The results of the Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Municipal Corporation of Delhi elections were in line with what was predicted by the exit polls. The number of seats each party wrested may not tally exactly as to what had been forecast, but the surveys had projected a massive win for the Bharatiya Janata Party in Gujarat, a tight fight between the BJP and Congress in Himachal Pradesh, and a win for Aam Aadmi Party in the MCD polls.
When votes were counted the results went that way, with the BJP sweeping Gujarat almost decimating the Congress, while AAP just about managed to make a presence in the State. In Himachal Pradesh, Congress has wrested power but as votes were still being counted was not yet in a very comfortable position, with the BJP close behind. The final result should present a clearer picture but Congress is forming the government here. In the MCD, it was an AAP victory, but again it received far fewer seats than the party expected to get, as per the surveys.
The polls were closely watched across the country as the results are expected to have a bearing on the 2024 Lok Sabha elections that are now less than 18 months away. The results, with three different parties coming to power in Gujarat, Himachal and the Delhi Municipal Corporation, indicate that the electorate is quite divided, so it is still not possible to make any prediction at this point in time. Yet, there are also indications that the BJP wave has not waned.
The interpretation of the results of the elections held in the current year, including Uttar Pradesh, Goa and Punjab in February-March this year, indicates that while the BJP has held steady in most of the states, even increasing its support in Gujarat in particular, Congress is still a long way from recovering the ground it has lost to other parties in the past few years. It has in fact lost further as its vote share has dwindled in Gujarat, Punjab and Goa, where its showing has been poor.
The other aspect that emerges from the election results is the presence of the AAP in the national political scene. From having been restricted to Delhi, the party has this year wrested Punjab, has now taken control of the MCD from BJP and opened its account in Goa. Though APP had decisively won the elections to the National Capital Territory twice, it did not have control of the municipal corporation which was with the BJP until now. For the party, it is a big victory.
On the other hand, the Congress showing in Gujarat and Delhi municipal corporation was among its worst ever. This result comes at a time when its party leader Rahul Gandhi is on a Bharat Jodo yatra that started in Kanyakumari and will end in Kashmir. He has been drawing huge crowds along the way, but this does not appear to have been converted into votes in Gujarat and Delhi. The yatra, however, skirted Gujarat and has not yet reached Delhi, but the spinoffs of the long walk should have shown in Gujarat for the party, which it didn’t.
Congress now has only Himachal Pradesh as a face saver from all the elections this year, but then this hill State has retained the trend of changing parties at every election. One can only wonder what could have happened here, had APP attempted more seriously to open its account here too.
Yet, even before the results could be fully declared Congress was planning to move its MLAs-elect to Chandigarh, possibly apprehending horse-trading. Why is it that the Congress cannot show confidence in its MLAs, that they will not stray away from the party? There has been dissidence in the party in all States, but there has to come a time when it should be able to stem the flow and retain its MLAs.
Gujarat has truly become a bastion of the BJP where it has won successive elections. Congress last had a chief minister in this State in 1995. Its current showing does not inspire any confidence that it could change the results five years from now in this State. AAP has made inroads in Gujarat, but it was possibly expecting a better result given the high-decibel campaign that it ran here.
The 2024 Lok Sabha election is still months away, but political parties will soon be sitting at their drawing boards working out strategies, mainly based on the State election results of the current year. They are an indicator of the voters’ mood, which right now appears to be rather confused. It’s going to be an interesting few months as several States go to the polls in 2023, including Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and some in the North East.