Assembly Elections 2018: Will anti-incumbency stall BJP or will Congress be washed away by Modi wave again?

The country has turned into a political battleground ahead of the upcoming elections in 5 states. Upcoming assembly elections of 2018 are seen as the semi-finals of 2019 parliamentary elections. Some of the opinion polls are already out and have predicted the next winning party.

The assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and Mizoram are important as it is a run-up for the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The Congress and Opposition parties have already tightened the noose around BJP by forming Mahaghatbandhan but the Modi wave is still strong and taking the hits of Opposition’s jibes. But during Assembly elections, it is local issues that become the deciding factor for voters.

The anti-incumbency

Madhya Pradesh

With 230 Assembly seats and 29 Lok Sabha seats up for grabs, Madhya Pradesh is perhaps the most important of all. With three consecutive victories, it has had a BJP government since 2003. The challenge before the ruling BJP is maintaining its winning streak while contending with the anti-incumbency factor in the state (13 years of Shivraj Singh Chouhan rule).

Madhya Pradesh is largely a rural state. Crop failure in 2017 only exacerbated the farmer crisis. The issue grabbed national headlines last June after farmers protest turned violent in Mandsaur. The bureaucracy is plagued by corruption. The scam in Vyapam (a board which selects candidates for government posts through competitive exams), which was uncovered in 2013, exposed the bureaucratic rot. A scholarship scam (also unearthed in 2013) threatened to also drag the chief minister into a Lokayukta investigation.

The Congress is banking on heavyweights like Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia. Kamal Nath’s long political career is founded on his core support base in Chinndwara district, from where he was sent to the Lok Sabha for eight terms. Scindia is another key face for the Congress and a probable contender to become chief minister. However, former chief minister and party stalwart Digvijaya Singh have been kept at bay, to prevent factional feuds from spoiling the party’s comeback bid.

Rajasthan

In Rajasthan, there are two main parties in the state and main competition is also amongst them, namely Congress and BJP. Both are confident of their winning and are claiming that voters of the state are with them. Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is seeking to retain power. BJP is in power from the last term and before that Congress was in the power. Rajasthan elections have a strange trend from many elections, Congress and BJP winning the elections one by one. Reports and opinion polls suggest there exists very high anti-incumbency sentiment against the Raje government.

Congress, led by former chief minister Ashok Gehlot and former union minister Sachin Pilot, is aiming to wrest power from the BJP in the state. Congress is banking on the anti-incumbency factor and caste equations in the elections. Here are some factors which might affect the Rajasthan elections. Reservation issue might also be a deciding factor. Gujjars are demanding reservations in government from a long time and both the parties will try best to keep them happy. Rajput are believed to be the vote banks of the BJP, but many have expressed dissatisfaction over the way the Rajasthan government led by Vasundhara Raje handled the ‘Padmavati’ controversy. Many people from the state have said that they are happier with Ashok Gehlot’s performance as the chief minister as compared to incumbent Vasundhara Raje. While urban voters are still inclined towards voting for the BJP it’s not going to be easy for the Congress either.

Chhattisgarh

The Raman Singh-led BJP government has been in power for 15 years, so there might be anti-incumbency factor in Chhattisgarh. The factors that might go against BJP are people from the state want change and distress in farmers may also cost BJP. But the former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi, who has formed a third front with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party, could cut split the anti-BJP votes. The Congress is banking on anti-incumbency, and the Jogi-Mayawati alliance is going to give them a run for its money.

Telangana

After the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leader and Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao dissolved the assembly before its term, the TRS thought it will be an easy win for them again. But after Congress-TDP alliance the picture has now changed the electoral landscape of the Telangana. The Congress-TDP coalition in Telangana — it is the first time the two parties are joining hands — is being keenly watched as the precipitator for a grand alliance at the Centre for the 2019 general elections. The TRS does not appear to be facing any large anti-incumbency as KCR is seen as having been one of the main forces behind the creation of the state and has been in power only for the last four-and-half years. But one of the opinion polls have given Congress-TDP alliance an edge over TRS, which can lead to a nightmare for K Chandrashekar Rao.

Mizoram

Mizoram is set for the polls, for its 40-member assembly, which will be held on November 28 this year. The main electoral battle in the November 28 Assembly election in the state will be between the ruling Congress and the Mizo National Front (MNF). The Congress, under Lal Thanhawla, formed the first two governments, after which in 1998, the MNF formed the government for two terms. At present, the Lal Thanhawla-led Congress government is at the fag end of its second term. With the Congress has few disgruntled leaders, the BJP hopes to be able to replicate its success. Rather than BJP, the anti-incumbency could benefit the main opposition party, the Mizo National Front (MNF).

The 2019 Lok Sabha elections are still a few months away but political tussle is already heating up with Assembly elections in five states – Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram. It’s difficult to tell which party will win the state assembly elections, but it will also have an effect on the upcoming 2019 Lomk Sabha elections. But it’s looks difficult for BJP to repeat the clean sweep they made in states such as Rajasthan in 2014.

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