State polls won’t impact 2014 election outcome



Nilofar Suhrawardy

Published — Friday 29 November 2013

Last update 29 November 2013 2:10 am

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It is just a matter of a few days when the suspense over party positions in five states’ assembly election will end. The assembly elections in five states that began on Nov. 11 will conclude on Dec. 4 and counting of votes is scheduled for Dec.8. Currently Congress heads the governments in three states, Delhi, Rajasthan and Mizoram. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) holds sway in the other two, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattishgarh.
Except in Mizoram, the key battle in four states is between Congress and the BJP. Everybody is waiting with bated breath to see whether the ruling party will return to power in these four states or not?
Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit (Congress) has held this office in Delhi since 2003. Till recently, there were speculations that the newly formed Aaam Aadmi Party (AAP) may ruin political prospects of both Congress and the BJP of gaining majority in Delhi assembly. Prospects of either forming the next government in Delhi without the support of the AAP were viewed as dim. But with AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal’s political credentials being questioned, electoral chances of his party making a significant entry in Delhi assembly have narrowed considerably.
Dikshit has been in power for three consecutive terms. If she fails to return to power for the fourth term, what would be the primary cause of her defeat? Would it be BJP leader Narendra Modi’s political campaign or inflation pinching Indians’ pockets? Without doubt, the common man is aggrieved by rising prices. If inflation spells defeat for Congress, this suggests that this party’s key enemy has been the economic crisis affecting the country. Modi-hype has not played a major role. Besides, whichever party gets the chance to form the next government, it is going to be troubled by same economic grievances.
Rajasthan has the reputation of not sending the same party to power for the second consecutive term. Congress won 2008 elections pushing the BJP out of power, which had won the 2003 elections. Now, it is to be watched whether this cycle will be repeated or not? If it is, the reins of power in Rajasthan will naturally be held by the BJP.
The BJP has held power in Madhya Pradesh since 2003 with Shivraj Singh Chauhan as chief minister. If Congress fails to defeat the BJP here, some credit should be given to Chauhan enjoying the voters’ confidence. Of course, Modi would want to be hailed as playing a major role in helping the BJP return to power in Madhya Pradesh. However, without Chauhan enjoying popular support, Modi’s campaign would have mattered little. The situation would have been different if the BJP was not in power in Madhya Pradesh. Similarly, if the BJP loses elections here, the primary reason would be voters’ decision to vote against Chauhan’s government. This would also indicate that Modi campaign has had little influence on their electoral decision.
Since 2003, the BJP has held power in Chhattisgarh. Congress is gambling on high turnout of voters in polls held here on Nov. 11 and 19 turning the tide in its favor. Compared to the 71 percent turnout of voters in 2008 elections, the current polls were marked by a record turnout of more than 75 percent in both phases. The voters’ turnout has been described as the “highest ever so far” by the Election Commission. Within a few days it will be clear, whether this turnout may be viewed as voters’ decision to push the BJP out of power. If the turnout helps the BJP return to power, the question arises as to whether Modi’s campaign should be credited for this? Or should the BJP state government be hailed for its party’s performance in Chhattisgarh assembly elections?
In Mizoram, the key battle is between Congress and state’s regional party, Mizo National Front. Congress pushed the Mizo National Front out of power in 2008 polls. The regional party had won the 2003 elections. Congress is likely to be cornered here by a triple-alliance, Mizoram Democratic Alliance (MDA), reached between regional parties between Mizo National Front, Mizoram People’s Convention and Mizoram Democratic Front. The MDA has laid stress on the need to promote Mizo nationalism and safeguard regional identity of Mizo.
Interesting, analyses of political battle in five states also reveal the limited electoral significance of Modi’s electoral campaign. It has practically no importance in Mizoram. The possible defeat of Congress in Delhi as well as Rajasthan would be primarily due to the economic problems of common Indians having increased due to inflation. The BJP may gain at the expense of the Congress grappling with economic crisis. In Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, BJP’s return to power would be primarily due to confidence of voters enjoyed by these state governments. The possible success of Congress here is dependent on whether the voters in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are dissatisfied with their state governments or not. Nevertheless, if the BJP succeeds in wresting power from the Congress in Delhi and Rajasthan besides retaining its hold in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, there is little doubt that stage would be set for giving greater importance to Modi’s campaign, ahead of parliamentary elections. If BJP fails, it may be forced to give a second thought to Modi remaining their key campaigner for coming elections.
These assembly elections have also been described as “warm-up” for 2014 parliamentary elections. Yet, the Indian voter has his priorities clearly defined where assembly and parliamentary elections are concerned. Rather than viewing both from the same lens, the voter weighs political options linked with both separately. He may support different parties in assembly and parliamentary elections. Besides with at least parliamentary polls still several months away, last minute political ups and downs may change the electoral mood. Sometime back, a lot of noise was made about the AAP strongly influencing Delhi assembly polls. The situation has totally changed now. Therefore, whichever party gains in these assembly elections, it would be erroneous to view the same as a trendsetter for the parliamentary elections.

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