It was a Super Sunday for BJP as the party looks set to clinch the semifinals to the Lok Sabha elections 2024 with victories in the Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
For Congress, it was a bittersweet (more bitter, less sweet) day as the grand old party recorded a spirited victory in Telangana but lost power in both Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. In MP, it failed to even pose a challenge to the BJP.
The regional parties, including the outgoing BRS in Telangana, failed to impress in the final assembly elections of 2023. The results were particularly disappointing for K Chandrashekar Rao since his party, which is harbouring national ambitions, has now lost the only state it ruled.
Here are the 10 takeaways from the assembly election results:
PM Modi remains campaigner-in-chief
- Madhya Pradesh
Election after election, the BJP falls back on PM Modi – its undisputed campaigner-in-chief since 2014 – and he rarely ever disappoints.
The Prime Minister led the BJP’s campaign front and center in the Hindi heartland and the strategy has clearly reaped rich dividends for the saffron party.
PM Modi addressed dozens of rallies across the states and held various road shows in the run up to the elections.
As the results emerged, BJP leaders across the states were quick to credit PM Modi’s aggressive campaigning for the party’s resounding success.
The results have made it clear that PM Modi remains the poster boy of BJP despite the party having formidable local faces.
Momentum now with BJP
The final assembly elections of 2023 were seen as a precursor to the Lok Sabha polls.
After a 3-1 scorecard on Sunday, the BJP will definitely hit the ground running as the focus now shifts to the general election due April-May next year.
Notably, despite losing MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh to Congress in 2018, BJP still managed to sweep the mandate in all the three states during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
This time, it’s heading into the Lok Sabha polls with three victories. This will not only breathe fresh air into the cadre but will also help it recover from recent losses in Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh.
Conversely, the results will come as a setback for Congress and by extension, the opposition’s INDIA bloc.
Going ‘national’ works for BJP
The BJP fielded as many as 18 MPs, including four Union ministers, in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
It fielded seven MPs each in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and four in Chhattisgarh.
The party’s entire election campaign was planned and largely executed by its central leadership, with PM Modi spearheading the final charge.
On the contrary, Congress relied heavily on local faces (Kamal Nath in MP, Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan, Bhupesh Baghel in Chhattisgarh) to steer its campaign.
The BJP’s bet on its central leadership and realigning its national resources for state polls has clearly worked in its favour.
Congress continues to remain best ‘ally’ of BJP
Be it state or national elections, BJP has consistently outperformed Congress in a direct clash since 2014, save a few polls here and there.
Today’s results have made it clear that Congress remains the best “ally” of BJP when it comes to direct encounters.
Except Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh, where Congress emerged victorious, the grand old party has lagged far behind BJP.
The gap between the parties is even more pronounced when it comes to Lok Sabha elections.
After Sunday’s results, Congress will have to pull off a miracle to defeat the BJP in the coming Lok Sabha polls.
Problems for INDIA alliance
The latest round of assembly elections will also come as a setback for the opposition’s INDIA bloc which was hoping to rein in the BJP before Lok Sabha polls.
Congress, which is supposed to the unofficial leader of the alliance, has emerged weaker after the elections despite a consolation victory in Telangana. Notably, it had snubbed its INDIA allies like the Samajwadi Party and AAP in the run up to the polls.
This may lead to two immediate concerns. First, the other parties in the alliance will question Congress’s credentials as the primus inter pares in the group, which could lead to internal squabbles. Second, the BJP will get credible ammo to support its criticism of the opposition’s unity and efficacy.
Congress’s local leadership problem
In these elections, Congress’s campaign was largely planned by the state leadership with central leaders like Rahul Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge only making last-minute appearances at the hustings.
For instance, the party’s MP campaign was completely managed by Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh who micromanaged everything. Similarly, CMs Ashok Gehlot and Bhupesh Baghel were largely in charge of planning the campaigns in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
The strategy, which worked in Karnataka earlier this year, seems to have backfired in the three heartland states.
What next for KCR and BRS
The K Chandrashekar Rao-led party swept the polls in Telangana in both 2014 and 2018. It was gunning for a record third consecutive term in the state, hoping that it would give momentum to its national expansion efforts.
But a historic win by the Congress in Telangana has stopped the BRS’s march in its tracks.
The party is not part of the opposition’s INDIA bloc or the NDA since it was confident that it will chart its own course.
However, in order to go national, BRS had to first save its own fortress.
The results would now compel the KCR-led party to go back to the drawing board and rethink its position in the new political landscape.
BJP vs INDIA: The great north-south divide
The latest election results have further consolidated the division between the politics of the north and the politics of the south.
While BJP dominates the political landscape north of the Vindhyas, it is struggling to make deep inroads into the southern heartland.
After Sunday’s results, the saffron party has 12 state governments but none in the south.
In May, Congress wrested power from BJP in Karnataka, the party’s only southern bastion. Now, the grand old party also has a government in Telangana.
In Kerala, BJP is a distant third and in Tamil Nadu, it is now on its own after a split with AIADMK.
This has left the saffron party with a tall challenge in the south. Though it has made some inroads in Telangana on Sunday, the BJP’s southern conquest dream continues to elude the party for now.
But BJP has made key inroads …
Though Congress stole the show in Telangana on Sunday, the BJP will also take heart from the results.
As per the latest trends, BJP looks set to improve its seat tally in the state to 11 in 2023 from just 1 in 2018.
Importantly, BJP has performed well in the northern Telangana region, including the Muslim-dominated Mudhole constituency.
Though it lags far behind Congress and BRS, the results may well lay the foundation stone for BJP to chart an expansion course in the state.
It already showed glimpses of that during that hard-fought Munugode bypolls and then the recently assembly elections.
Freebies do make noise
The elections have yet again proven that freebies matter and parties will continue to bet big on dollouts and poll guarantees to woo voters.
In the run up to the elections, both BJP and Congress wooed voters with generous dole outs and poll promises.
In the end, it was “Modi’s guarantee” that beat the Congress’s “guarantees” on December 3.
BJP’s “Ladli Behna scheme”, in particular, struck a chord with the voters. Under the scheme, Shivraj Chouhan promised to give Rs 1,000 per month to all married women (including divorcees and widows).