The stakes were always high. Three important states, three powerful chief ministers and two big reputations on the line. Yet what emerged from the electoral rubble was one clear verdict. The Saffron party had all but lost its color.
The fight for power in the big 3 states of MP-Rajasthan-Chhattisgarh couldn’t have been any less critical. After all, their outcomes were expected to set the tone for the upcoming general elections. While BJP losing all three states was unexpected, the bigger surprise was reserved for the grand old party’s roaring comeback.
These elections have once again reiterated the power of the people to change the narrative. Piplsay reached out to voters across the country to get their reaction on this latest political juggernaut, only to find that the winds of change have begun to blow.
The Great Step-Down
While Rajasthan stuck to its tradition swing game, it’s the loss in MP and Chhattisgarh that will haunt BJP for a long time to come. After all, both Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh had been the undisputed chief ministers for the last 15 years. But three terms on, something clearly went wrong for the ruling party, that too a few months short of 2019 polls. With so many setbacks in a day, BJP’s might, once considered invincible seems to be on a rapid decline as reiterated by the Piplsay survey.
The clear sweeps and the close contest for Congress have clearly put them back in the race. Though a majority of respondents feel that they gained from the prevailing anti- BJP sentiment, it’s nonetheless a huge victory for the party that was almost on a verge of collapse post the 2014 polls.
While these state elections are not a mirror to the upcoming general elections, over 70% of Pipsay respondents seem to think so. This belief may stem from the past trend in these three states wherein assembly election results get reflected in Lok Sabha elections as well. This important aspect cannot be ignored, particularly since the three states together account for 12 percent of the total Lok Sabha seats. Along with UP, where again the BJP is floundering, the four states hold 145 Lok Sabha seats amongst themselves.
Bed of Thorns
So what really wrong for BJP in these three important states?
A majority of Piplsay respondents feel that central policies had a major role to play in these defeats and they can’t be far from the truth. The twin combine of demonetization and GST had a reverberating effect with the rural economy suffering the most. Coupled with that are issues of unemployment and farm distress. The latter in particular has hurt BJP the most.
The usually popular Shivraj Singh Chauhan saw a dent in his popularity when six farmers were killed and several injured in a farmer’s agitation in Mandausar last year. Even in Chhattisgarh, which has about 70% marginalized farmers, the BJP failed to fulfill its poll promises. This is one area where Congress seems to have struck gold, projecting itself as a grassroots party.
BJP’s strategy of using Hindutva as a poll agenda also seems to have fallen flat. Even in the Hindi heartland where Ram Mandir is repeatedly invoked, voters seem to favor other pressing problems.
The united opposition, once mocked by the BJP also seems to have become a recurring headache for them. After UP by-polls, both SP and BSP have come together once again, this time to help Congress form the government in MP and Rajasthan. It is no surprise, then, that this united front is now seen as a powerful challenger to the ruling party by a huge number for Piplsay respondents.
The recent state elections have been a reality check for both Congress and the BJP. Armed with the people’s mandate, they will now have to work twice as much to keep the ball rolling. The stage is set for the final showdown and the race to it has only become bigger and bitter.