The big message from the results of the Assembly elections held in five states is clear, the voters have voted for a change in four of the five states. While the Congress led over the BJP in all the three states where the BJP was incumbent, namely Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, Mizoram slipped off from its hand and the MNF crossed the majority mark. It is only Telangana which voted for the incumbent government where the TRS won the first Assembly election of the new state with a thumping majority. But the message of these results is clear, there is an upsurge in favour of the Congress and a decline in the support base of the BJP. The Congress managed to win Chhattisgarh with a comfortable majority, and is just one short of a majority in Rajasthan, and is ahead of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, even though it is short of the majority mark, it is important to note that Congress covered a long distance both in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan where it was not only out of power but was far behind the BJP in terms of voteshare in the last Assembly election. These results not only give a clear indication of a desire for a change in the state government in four of the five states, it also gives an indication of an emerging disenchantment of the people against the Central government. There results would only help in building a mood against the BJP not only in these states but in many other states where the BJP has been the ruling party since the last few years.
In Chhattisgarh, the Congress registered a comfortable victory, and managed to win 68 of the total 90 Assembly seats and polled 43.2 per cent votes. In Madhya Pradesh the Congress managed to win 115 seats and polled 41 per cent votes, a massive change compared to the 2013 Assembly elections. The Congress managed to snatch Rajasthan from the BJP in a tighter contest than was expected. The Congress managed to win 101 seats — a massive improvement compared to only 21 seats in 2013. Its voteshare also increased from 33 per cent in 2013 to 39.3 per cent in these elections. In Telangana, even though the Congress managed to form a formidable alliance with the TDP, the Telangana Jana Samithi and the CPI, and the alliance looked formidable going by the voteshare of the alliance in the previous election, the alliance failed badly and the TRS managed to register a massive victory in the first election which KCR contested as chief minister. The TRS managed to win 88 seats and its voteshare increased from 33.6 per cent to 46.9 per cent in these Assembly elections. The Congress lost its last bastion in the Northeast, and lost the election in Mizoram, where the party had been in power for a decade. In the hung Assembly, the MNF won 26 seats, polled 37.6 per cent votes while the Congress managed to win 5 seats and polled 30.2 per cent of the votes.
It is important to note that the Congress has covered a lot of ground, increased its voteshare significantly compared to the previous election. The Congress was not only out of power in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh for the last 15 years and for the last five years in Rajasthan, it trailed behind the BJP in Madhya Pradesh by nearly eight per cent, in Rajasthan the BJP led over the Congress by nearly 12 per cent votes. It was only in Chhattisgarh that even though the Congress lost the last three Assembly elections, the lead of the BJP over the Congress had been very narrow and that is what could explain the Congress’ massive victory in Chhattisgarh. This change of voteshare between the two elections should be considered as a big swing in favour of any party and in these elections for the Congress. Such a big swing is normally possible only if there is a “wave” election. Going by the current vote share of the Congress and the BJP both in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, one might say that there was no wave and this was confirmed and reinforced by many election observers even during the campaign, but an increase in the voteshare of the Congress in these two states compared to the last election does indicate there was certainly an undercurrent in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The failure of the Congress to generate such a mood in its favour in Telangana even when it formed an alliance with the TDP and other regional parties and its inability to retain Mizoram does indicate that this mood could not travel to the Northeast and in the South.
Different factors helped in generating this swing in favour of the Congress in these three states where the BJP was the incumbent party. While in Rajasthan, the mood was more against the sitting chief minister than anything else, in Madhya Pradesh it was a double incumbency both against the state government and against the Central government, though it was not very large. In Chhattisgarh, the Congress seems to have benefited from the promise it made for farmers in the party manifesto. The disenchantment of farmers is obvious not only in these three states but also in other states and the Congress managed to capitalise on this disenchantment in all these three states, and most successfully in Chhattisgarh.
This round of Assembly elections, popularly referred to as the “semi-final” before the final of 2019, finally turned out to be an extremely interesting match, almost like a T-20 cricket match.
With these results, while one can only speculate if the “final” of 2019 would be as interesting as this semi-final, but one thing is clear, the team which would challenge the BJP in 2019 would not be as weak as it looked before these results. These results would only help in the efforts towards building the team which would challenge the BJP in 2019. These results should also clear the way for the Congress or its leadership to play the role of the captain of this team.