Much has occurred within India since the last state election took place, in the southern State of Karnataka: which resulted in the Indian National Congress (INC) sweeping the state and gaining an absolute majority of their own. This marked a significant change in the outlook from when the year began. Most experts predicted that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its alliance known as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would continue to make gains and continue to decimate the INC.
Due to a change in the dynamics though, the Congress Party made a comeback in Karnataka which marked a new resurgence for the party and a broader opposition to the BJP. Following Karnataka, the INC formed a new alliance consisting of 27 other parties, across the spectrum known as the “Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance” (I.N.D.I.A).
Going into the rest of the 2023 elections and 2024 state as well as Lokh Sabha elections, many will be observing the outcomes of these years’ elections as a litmus test for how the alliance can perform against the BJP in the Lokh Sabha.
Mizoram is a state located in the northeastern region of India, ruled by Zoramthanga of the Mizo National Front. It is one of the “seven sister” states, which consist of Mizoram, Tripura, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, and Assam. The BJP prides itself in either directly having the Chief Ministership in all of these states, or an alliance partner having the position. The INC previously ruled Mizoram, coming to a massive landslide defeat in the 2018 elections; losing 24 seats and in turn their majority in the 40-seat assembly.
Polling data indicates a tough contest between the Mizo National Front (a part of the NDA) and the INC. Current polls show a hung assembly with 21 seats needed to form government; with the Mizo National Front winning anywhere between 13-17 seats, the INC winning between 10-14, and the Zoram People’s Movement with 9-13 seats. The Zoram People’s Movement would be able to position itself as a kingmaker in this instance, whichever party could secure a partnership with the People’s Movement would in turn gain the Chief Ministership of Mizoram.
Previously, the Zoram People’s Movement party was a member of I.N.D.IA’s preceding alliance, the United Progressive Alliance (or UPA) but has been getting much more friendly with the BJP and could potentially form an alliance with them.
Chattisgarh (11/07/2023, 11/17/2023)
Chattisgarh is a state located in north-central India and is currently ruled by the INC under the leadership of Bhupesh Baghel. In the 2018 elections, the INC secured a resounding majority of 68 seats with a gain of 29. This number would later rise to 71 seats in the 90-seat assembly. Before 2018, the state was ruled by the BJP since its creation in 2000. Current data indicates that the INC will be losing several seats, but would still be favored to win the majority.
The BJP’s main campaign tactic in the state is banking on the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But, this becomes interesting when we examine Bhupesh Baghel’s popularity. Over 65% of the state has a positive approval rating of Chief Minister Baghel. Because of this, the INC has been favored to still win the majority. As per most recent data, the INC may win between 45-55 seats, with the BJP following at 39-45 with other parties at 0-2. This results in a slimmer majority, but still a majority nonetheless.
There has been recent infighting within the BJP as well, with a Chief Minister face not yet announced. This may have significant impacts on the election.
Madhya Pradesh (11/17/2023)
Perhaps the most interesting state up for election this year, in the 2018 elections, the INC under the leadership of Kamal Nath came in first place with 56 gains and 114 seats; and was able to form a majority with the help of third parties for the first time in 15 years. But in 2020, a small faction of INC members led by former Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia broke away from the party and joined the BJP which led them to return to power. This time, the INC hopes to return to power with a real majority for a full term.
Kamal Nath is viewed as a relatively popular leader by individuals within the state, and like in Chattisgarh, there have been interesting developments within the BJP. A Chief Minister face has not been announced, with tension over incumbent Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan who has ruled the state for a very long time being too old, or questions about his leadership. Additionally, a large number of the INC rebels who dejected to the BJP under Scindia have not been offered ticket spots by the BJP.
Current polling shows that the INC is narrowly favored, but the BJP is putting up a big fight. From October 2023, data indicates that the INC will win between 113-125 seats, BJP with 104-116, and others at 1-5. While different polling in November shows that the BJP will win about 119 seats, the INC 107, and others 4. The assembly consists of 230 seats, with 116 marking a majority. Madhya Pradesh is a part of the Northern India “Cowbelt” and is an overwhelmingly Hindu-majority state.
If the I.N.D.I.A alliance hopes to make major gains in 2024, Madhya Pradesh would be a good indicator of whether the alliance will be able to win back Hindu voters, which have largely shifted towards the BJP since the 2014 Lokh Sabha elections.
Rajasthan is widely seen as one of the most important- and largest – states in India. Currently, the INC holds a majority with 107 seats in the 200 seat assembly, in addition to the support of 13 independents and 1 third party. This brings the total to 121 in support of the government. The BJP holds opposition with 70, and others holding 8. Rajasthan has had a tradition of going back and fourth between the INC and BJP. So, history would say that the BJP would be favored to win with this trend.
But, experts and polling data are hinting to a tough race between the INC under Ashok Gehlot’s leadership, and the BJP. Earlier in the government’s term, Chief Minister Gehlot had a feud with a much younger face of the party, a well known assemblymember, Sachin Pilot. This feud became widespread public news, but, they were able to sort out their differences and have attempted to show that the party is still united.
Likewise, the BJP has faced an infighting feud. The leader of the party since 2003 and former Chief Minister, Vasundhara Raje has been challenged and questions are rising about if federal BJP leadership still view her favorably. Three previous states have been able to break the trend of alternating governments, and Chief Minister Gehlot is attempting to base his campaign on a combination of what all three of these states have done right.
Polling suggests the BJP will win between 127-137, the INC 56-69, and others at 2-7. With a large push by Chief Minister Gehlot, the margins may be slimmer than expected- or an upset at that. Nonetheless, the BJP is favored.
Ruled by Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) under the leadership of K. Chandreshekar Rao (KCR), it is an unaligned party that is not in alliance with either the NDA or I.N.D.I.A. KCR has been Chief Minister since the state’s creation in 2014. Being widely viewed as the man who led Telangana’s statehood movement, the BRS holds 97 of the 119 seats in the assembly, where 60 marks a majority. KCR’s popularity though has begun to wane, and party fatigue has been viewed to set in. Because of this, polls show that the BRS is under great threat from a new, well-organized INC party under the leadership of Revanth Reddy.
The data indicates the INC is in the range of winning 48-60 seats, BRS 43-55, and others 5-11. Seeing that no party is outright favored to win 60 or more seats, the indication is a hung parliament with the Congress party making significant gains. This race may turn out to be the most interesting out of all the states as well, with no clear favorite, it is viewed as a major tossup.
Though many would look to see if these elections translate into anything for the 2024 Lokh Sabha elections, this may not turn out to be the full case. In 2018 while the Congress made a resounding victory in Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh, the BJP still won an overwhelming number of Lokh Sabha seats given to these states.
Local candidates and local matters differ from national issues. But, these elections would still be a good test to show the enthusiasm and some general dynamic of how the election may go. After all, it was widely unexpected that the INC & I.N.D.I.A would have even made such a large resurgence before the Karnataka state elections. We shall wait to witness the outcomes of these elections and report back on the results.