Updated 14 March 2022
The mandate is clear for Congress – it must get rid of its present leadership. It seems that Congress, which is on a downhill path for several years now, cannot hope to revive its political fortunes till it is saddled with the current dispensation.
Of the five states that went to poll in 2022, the Congress was in power only in Punjab. It handed over that state on a platter to Aam Aadmi Party by changing its chief minister just before the election, plummeting the organisation in an ugly fraternal warfare.
It was a downhill journey for the party everywhere. In Goa, the only state where it had some hope, its seats went down from 17 to 11. In Uttar Pradesh, on Priyanka Gandhi’s watch , its vote share plummeted by two-third and it got almost wiped out retaining only 2 of the 7 seats in the 403-member assembly.
In Manipur, Congress performance was pathetic. It has been decimated by winning only 5 of the 60 seats. Just five years ago, it had emerged as the single largest party there, winning 28 seats. Its vote share has plummeted from 35 to 17 percent and relegated to the fourth position. Even the JD(U), a new comer to state politics, could perform better than Congress – 6 seats with a vote share of almost 11 percent.
JD(U) amazing entry in Manipur, as well as AAP’s landslide victory in Punjab shows, how Congress floundered. It is not as if the electorate did not want change. Unhappy with existing players, they decided to choose a viable and credible alternative with proven record of good governance.
Just like AAP in Delhi, JD(U) has a developed the reputation of bringing good governance to Laloo’s Bihar, the only State it is in power. AAP could also bag 2 seats in Goa this time with a reasonable vote share of almost 7 per cent! Governance matters.
The BJP has reasons to be very happy with the result. Braving many odds, including a long and painful shadow of the pandemic, economic slowdown and anti-incumbency, it could retain power in all the four states that it ruled – Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and UP.
However, the initial euphoria over its return to power in UP notwithstanding, the cold fact is that there is a dent in its performance. Its seats have come down from a massive 312 in 2017 to 255. Samajawadi Party has emerged as a powerful opposition by increasing its strength from 47 to 111 seats in UP.
However, BJP has more than compensated for it by its impressive gains in other three states. In Uttarakhand, it improved its seat tally from 26 to 47, in Goa from 13 to 20 and in Manipur from 21 to 32.
Reasons behind BJP’s victory
We may keep blaming voters for selling their votes for cash and booze, for voting blindly for their biradari, for doing all the stupid things they are not supposed to do in parliamentary democracy. But as the 1977 election results show, faced with difficult choices, even our poor and illiterate and voters almost always make smart choices ultimately. They have an uncanny instinct for knowing what is good for them
In Uttar Pradesh, they voted for rule of law by bringing back BJP. Maintaining Law and order is the basic duty of any government. Development and welfare measures become secondary factors in the face of lawlessness. People in UP associate Samajwadi Party rule with lawlessness. Akhilesh Yadav suffered because of this perception.
Congress has been, of course, irrelevant there for several decades now, Priyanka or no Priyanika. Mayawati’s BSP has been almost wiped out : 1 seat as against 16 last time, a price it paid for failing to do its duty as an opposition party.
An interesting outcome of UP result is emergence of Yogi Adityanath as a tall leader – and an effective vote-catcher — of BJP in his own right. He becomes the first chief minister of UP in three decades to be re-elected for a second term. Many BJP watchers see him as a natural successor to Modi. RSS believes in having a succession plan in place and it assiduously builds up the second rank of leadership towards that end in all front organisations, including BJP, that it leads.
Uttarakhand results, where the BJP has come back to power with a thumping majority, were to a great extent the outcome of disastrous handling of the state’s affairs by Congress high command. It was one of those states where the party was expected to do better, given the background that even since its formation in 2000, Uttarakhand has not returned the same party to power twice.
But the way the Congress high command handled groupism in the party there on the eve of assembly election, leading to public display of outburst by its senior leaders, left the main opposition party in shambles.
BJP’s comeback in Manipur is politically significant. It means that almost the entire North East, including one of the last bastions of Left, Tripura, has become saffron now. The work that the RSS started in these parts in the early 60s, seems to be finally paying dividends after 60 years.
Goa was tense on the eve of results, with political parties rushing in their trouble shooters, moneybags and master negotiators to the sun-sea-sand state after none of the exit poll predicted a clear mandate for any party. But as results started pouring out, it became clear that BJP would finally retain power. It shattered dreams of smaller parties to play kingmakers in a hung assembly scenario.
There is a big lesson for the Congress to be learnt there, as senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram indirectly pointed out while analysing the Goa results. Anti-BJP votes were divided between Congress, NCP, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, Goa Forward Party and two newcomers — Trina Mool Congress and AAP. Calculate their vote share together, which comes to over 40 per cent, and it shows how a unified opposition could have changed the tide against the BJP, which got a little over 33 percent.
The elections results show that, in the absence of a credible opposition, BJP is as unassailable as it seemed back in 2014, the first time it came to power on its own. It is not surprising given the fact that all political parties in the arena look like a carbon copy of each other. Not long ago even Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti were part of the BJP coalition! Is secularism finally dead?
Updated 14 March 2022