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Assembly Elections 2023: Are they the Semifinals for 2024?

Ram Puniyani Ram Puniyani
11 Dec 2023

The recently concluded Assembly elections of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram have been of great interest for various reasons. During its decade-long rule, the BJP has implemented policies that have frighteningly impacted the country. Be it the demonetisation, GST implementation or the sudden ‘Corona lockdown’, the average people have suffered a lot. The rising authoritarianism and decline in freedom indices are matters of great concern. The increasing hunger index and declining well-being tell the rest of the story. The ruling BJP has also abrogated Article 370, claiming it will reduce militancy, but the results have been far from satisfactory. The targeting of the Muslim minority continues unabated; the anti-Christian violence shows yet another painful phenomenon. The opposition parties have been trying to form the INDIA alliance against this backdrop. It was expected that the opposition parties would try to preserve ‘the Idea of India’ as envisaged in our Constitution. A lot has been hoped for from this alliance in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The results of the assembly election seem to have halted this hope. The high-handedness of the Congress party’s state-level leadership, ignoring the other parties of the alliance and, in the process, annoying them, has put forward a lot of challenges to resuming the journey of the coalition in times to come. Congress could win only Telangana while losing the Hindi heartland states. Though Congress lost in these three states, the results are surprising. Most of the Exit Poll results gave Congress a fair edge in these states. So, the defeat of Congress is quite a bit enigmatic.

True, a proper alliance with other national and smaller parties would have improved its performance; still, its defeat in these states is beyond logical explanation. This is the aspect which the allies of INDIA have to keep in mind while chalking out their strategy for the Lok Sabha elections.

An interesting aspect of these results is that now most South Indian states are BJP mukt (free from BJP rule). Some commentators argue that the appeal of Hindu Nationalist BJP politics is restricted predominantly to Hindi-speaking states, the Cow belt. Congress and other parties must take advantage of the fact that despite their claims, the BJP is not on a solid wicket. Among the total votes in the five states, Congress received 4.92 Crores compared to 4.81 Crore votes for BJP. On top of that, Mizoram, part of the NDA alliance, has now slipped out of NDA.

Various speculations are being aired about the demoralisation of Congress party workers. It might sound true at first glance. The win in Telangana, having pocketed significantly more votes than the rival BJP, has raised the spirit of the party workers. An inkling of the new leadership trying its best to deal with the situation proactively has given them new hope. ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ was a significant step in this direction. The background work of many a Congress worker and the revival of dynamism within the party circles may yield a positive result.

Can and will all those parties who committed to forming the INDIA alliance again trust in the alliance, which election results have partly shaken? In a way, the defeat of Congress in three significant states will make the Congress leadership sit up and try to rectify the slips, due to which even its committed allies are showing reservations. These opposition parties know well that, left to themselves, they cannot take on the mighty mammoth BJP, which is well-armed with manpower, money, muscle, and the media.

The opposition parties also realise that the BJP is not alone as it is well assisted by the Swayamsevaks and Pracharaks of RSS. They also know that all RSS affiliates, VHP, ABVP, Bajrang Dal, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, and others make it a point to commit their resources fully to ensure the victory of BJP at every election. They have also realised the power of electoral bonds, the NRI support for Hindu nationalist ideology, and the big corporations standing solidly with the BJP in return for concessions beyond what is conspicuous.

The opposition parties also realise that BJP has been inching towards a Hindu Nation. It has been eroding the values of the Indian constitution in overt and covert ways. The use, or rather the abuse, of the ED, the IT, and the CBI against opposition parties is another point that will make these parties try to band together, albeit with certain compromises. It is well known that the spirit of accommodation is very high among the top brass of the Congress leadership, Rahul Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge. Though this duo could not fully prevail over state leadership in the state Assembly Elections, they are most likely to put their foot down and try to stitch an alliance. Rahul Gandhi has stated that Congress will be willing to sacrifice for the united opposition. He correctly noted that it is an ideological battle, not just an electoral fight.

So, at the moment, it may seem that different opposition parties are pulling in different directions. Before the Lok Sabha election dates are announced, the INDIA alliance may be solidly glued together and prepare itself to make a stand against the divisive politics of BJP-RSS. The hatred spread by this majoritarian politics is not compatible with the survival of our democracy. Opposition should be worried by the deep infiltration of Hindu nationalists in different institutions of the state, including the education system.

One can assume that the opposition will come together by putting all these things together. If that happens, they will undoubtedly be able to win the election and ensure that a breakthrough will be achieved in coming out of the grip of the Hindu nationalist agenda, which is currently on the ascendance.

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