It’s advantage Congress if exit poll predictions hold true — Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh following the anti-incumbency trend and voting BJP out.
New Delhi: The just-concluded polls in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Mizoram have perhaps been the most awaited set of assembly elections, coming just months before the big 2019 Lok Sabha polls and witnessing a near straight Congress-BJP fight in three states.
In Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, the Congress is hoping to topple BJP governments riding on the anti-incumbency sentiment against the party — as well as in the Centre — and shatter the image of the party’s electoral invincibility under the combine of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah.
But if the exit poll results are anything to go by, the Congress has more than its task cut out for 2019. The average of these polls — ThePrint has analysed six — show a close, neck and neck contest between the Congress and BJP in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, and a clear Congress lead in Rajasthan, but with not very embarrassing numbers for BJP.
In Telangana, the polls lean towards a victory for chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao and his Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), and give an edge to the Mizo National Front (MNF) in Mizoram.
This state has been the toughest battle for the BJP, defending a massively unpopular government led by Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje — a fact reflected in the heavy reverses the party suffered in bypolls early this year. The Congress has been a clear favourite, despite its own vulnerabilities such as internal divisions and a relatively weak national leadership.
The exit polls show a clear lead for the Congress, but do not reflect a wipe-out for the BJP.
In 2013, the BJP had swept to power, restricting the Congress to an embarrassing 21 of the 200 seats. An average of exit polls shows BJP winning around 78 seats, and the party believes anything above 75 will be a respectable number. The BJP, with a last minute push from PM Modi, has been trying to reduce its margin of defeat so as to ensure the impact on its performance in the state in the 2019 general election isn’t severe.
For Congress, meanwhile, a win in the state shows the party can rise above petty factionalism, and helps boost its workers’ morale. It also adds a state to the Congress’ kitty, considering it is currently in power in just two states and one Union Territory.
If what the exit polls for Madhya Pradesh suggest are true — a very close contest — the Congress has clearly failed to convert the pervasive sentiment for ‘badlaav’ (change) into votes for itself in a decisive manner. Given the extent of fatigue with the current BJP regime, the Congress should have succeeded in making this election all about itself.
The Madhya Pradesh poll has been a close contest, with both Congress and BJP as well as voters terming it as a ‘takkar ka chunaav’. This, despite the BJP government’s vulnerabilities like farmer anger, a BJP community disappointed about demonetisation and GST as well as general voter fatigue with a 15-year incumbent.
If the Congress does indeed fail to snatch this one from the BJP, it could mean its own factionalism, the decision to not declare a CM face, inability to cash in on voter sentiment and other factors, like the BSP, dampened its prospects.
Again, the Congress is looking to unseat a three-term BJP government led by Raman Singh in a state where the difference in voteshare between both parties was just 1 per cent in the last election.
Exit polls show a close contest, and it is possible the bitter breakup of alliance talks with BSP and its decision to go with Ajit Jogi’s party, as well as the absence of a credible local Congress leadership have played dampener for the party.
If indeed the BJP does manage to retain the state, Raman Singh will emerge as the most successful BJP chief minister, having won four consecutive elections in 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2018.
Exit polls seem to give the KCR-led TRS a definite lead, which shows while there may have been anti-incumbency against local TRS MLAs, voters overall seem to want Rao back as the CM.
There is also speculation as to who will the Chief Minister be if the TRS comes to power. Will Rao make way for his son K.T. Rama Rao now or after the 2019 elections?
The Congress had entered into a grand alliance of sorts in the state — coming together with the TDP and Left. But as per exit polls, the strategy has failed to beat TRS. There also appears to be a competition between the BJP and Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM as to who will win more seats. For BJP, a respectable performance in the state is essential as part of its southern expansion plan.
Exit polls again show a close contest but with an edge to the opposition MNF. This state is crucial for the Congress — its only remaining bastion in the Northeast — where the BJP has managed to catapult itself to power in six of the other Northeastern sisters, either on its own or as a smaller ally.