The 3-1 verdict between BJP and Congress in the state assembly elections set the stage for the road to the national polls in 2024. State and national contests often differ, of course, but several key indicators of the national mood stand out from the results in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Telangana. The results also have significant implications for the Congress and opposition I.N.D.I.A alliance. Here are seven takeaways:
First and foremost, the results underline how Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s brand appeal retains its electoral potency, even in local contests. Remember that in Chhattisgarh, the BJP had no major pan-state leader of note. In both Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the party specifically chose not to project a CM face, despite the presence of its traditional satraps, Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
The Prime Minister — or ‘Modi Ki Guarantee’ as the party’s poll slogan put it — was at the centre of the party’s campaign in all three states (even as both Shivraj and Raje put their shoulders to the wheel). The Modi factor mattered (in terms of the campaign pitch, the messaging and the number of rallies undertaken by the PM).
If this was the state-level impact when Modi was only metaphorically on the ticket, it only highlights how much of an uphill battle the Congress will face when Modi is literally on the ticket in 2024.
BJP’s national electoral dominance is built on its strong base in the dozen or so Hindi heartland states of north India. It won 177 of 225 Lok Sabha seats in the Hindi heartland in 2019, vis-à-vis six with the Congress. These results indicate that the Congress is still unable to mount a coherent political challenge to the BJP in straight head-to-head contests in the Hindi belt.
After two decades of incumbency in Madhya Pradesh, few gave BJP a chance even three months ago. This was equally true of Chhattisgarh where exit polls predicted a clear Congress edge. Yet, we have seen a BJP wave in MP and a saffron resurgence in Chhattisgarh.
These results showcase the inherent strengths of the BJP’s cadre and its ability to reach the last mile with the voter. This matters in close contests.
Yet, elections are fundamentally also about momentum, narrative and emotion. In all three states (MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh), the BJP faced significant internal issues. Yet, apt strategic moves by the party high command combining both ambition and aggression, detailed micro-level management and nimble course corrections as the campaign progressed enthused party cadres and galvanised political momentum in the party’s favour.
These elections showcased how the BJP adapted after its sweeping defeat in Karnataka reverses three months ago. In MP, for example, its gambit of fielding state party heavyweights who held national-level positions as ministers, party honchos or MPs succeeded. The BJP’s big guns were estimated to influence 79 MP seats. Of these, BJP won 53 (18 more than last time).
With inputs from News18