No Opposition in 2024
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regained Gujarat with a resounding victory in the Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the results of which were announced on December 8. However, the BJP lost Himachal Pradesh to the Congress. AAP, an ambitious party that ran in both States, won five seats in Gujarat but failed to win any seats in Himachal Pradesh.
Even 27 years after it initially took office there in March 1995, the BJP has maintained its grasp on Gujarat as evidenced by its seventh consecutive victory there. The BJP eclipsed its previous high of 127 seats obtained in 2002 by taking 156 of the 182 Assembly seats. Additionally, it outperformed the record-breaking 1985 total of 149 seats for the Congress.
The five seats won by the AAP (and a vote percentage of about 13 per cent) are noteworthy because they establish the newcomer as a national party and mark its entry into Gujarat politics. To qualify as a national party, a party must receive a vote share of more than 6 per cent in at least four States, according to Election Commission of India (ECI) standards.
The triangular election in Gujarat took place for the first time in 2022. The Congress and the BJP have historically been in competition. Exit polls had indicated after voting stopped that the AAP will make a dent in the prospects of Congress and will eat up its space. According to ECI figures, the AAP finished second behind the BJP in 34 seats.
The Gujarat Mandate:– Pro Incumbency
Gujarat election results in 2022 will be recalled for two reasons: In the state, the BJP first achieved its best-ever performance. The BJP is forming the government with more than 150 seats and with a vote share of more than 53 per cent. This is a significant mandate, and to compare it to a recent occurrence, the BJP has accomplished in Gujarat what the AAP accomplished in Delhi in 2015 (when it won 67 of the 70 assembly seats).
The throngs of media representatives who were airdropped into Gujarat in November were all eager to emphasise that Gujarat had been governed by the BJP for a lengthy 27 years, with only brief breaks. They argued nearly unanimously that given this exceptional period of incumbency, it would inevitably confront some voter apathy, if not outright hostility. And sure enough, they found certain problems that they had anticipated would be pressure points: rising prices, youth unemployment, potholed roads, to name a few.
The outcomes now disprove this hypothesis. 156 BJP members have been elected to serve in Gujarat’s new Vidhan Sabha. Growing percentages of Gujaratis have stated that they want more of the same for another five years, far from expressing any anti-incumbency sentiment. For them, it didn’t matter that the current chief minister was appointed little over a year ago in what seemed to be a whim by the BJP top brass, i.e. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, a completely uninteresting and essentially unknown political figure. He received a cabinet of unrecognised backbencher lawmakers.
The BJP and its “double engine” government missed no chance to tout their numerous accomplishments, including improved communications and transportation, internal safety and security, a speedy recovery from the pandemic, and India’s rising prestige in the international community.
You’ve never had it so wonderful, was the message that was made apparent according to the fairly clever phrase “Aa Gujarat amebanavyochhe ,I/we made this Gujarat. Therefore, Gujarat genuinely had a strong pro-incumbency wave, which was reflected in the outcomes, rather than just not having an anti-incumbency factor.
The Gujarat results make it quite evident that Prime Minister Narendra Modi still has a lot of influence in his home State. Nevertheless, the AAP’s impressive performance suggests that the State might be receptive to the notion of a fresh option. The Congress was not only unable to motivate voters, but it also lost much of its assured vote bank to the AAP, making it the principal victim of the AAP’s emergence. Compared to 77 seats in 2017, it only won 17 seats. This is a major win for the AAP since it showed it has the guts to take on the powerful BJP and succeed in doing so. If the party gets its ideology and religion suitable, it may gain support among Gujarat’s backward and minority communities.
The Congress lost 60 seats after winning 77 in 2017, while the BJP gained 57 more than the 99 it won in 2017. The intriguing fact is that the majority of the 60 lawmakers of the Congress switched parties over the course of the previous four years, joining the BJP.
The Modi factor
The BJP had to base their campaign in the state as a “war of prestige,” as commentators dubbed it, as a result of the AAP’s loud campaign. The AAP’s arrival rattled the BJP, and Modi made at least nine journeys to take part in 31 rallies and road shows around the State. The BJP also likely felt anxious due to the tight victory in the 2017 Assembly election.
Modi announced a number of big State projects prior to the election. His detractors said that he abused his power as prime minister by doing this, but Modi wasn’t likely to be bothered by that. At all the rallies, he promoted the “double engine” model—the same party in charge of the State and the Centre. The fact that the BJP candidate managed to win even the Morbi seat, which recently experienced a terrible bridge collapse due to corruption that was virtually certainly occurring at the government level, one can comfortably say that the “Modi factor” is the main reason for the landslide victory.
Congress still in race
The two state elections for the Congress turned out to be a mixed bag, with a poor showing in Gujarat and an easy triumph in Himachal Pradesh. However, compared to the 2017 Gujarat assembly elections, when it won 77 seats and had a vote share of 41.4 per cent, the party’s performance has considerably declined. This time, the Congress received just 17 seats and received 27.3 per cent of the vote. The party increased significantly from its 21 seats and 41.7 per cent vote share in 2017 to 40 seats and 43.8 per cent vote share in Himachal Pradesh. Given its disastrous showing in Gujarat and the Delhi corporation elections, the Congress will benefit greatly from the victory in Himachal Pradesh.
The public’s ire over issues like unemployment, inflation, the short-term Agnipath plan (Himachal being the top state for Army recruiting), the ire of apple growers, and the BJP’s hesitation to state its position on the old pension scheme may all be reasons of the Congress’ triumph in Himachal.
AAP :- A little too early celebrations
It has been 25 years since Gujarat has experienced a true third force. The last such party was the Rashtriya Janata Party, founded by ShankarsinhVaghela, which received roughly 12% of the vote and four seats in the 1998 Assembly elections. But back then, it was still a BJP splinter group. The crucial distinction between AAP and the most recent national parties to achieve that status—NCP, NPP, and Trinamool Congress—is that AAP is not a split off of any other party. It more closely resembles the BSP, which also arose naturally but from a totally different political strain.
While it is admirable that AAP received roughly 13 percent of the vote in Gujarat, its assertion that it was the principal opposition force against the BJP and PM Modi is somewhat misleading. This is indicative in the rise in the BJP’s vote share and number of seats in the state. AAP has benefited at the expense of the Congress. Will AAP fare similarly or better if the Congress decides to focus on the border state at a later time is the question to ponder. The outcomes in Himachal Pradesh were disappointing for the AAP. This demonstrates that the AAP will have it tough where the Congress is willing to fight back. This strengthens the claim that AAP is consuming the traditional vote bank of Congress.
If there was ever any doubt, these elections have dispelled it: Modi has unrivalled control over the public’s perceptions and Shah is a maestro of election management. They don’t appear to be in any danger of being matched anytime soon in the Indian political arena. While the BJP is celebrating a historic victory in Gujarat, it would be wise for it to reflect on why it fell short in Himachal Pradesh. There, the erroneous and problematic election claim of a “double engine sarkar” has been rejected by the electorate. The Congress may find solace in its performance in Himachal Pradesh, but question arises that can it reclaim the ground lost to AAP in Gujarat? AAP is optimistic and has demonstrated that it cannot be written off, but as it expands into other states, distant from Delhi, it will be put to the test again and again. All in all, these elections results make it clear that Modi and the BJP has no real opposition in the 2024 elections.
By NILABH KRISHNA