Skip to main content

Congress showed 'total absence' of any will to harness potential of INDIA alliance

By Dipankar Bhattacharya* 
The outcome of the five Assembly elections held in November has proved almost all opinion polls and ground reports wrong. Even the few exit polls that predicted a thumping BJP victory in Madhya Pradesh gave the Congress a comfortable majority in neighbouring Chhattisgarh. 
The clean BJP sweep of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh has therefore come as a major surprise after the BJP's recent losses in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka and given the signs of a popular yearning for change in Madhya Pradesh after eighteen years of BJP rule and no such visible anti-incumbency against the Congress governments of Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. 
For the Congress, which was perceived to be on the ascendant after its Himachal and Karnataka victories, the only win has come in Telangana. The Telangana developments of course mark a significant change for this newly created state and also in the larger context of political balance in south India, but the Telangana victory of the Congress cannot but be overshadowed by the party's loss in the three big states in central and western India.
Before looking at the factors that led to this surprising outcome, let us take a closer look at the changes in vote share in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. It will appear that in terms of vote share, the Congress has not suffered any major decline -- its vote share has decreased by 0.6% in Madhya Pradesh (41 to 40.4), 0.9% in Chhattisgarh (43.1 to 42.2) and even registered a very marginal increase of 0.2% in Rajasthan (39.3 to 39.5). 
What dramatically changed the outcome is a major increase in the BJP's vote share - by 7.45% in Madhya Pradesh (41.1 to 48.55), 13.27% in Chhattisgarh (33 to 46.27) and 2.9% in Rajasthan (38.8 to 41.7).
On the face of it, the increase in the BJP's vote share has therefore happened not so much at the cost of the Congress as other non-BJP parties, but we clearly need to look beyond the figures at the actual social and electoral shifts on the ground. 
A very significant shift has been the erosion in Adivasi support for the Congress with the BJP bagging 44 ST seats out of 76 in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh (an increase of 25 seats from the 2018 tally of 19) and adding 4 more ST seats to its kitty in Rajasthan (12 out of 25) and the newly formed Bhartiya Adivasi Party polling close to a million votes in Rajasthan, winning three seats and finishing second in four.
Having suffered defeats in Himachal and Karnataka, the BJP was of course desperate to retain Madhya Pradesh and wrest Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh from the Congress. The elections witnessed brazen use of the ED all through the election period, double standards adopted by the EC in dealing with alleged violations of the model code of conduct and reported administrative manipulations at different levels and stages of the election process. 
But fair elections cannot really be expected in today's India. For non-BJP forces to succeed in elections, an election campaign must turn into a veritable people's movement full of energy, mass participation and meticulous booth-level mobilisation. The victorious Congress election campaigns in Karnataka and Telangana exhibited considerable mass dynamism and energy, but the campaigns in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and even Rajasthan, the best fought among the three, lacked this dynamism and energy.
In Karnataka, the Congress had won by exposing the corruption and all-round failure of the incumbent BJP government led by Bommai. But learning from Karnataka, the BJP in Madhya Pradesh tried to defuse the anti-incumbency factor by fielding several ministers and MPs as MLA candidates even as CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan ran a hectic personalised campaign focusing on the flagship schemes of his government. 
To counter the appeal of the promises made by the Congress, the BJP made similar offers and termed them 'Modi's Guarantee'. The fusion of the Modi cult and the model of targeted direct transfer-based 'welfare economics' aimed at converting 'beneficiaries' into bonded voters seems to have once again worked as a complement to communal polarisation and aggressive Hindutva. The BJP had successfully applied this formula earlier this year in UP elections and now once again in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.
In the wake of its impressive Karnataka victory, the Congress centrally focused on two issues - the Adani-Modi nexus and caste census. For the Congress, which has never been a known votary of caste census and expanded reservation, the focus on OBC representation and caste census is a welcome new direction, but how far has the message percolated to the entire organisation and become an integral part of its political articulation? 
While the central leaders of Congress raised this issue, in Madhya Pradesh Kamal Nath was busy seeking the blessings of Hindu Rashtra champion Bageshwar Baba (Dhirendra Shastri). Similarly the issue of Adani-Modi nexus does not just represent institutionalised corruption, it represents the most brazen face of corporate aggression. 
The farmers' movement successfully challenged this arrogant corporate power and any effective political campaign against the Modi-Adani nexus will have to forge organic ties with the growing unity of farmers and workers for a reorientation of India's economic policy towards people's welfare and the rights of India's real producers.
Another major weakness of the Congress campaign in these elections was the complete absence of any will or plan to harness the potential of the INDIA alliance. On the contrary, we saw a totally unwarranted war of words between the Congress and Samajwadi Party in Madhya Pradesh. 
Seat adjustment with Left, SP, Bhartiya Adivasi Party, harnessing INDIA potential could have made significant difference
In Telangana, the Congress has effectively channelised the accumulated anti-incumbency against the BRS government into a significant victory for the Congress, but we must remember that the BJP too has succeeded in doubling its vote share from 7% to 13.9% and the seat tally from the lone seat in the outgoing Assembly to eight seats. 
Any serious attempt at seat adjustment with the Left, SP, the newly formed Bhartiya Adivasi Party and at harnessing the INDIA potential in the campaign could have made significant differences in all states and even further improved the Congress tally in Telangana.
There has often been a North-South divide in India's electoral outcomes, most notably we had witnessed a sharp contrast in the post-Emergency 1977 election when the Congress was wiped out from North India even as it did fairly well in the southern states. 
The doors being shut on the BJP in the south certainly marks a major blow to the BJP's ambitions to dominate India for decades, but the decisive defeat of the party in 2024 will have to be shaped north of the Vindhyas. In Mizoram, the ZPM has swept the polls dislodging the NDA-affiliated MNF from power, but here too the BJP has increased its tally from 1 to 2 while the Congress tally has gone down from 5 to 1.
The concluding round of 2023 elections has certainly been a big morale-booster for the BJP, and the Modi regime has already started talking of scoring a 'hat trick' in 2024. This is nothing but psychological warfare. The fact is if the Assembly results in the four states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Telangana are seen in Lok Sabha terms, the Congress actually improves its tally from its 2019 strength of 6 to 28 and BJP tally actually goes down from 65 to 46. 
The Assembly elections have certainly not settled the outcome of 2024 in the BJP's favour and if we draw proper lessons it is still perfectly possible to dislodge the BJP from power in 2024. The onus is of course on INDIA to get its act together without any further delay and launch an energetic mass campaign on the burning issues of the day to galvanise the people towards a decisive victory in 2024.
---
*General Secretary, CPI(ML) Liberation

