the North, although it has the highest vote share in Hyderabad at nearly 22%.

Vote share across rural-urban divide:

Urban (%)

Rural (%)

INC+ 15.6 45.6
BRS 24.0 37.0
AIMIM 31.2 0
BJP 22.5 10.0

Source: Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey

In terms of rural-urban divide, while AIMIM dominates the urban vote share, Congress dominates the rural spectrum. Interestingly, AIMIM has no traction in rural areas.

Vote share according to caste and community:

INC (%)

BRS (%)

BJP (%)

Reddy 49 34 11
Other upper castes 31 37 26
Yadava, Golla, Kuruma 51 33 12
Mudiraj, Mutraju, Tenugollu 41 44 14
Gowda, Gavalla 49 37 13
Other OBC 36 37 18
Dalit 38 41 8
Lambadi 52 40 4
Other ST 38 48 9
Muslims 32 35 2

Source: Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey

The caste and community vote shares indicate that Congress has managed to corner the dominant Reddy vote share, as well as Yadavs and a segment of STs. The BRS did well among non-Reddy upper caste and the SCs. The BJP also won one-fourth of non-Reddy upper caste votes.

Mizoram:

In Mizoram, a new political outfit – the Zoram Peoples Movement (ZPM) – comfortably won the election by bagging 27 seats in the 40-member assembly.

Party

Seats won

Vote share (%)

ZPM 27 37.9
Mizo National Front (MNF) 10 35.1
BJP 2 5.1
INC 1 20.8

The elections saw the defeat of MNF – an ally of the BJP. The ZPM was led by Mr. Lalduhoma – a former IPS officer who was in-charge of security of former PM Indira Gandhi in 1982. The outgoing Chief Minister, Mr. Zoramthanga, even lost from his seat by 2100 votes to a newcomer, and all the 10 seats won by the MNF were also won with very slender margins. It is notable that Mr. Zoramthanga lost despite his aggressive stance against the Meiteis of Manipur, and his encouragement of giving refuge to displaced Kuki-Chin tribes fleeing Manipur as well as Myanmar, thereby leading to significant refuge influx across Indian borders.

The victory of a new party in Mizoram is significant, as the attitude of the new government towards Kuki-Chin tribes – which share common identity with the Mizos – will be closely observed, in the wake of the ongoing tensions of these hill tribes with the majority Meitei community of Manipur.

Changing Political Equations

The assembly election results signify the changing political equations across the country. The following are the significant takeaways from the elections:

First, the results show the consolidation of BJP across the Hindi heartland, its gradual rise across the South and the overall waning of the Congress agenda. They have come as a great setback to the precarious INDIA alliance led by the Opposition parties, besides challenging the dominance of regional parties (like BRS) regardless of how well-entrenched they are. The Telangana rout of the BRS shows that even the most well-entrenched regional party can no longer take its position for granted. Associated with widespread corruption, dynastic family rule and perception among people that they have not benefitted from a slew of welfare schemes, the electoral failure of BRS represents a script that is all too familiar for most regional parties across the country.

Second, the results indicate significant breakthroughs for the BJP across the tribal belt. Together, MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan account for nearly 31% of the total tribal seats across the country. In 2018, the BJP had won only 19 of the 76 ST seats in MP and Chhattisgarh. In 2023, this number became 44, as the BJP managed to bag several of the Congress-voting constituencies. In Rajasthan, the party bagged four additional ST seats compared to last assembly election. In Chhattisgarh, the Congress badly lost in the key tribal areas of Sarguja and Bastar – the latter being infamous for Naxal infestation – as the party failed to appeal to tribals as well as to disgruntled Christian missionaries, even as the BJP went all-out with its attack targeting religious conversions. Due to its misplaced focus on OBCs, Congress managed to thoroughly alienate the tribals.

How the BJP managed to resonate among the tribals is also interesting. Besides giving them more political representation and announcing hefty landmark welfare measures, a key plank of the BJP – led by PM Modi – was highlighting and targeting the narrative of religious conversions of the tribals, and the cultivation of a nationalistic tribal vote-bank based on tribal identity through the evocation of their long-marginalized historical spiritual figures and freedom fighters. Further, the Sangh Parivar outfits such as the famous Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram have done much to advance, over the years, the Hinduisation of Adivasis across MP and Chhattisgarh and fight Christian conversion.

Thus, while the Congress was lost in the intellectual dispute of difference between Vanvasi and Adivasi, and with Rahul Gandhi lecturing the tribals to protect themselves from mining corporates, the BJP, through its deeper cultural outreach and robust political and welfare narrative, managed to sweep the tribal belt.

Third, the results also show how the political narrative is changing for good in the collective psychology. The level of national self-awareness has gone up to an extent that the people can no longer be misled into believing empty rhetoric or grand narratives. On the one hand, the INDIA alliance has painstakingly sought to mobilize the public around ideologically polarizing issues such as the caste census or the so-called decline of democracy and secularism. This kind of an agenda not only no longer holds much traction among the people, but also seems to have backfired significantly. On the other hand, the INDIA alliance has also sought to imitate the welfare agenda of the BJP, which in recent times has become a key reason for the electoral success of the BJP. However, here also, the Opposition-ruled state governments have failed due to ill intentions. This is visible in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh as well as Telangana. Unlike the BJP-ruled states or at the national-level, the attempts of Opposition governments to implement their much-hyped and much-advertised welfare agenda has been mired in corruption and misgovernance. It is, thus, not enough to harp on social justice and welfare, while practicing corruption in actual governance.

Fourth, among the most important factors leading to the BJP victory – despite relative confusion and lethargy among BJP state units in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and strong anti-incumbency in Madhya Pradesh – are the firm consolidation of nationalism among the people and the rise of Hindu cultural self-consciousness cutting across all caste and sectional divisions, especially in the Hindi heartland. These are phenomena that have been recurring in incremental ways for some years now, and this mounting tide of Hindu consolidation remains unbroken. It reflects itself as a major explanatory factor in these elections as well. Even the results show that upper castes have unitedly rallied behind the BJP and the OBC vote-bank of the party has strengthened even more massively in these elections. The party has gained substantially even among the Dalits and the Tribals. This shows the changing psychological processes whereby the public is no longer being illusioned by the caste and sectional vote banks sought to be created by the Opposition forces and is instead embracing its larger cultural unity and identity.

Finally, a major point of debate in the present election results is the issue of the dominant personality of PM Modi which can single-handedly tide over the weaknesses of the state BJP units and governments as well as take on the best of the Opposition agendas. To what extent this ascription of the personality cult of Mr. Modi to victory in elections can be linked is, however, debatable. One important aspect that is often overlooked in this casual ascription of personality politics is that the public is not simply swayed by the personality of the leader, but rather by what the leader is manifesting and representing. Acting as a vessel for channeling something deeper, the personality of the leader simply becomes a useful instrument for that time and place to evoke something that was already buried deep in the collective psyche.

It is, thus, not, as is mistakenly assumed, personality alone that is a factor in mobilizing people. There is a mistaken notion that once the leader is not on the scene the organization he is leading will also dismantle – whether the organization survives, or declines is a moot issue. Instead, a more accurate perspective would be that the work that had to be accomplished through a certain personality would have succeeded in creating the desired psychological change among the people which will prove difficult to reverse even when the leader is not active.

Bibliography

Nihalani, J., Varghese, R., Loganathan, S., & Radhakrishnan, V. (2023, December 4). Assembly Polls 2023. New Delhi: The Hindu.

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