The votes have been counted and the results were on expected lines as the exit polls had predicted. Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh went to the Bharatiya Janata Party, Telangana to the Congress and Mizoram to Zoram People’s Movement. It was only Chhattisgarh that most exit polls got wrong. It was expected to go to the Congress, but instead, it was wrested by the BJP.
The semifinal, as these state elections had been dubbed, has been won by the BJP, with the opposition Congress saving face with a single victory. BJP goes into the Lok Sabha elections due within the next six months on a high, but then, as has been pointed out, five years ago, it had been the Congress that had won Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and six months later had performed quite disastrously in the parliamentary elections. But those are statements of consolation that parties will cling to.
Yet, politics is such that it cannot be predicted. As seen in the case of Chhattisgarh, even the exit polls can go wrong, and they did. So political pundits sitting in studios or banging out copies on their laptops can go even more wrong. It is preferable, therefore, to refrain from predicting an election outcome, and so it shall not be done. But the results have sent the political parties to realign their positions within the existing political spectrum.
The Congress win in Karnataka in May this year had led to the formation of an opposition alliance of the main parties not with the NDA, and was called INDIA. The term INDIA. had actually catapulted this formation into making headlines and the Congress had managed to claim leadership of the alliance, even though not all parties were willing to accept this leadership unreservedly.
The fallout of the latest election results on the opposition alliance was seen almost within a couple of days of the votes being counted. The big boost to the BJP and the sharp blow to the opposition, had the INDIA bloc meeting postponed as leaders of some of the major opposition parties decided to skip the meeting. There were also allegations made that the Congress had been unwilling to share seats in the Assembly elections.
In the Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh losses, Congress, which had been spearheading the opposition bloc, was seen to have lost the upper hand and considered severely weakened. On the other hand, can there be an opposition alliance without the Congress? Currently, the party has the largest number of MPs among the opposition parties, but its severely eroded base in the country will make it difficult for the Congress to make a clear and acceptable bid for the leadership.
And leadership is the weak point of the opposition alliance. The opposition has too many PM aspirants from a number of regional parties, mainly chief ministers of states who have set their eyes on the national stage. Yet, it was also a known fact, though not voiced out loud by the opposition parties, that it would be the Congress that they would all rally around at the time of the election. That has changed with the recent election results.
Going into the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Congress has governments in just two states – Karnataka and Telangana – severely restricting its power to claim leadership of the INDIA opposition bloc. Regional parties from the non-NDA parties are unlikely to accept the Congress leadership at this point of time, and should they go ahead with the alliance would prefer to wait for the results to decide on leadership issues. What this essentially means is that the PM face of the opposition will not be announced before the nation goes to the polls.
Interestingly, Aam Aadmi Party is the other party in the INDIA bloc that has two governments – Punjab and the National Capital Territory of Delhi. AAP is likely to throw its weight around in any negotiations over the leadership. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal has been building up the party to take it to the all-India level and he will sense the opportunity to stake claim to a bigger prize than merely being one of the many INDIA alliance parties. Kejriwal will not let such a chance go abegging.
Politics is going to dominate the news space over the next few months. Alliances are going to be made and restructured and some perhaps even ended. Right now the NDA, led by the BJP, is sitting in a position of power, with little that could dent it. But again, in politics, nothing is permanent or unchangeable.