The Election Commission of India will announce the dates and time-table for elections into the legislative assemblies of five Indian states – Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram – at 12 noon today.
These elections are significant because as they as seen as a semi-final before the national elections that will be held in April and May next year.
They will give key insights into the mood of the electorate ahead of the general elections, in which Narendra Modi is hoping to win a third term as India’s prime minister.
Any reversal in these states for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is likely to lead to a flurry of populist announcements from the Center, targeting the rural and lower-income strata of the Indian society.
The BJP is apprehensive of the distress in the rural economy. The rural economy of India has been laid low for the last three years, and never really managed to recover fully from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of late, it has been hit by rising fuel and food prices due to global factors. The current government at the center has attributed most of the blame, given that it determines fuel prices and has control over several welfare schemes.
The right-of-center Modi administration has been loath to continue the pro-poor approach of the earlier, Congress-led United Progressive Alliance. It has, as such, not built upon the rural employment guarantee scheme, the food security scheme etc, although it has not shrunk them massively. Nevertheless, the rural areas of India have felt the impact of adverse economic development since the COVID pandemic, even as the Center is seen as pro-business and pro-middle class.
On the other side, these elections will also be a test of the opposition’s new strategy of consolidating its votes under a new I.N.D.I.A alliance. We look at the current situation in each of these states, ahead of the official announcement by the Election Commission.
The BJP alliance rules the state, with 128 out of the 230 seats. The Congress, the main opposition party, currently has 98 seats, after defections of some KLAs. The BJP came to power in the state with the support of 22 rebel Congress MLAs.
The BJP government in Madhya Pradesh has been facing criticism for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economy. The Congress is hoping to capitalize on this discontent and regain power in the state.
The opposition is widely expected to have the upper hand in the upcoming elections, although it is not clear if that sentiment will also be reflected in the 2024 general elections.
The Congress rules the state with a narrow majority, with a narrow majority of 121 supporters in the 200-member assembly, of which 108 are from the party itself. The BJP has 70 seats.
The Congress government in Rajasthan has been facing internal turmoil in recent months. There have been reports of rift between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his deputy Sachin Pilot. The BJP is hoping to exploit these divisions and win the upcoming assembly elections.
Both the Congress-led opposition and the BJP are seen as evenly matched in this state, although anti-incumbency may favor the saffron outfit.
The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the regional party in power in the state, has 99 out of the 119 seats in the assembly, followed by Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM and Indian National Congress with 7 each. The BJP has just 3 seats, and is not the main opposition here.
The TRS government in Telangana has been facing criticism for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economy. The BJP and the Congress are hoping to capitalize on this discontent and win the upcoming assembly elections.
However, chances are slim for any party other than the TRS, which has since been renamed as BRS or Bharat Rashtra Samithi, to score a significant number of seats here.
The Congress won the 2018 Chhattisgarh assembly elections with a comfortable majority, and has 71 supporters in the 90-member assembly. The BJP won 15 seats. The extent of Congress’ win in the election was surprising, and there is a chance of the party facing the heat from anti-incumbency this time.
The Mizo National Front (MNF) won the 2018 Mizoram assembly elections with a comfortable majority, and has 27 seats in the 40-member assembly. The Indian National Congress (INC) has just 5 seats.
The Congress is hopeful of a change of heart this time among Mizoram’s electorate, particularly given the strife in the adjacent state of Manipur, ruled by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.