Comments

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.

Solar energy funding dips 9% in 2023; 2024 'kicks off' with US$1 billion investment

By Lakshmitha Raj*  Solar energy tech companies have already secured slightly over US$1 billion in funding in 2024 (till Feb 7, 2024) after total funding into Solar Energy companies in India fell 9% to US$1.55B in 2023 from US$1.7B in 2022. A total of 39 $100M+ rounds have been closed till date, with Delhi leading the city-wise funding, followed by Gurugram and Mumbai.

Maize, bajra, jute, banana cultivation banned off West Bengal border: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk  West Bengal-based human rights defender Kirity Roy, who is secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, and is national convenor of the Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, second within few days, has bought to light one more case of trespassing and destruction of a fertile banana plantation by BSF personnel along the Indo-Bangladesh border, stating, despite a written complaint to the police has taken "no initiative".

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

India second best place to invest, next to UAE, yet there is 'lacks support' for IT services

By Sreevas Sahasranamam, Aileen Ionescu-Somers*  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

Mahanadi delta: Aggressive construction in flood plains, reduced fish stock, pollution

By Sudhansu R Das  Frequent natural calamities, unemployment, low farmers’ income, increase in crime rate and lack of quality human resources to strike a balance between growth and environment etc. continue to haunt the state. The state should delve into the root causes of poverty, unemployment and natural calamities.