Assembly Elections 2023: Are they the Semifinals for 2024?

As BJP has been ruling in the center for close to ten years, it has implemented policies, which have a frightening impact on the country. Be it the demonetization, GST implementation or the sudden 'Corona lockdown' the average people have suffered a lot.

Assembly Elections 2023: Are they the Semifinals for 2024?
Semifinals of 2024 assemlbly election

Ram Puniyani :

The recently concluded Assembly elections of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangna and Mizoram have been the matter of great interest for various reasons. As BJP has been ruling in the center for close to ten years, it has implemented policies, which have a frightening impact on the country. Be it the demonetization, GST implementation or the sudden 'Corona lockdown' the average people have suffered a lot. The rising authoritarianism and decline in freedom indices is a matter of great worry. The increasing hunger index and declining wellbeing tell the rest of the story. The ruling BJP has also abrogated Article 370, with the claim that it will reduce militancy, but the results are far from what they claim. The targeting of Muslim minority continues unabated, the scattered anti Christian violence is another painful phenomenon. It is in this background the opposition parties have been trying to form an INDIA alliance. 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 from this alliance in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The assembly election results seem to have put a spanner in this hope. The Congress party state level leaderships, in a high handed manner ignored the other parties of alliance, in the process of annoying them and putting a lot of challenge to the process of resuming the journey of alliance 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 a bit surprising. Most of the Exit Poll results were giving a fair edge to Congress in these states. So the defeat of Congress is a bit enigmatic on one hand.

True, its 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 Lok Sabha election.

A side aspect of these results is that now most of South Indian states are BJP mukt (free from BJP rule). Some commentators are arguing that the appeal of Hindu Nationalist BJP politics is restricted predominantly to Hindi speaking states, the Cow belt. Congress on its part and other parties have also to see that despite its claims BJP is not on a very solid wicket. In the present elections if we see the total votes polled in the five states, Congress has polled 4.92 Crores in comparison to 4.81 Crore votes of BJP. At the top of that Mizoram, which was part of the NDA alliance has now slipped out of NDA.

Various speculations in the air are about demoralization of Congress party workers. It may sound true as an instant reaction. As the time passes the party workers can not only feel spirited with the win in Telangana and significantly having polled more votes than the rival BJP. With time the feeling of depression will get over, as now the new leadership is trying its best to proactively deal with the situation. 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' was a major step in this direction. The background work of many Congress workers and its reviving the spirit of dynamism, may yield a positive result in strengthening the spirit of the party.

The core point remains: can all those parties who committed to the formation of INDIA alliance, will repose the faith in the alliance yet again, which has partly been shaken by election results? In a way the defeat of Congress in three major states, will make the Congress leadership sit-up and try to rectify the slips due to which the parties which committed to the alliance are showing reservations. These opposition parties know it well that alone, left to themselves, they cannot take on the mighty electoral machinery of BJP, well armed with manpower, money power, muscle power and the media, which is bowing to the feet of the current ruling party at the center.

The opposition parties also realize that 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 a large number of RSS affiliates make it a point to totally commit to the victory of BJP at every election. They also have realized the power of electoral bonds, the NRI support to Hindu nationalist ideology, the big Corporate solidly standing with BJP, as BJP is giving them lots of concessions, beyond what is obvious.

The opposition parties also realize that BJP has been inching towards a Hindu Nation. It has been eroding the values of the Indian constitution in an overt and covert way. The use; rather abuse, of ED, IT, CBI against the opposition parties is yet another point which will make these parties try to stick together with some give and take. It is well known that among top Congress leadership, Rahul Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge in particular, the spirit of accommodation is very high. 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 do any sacrifice for the united opposition. He has correctly stated that it is an ideological battle and not just an electoral fight.

So at the moment it may seem that different opposition parties are pulling in different directions. Much before the Lok Sabha election dates are announced, it is very much possible that the INDIA alliance will be stitched together with solid glue and it will make itself ready to take up 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 putting all these things together the opposition will come together, and if that happens they will certainly be able to win the election and ensure that the first step in coming out of the grip of Hindu nationalist agenda, which is on ascendance at present, is achieved.