Mizoram and 20 constituencies in Chhattisgarh will vote today (November 7), marking the beginning of an election season that will culminate in the general election scheduled to be held in late spring and early summer next year. Five states — Telangana, Madhya Pradesh (MP), Rajasthan, Mizoram and Chhattisgarh — are holding assembly elections this month. Each of these states has its unique election dynamic influenced by local factors and micropolitics, but the campaigns do point to the general mood of the electorate. Both the national parties, the Congress and the BJP, are in the fray in all five states, though they square off primarily in the three Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and MP. In all the states, the contests have become personality centred with Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading the battle for the BJP while the Congress and regional parties are highlighting their local leaderships. All the political parties have been loud on their welfare promises to win votes while in all the states barring Mizoram (where ethnic tensions in the neighbourhood have become a major talking point), the Congress and its allies have sought to consolidate the other backward classes (OBCs) on their side by advocating a caste census as a precursor for ensuring representation as per their share in the population. This template (welfare and caste) is likely to continue in play for the general election.
The big battles are, of course, in MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, where the Congress and the BJP are in a straight fight. For the incumbent CMs — Ashok Gehlot, Bhupesh Baghel, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, K Chandrasekhar Rao and Zoramthanga — these elections are existential battles. In some ways, we are witnessing a role reversal in these states with the Congress, once famed for its high command culture, leaning on its regional titans to lead the battle while the BJP, which at one point was well-known for nurturing regional leaders, increasingly preferring a centralised model of leadership and narrative.
State election results, of course, do not necessarily get replicated in the general election, as evident from 2018 assembly poll outcomes in Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh. The Congress won all three assembly polls but the BJP regained the lost ground and won 62 of the 65 Lok Sabha seats in these states, less than six months later. That said, a powerhouse performance in the five states could boost the Opposition’s morale ahead of the battle in 2024 – and influence the dynamic within the Opposition bloc.
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