2022 State elections – Takeaways from Takeaways!

Another round of state elections just got over last week in India and though it was a mini-round with just two states, we are already neck-deep into many analyses and takeaways from the results from commentators and experts of all hues. I don’t want to add to the clutter. However, in this post, I would like to talk about a few points that are flawed in my opinion, or totally skipped the attention of experts. Here we go:

  1. Anti-Incumbency is not a given: More often than not, the starting point for most experts in India when they forecast a party’s performance if in power is “Anti-Incumbency”. In India now, in the past so many years, many elections have shown that people just don’t vote out governments just because they are incumbent. People reward governments too by voting them again. BJD in Orissa, AAP in Delhi, TMC in West Bengal, and BJP in UP, Uttarakhand and Gujarat are all examples. However, it is only in the case of the Congress that Anti-Incumbency becomes a starting point. Recent history has shown that Congress has not been able to retain states based on their performance. (Punjab, Karnataka…)
  2. Picking the right previous vote share as a starting point: The starting point for any assessment of a party’s chances is its vote share in the previous election. Considering the fact India now votes differently for Lok Sabha and State elections (Read my post here), an apple-to-apple comparison for the 2022 Gujarat state polls must be the 2017 state polls. However, for Gujarat and in the present circumstances, I would like to make a logical exception. In Gujarat, whether it is the Lok Sabha polls or the State polls, it is Narendra Modi who is on the ticket. So, the starting point should be the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. In that election, BJP got 62.21% vote share and won 26 out of 26 seats. Specifically for Gujarat, my point is, BJP started with a very high vote share of 62% in the 2019 polls. With that background, considering the situation presently in the state concerning governance issues and so on, a drop of 10% vote share as we saw in the state polls is explainable.
  3. From the last elections to now, the situation is not static: For Gujarat, almost all experts predicted that BJP will return to power. But most “varisht partrakaar” I heard said that in the peak of the Modi wave in Gujarat in 2002, BJP could win only a maximum of 127 seats and in each election from thereon, this has come down. So even in this election, they kept saying that BJP will get more seats than in 2017 but cannot go beyond 127. And as per them, this was because in Gujarat there is a core Congress voter base that does not get diminished. However, what is being forgotten conveniently here is that between 2017 and now, Congress almost neglected Gujarat, 12 of their MLAs shifted to BJP, and many more leaders moved out thereby shrinking the party’s base. And other parties do work to expand their base like what AAP or BJP did in the tribal areas.
  4. Berozgari and Mahangayee are not election issues: I have said this before also. This time, it gets reinforced. Commentators and experts who visit the state and talk to people before elections keep saying that there is anger among people due to Berozgari (Unemployment) and Mahangayee (Price rise) and hence the government will be thrown out. Well, from the time I started following elections in India in the 80s, these have always been issues that bother people. However, the question is, are these the issues based on which they vote? I doubt it very much. I feel that people now know that Unemployment and Price rise are issues all the time and the governments of the day cannot do much about them. Just like investors in the stock market, voters nowadays vote based on what the future holds for them with a party. Therefore, it becomes important for any challenger to not just highlight the flaws of the ruling government but present an alternate governance vision.
  5. AAP beats Congress easily and not BJP: If you look at AAP’s successes so far which are Delhi and Punjab, it beat the Congress and came to power. Where they challenged the BJP like in Goa or now in Gujarat, AAP has not been successful.
  6. PK may be desirable, but not essential for winning an election: In recent times based on the last few polls, a narrative was built that parties win elections because of PK and his services. This round demonstrated that it may not be true.
  7. Municipality polls are not of National relevance: Just because TV channels and media whip up a mad frenzy, a Delhi MCD poll day or a Mumbai BMC poll tomorrow are not of National relevance.

Post Script: In this election in Gujarat, BJP beat the record of the Congress for the highest number of seats which was 149. It is said that this was due to Madhav Singh Solanki’s KHAM ((Kshatriya-Harijan-Adivasis-Muslim) strategy. If it was KHAM for Congress, BJP beat this record this time with the MOM (Modi-Only-Matters) strategy!

Image credit: The Tribune

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