ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Assembly Elections: Politics of the Ruling and Opposition Parties

Results have shattered the Congress’s claims of pre-eminence within the oppositional alliance.

The results of the assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh (MP), Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh have underscored the extent of the Bharatiya Janata Partys (BJP) politicaland not only electoraldominance in these states and north and central India, in general. The outcome in Telangana, on the one hand, points to the process of recoveryeven though slow and perhaps inadequatethat the Congress has been undergoing since its victory in Karnataka. On the other, it also points towards the limits to the growth of the BJP in South India, at least for the time being. The Mizoram mandate affirms the reality and necessity of federalism as the contest was primarily between two regional formations, where the emergent one, the Zoram Peoples Movement (ZPM) overwhelmingly defeated the entrenched one, the Mizo National Front (MNF), with the supposedly national parties being at the electoral margins.

As compared to the 2018 assembly elections, Congress has maintained its vote share in all three central Indian states but the increase in the vote share of the BJPparticularly steep in MP and Chhattisgarhpropelled it to comfortable majorities. Politically speaking, state governments are not mere service delivery mechanisms but are vehicles to cultivate and consolidate the popular support base for the political parties around a larger ideological agenda. The BJP seems to have achieved this effectively in MP, whereas the Congress was not up to this task in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. In fact, this limitation on the part of Congress is evident all over India as it has not been able to get itself re-elected to power in any state since 2013 and the BJPs strength in this regard is particularly evident in the central and western Indian states. This capacity to consolidate and retain power is influenced by the clear projection of political identity. In other words, the ability to convincingly tell oneself and the people that whose party you are. Which interests do you represent and prioritise? In more than one way, the BJP has been able to provide a clear answer to these questions, in social as well as ideological terms. The Congress seems to be chasing the elusive goal of being a catch-all party and in that process faltering with muddled messaging and no firm core base. The aspiration to be a catch-all party cannot be a starting position, but an end to be achieved through the protracted and painstaking process of building the core base. Even in its heydays, the Congress as a national level catch-all party was composed of multiple state units with a distinct social image and consolidated base. The incapacity to provide a clear answer to aforementioned questions was thrown into sharp relief in MP, where the state Congress president was seen hobnobbing with self-styled godmen and rhetorically staking a claim on Hindutva imagination and the de facto national leader of that party (though without any organisational position) was rhetorically claiming the social justice imagination by pitching caste-census as a central plank. Neither of these claims finds purchase with the electorate as in the BJP, there is already a far superior claimant to the earlier imagination with proven credentials and Congresss own credentials with respect to the latter have been shaky at best, particularly in central and north Indian states, considering the social composition of its leadership and their overall social outlook. A contrast can be seen in Karnataka where the Congress has indeed been able to claim social justice imagination as its own, and this also answers the cut-and-dried arguments of certain commentators who are hastily and even gleefully declaring the irrelevance of caste-census as a political plank. Its relevance and credibility depend on the credentials of those who are raising it.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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