【New Delhi】The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) traditional hold over the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan will be put to test on December 11, when state election results are due. Opinion polls seem to agree that the BJP stands to lose Rajasthan.
Elections will be held across five states—Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Telangana and Rajasthan—spread over November 12 until December 7. Counting for all the states is scheduled to take place on December 11.
There is widespread anti-incumbency sentiment due to youth unemployment, farmer distress and tensions over caste-based identity politics. The key opposition party, Indian National Congress (INC), seems to be more adept in its campaigning in Rajasthan; although there have been reports of party infighting.
The scene looks brighter for the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, in part due to the longevity of its incumbent chief minister and improved roads, power supply and social welfare schemes.
Opinion polls fail to show a clear frontrunner in Chhattisgarh, although it looks like the INC has a slight edge.
Telangana is a stronghold of the local Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) party, which is likely to benefit from calling a flash election.
Mizoram is a small state in the northeast—the only one in the region where the INC holds a majority.
Historically, Indian voters are known to be inconsistent in their voting patterns in state versus general elections. Typically, general election candidates from a state's ruling party enjoy a greater comparative advantage when general elections are scheduled early in the term as opposed to later; when there is a greater risk from contamination from local anti-incumbency.
Together, the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan will account for ~12% of parliamentary seats. Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have consistently voted for BJP parliamentarians by a sizeable margin. Even if the BJP loses Rajasthan as the polls suggest, it may still be able to count on it for support in the general election. However, the clean sweep it enjoyed in 2014 will most likely be compromised.
Of the 41 parliamentary seats belonging to smaller states, 25 hail from the Northeast—where the BJP has elbowed its way into seven of the eight state governments. Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have a sizeable agrarian population, and the rural electoral performance will serve as an indicator of how relevant farm distress remains as an issue among the electorate.
Going into the state election results, opinion polls suggest that the BJP will manage to retain Madhya Pradesh; lose Rajasthan; and remain competitive in Chhattisgarh, i.e., results will be a mixed bag. On the face of it, the BJP's prospects for the 65 parliamentary seats (of the 543 in the Lok Sabha) suggest that two out of these three states will vote for the BJP in general elections regardless of their state election outcome. At the same time, the state elections will also reflect the mood of the nation, and the extent to which the BJP has been able to distance itself from the electoral issues of low farm incomes and broader rural distress. (Edited excerpts from Nomura's India: Politics—Winter is coming)
Assembly election opinion polls: Congress looks set to wrest Rajasthan from BJP, neck in neck fight in MP, Chhattisgarh
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