Assembly polls in 9 states: Semi-final before the 2024 LS polls

The poll schedule runs through the year.

The results of the recently concluded Tripura elections and upcoming assembly polls in eight states in the current year will be a trailer and the semi-final before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The results will show whether the BJP continues to sway the voters or the Congress-led Opposition will defeat the BJP in the upcoming elections. Regional satraps would naturally want to protect their turf.

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The eight states where elections are going to be held in the current year are Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, and the three northeastern states, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland.

The poll schedule runs through the year. The voting process in Tripura ended on 16 February 2023 and the results will be announced on March 2 whereas Meghalaya, and Nagaland will go to polls on February 27. Karnataka to go for polling in April- May. Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, and Mizoram will face elections at the year-end. Jammu and Kashmir may also go for polls, the first since the abrogation of Article 350 in 2019.

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Congress, BJP, and regional parties are all playing it, marshaling all their resources. The states where BJP and Congress remain the leading contenders are- big states like Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chattisgarh. Congress is ruling Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, BJP Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh. A two percent swing, either way, would change the results.

BJP wants to expand further while Congress struggles to raise its head. It has already lost the northeastern states, which was its stronghold at one point in time to the BJP, and BJP has increased its foothold steadily everywhere. Even the Communists have lost Tripura to the BJP. With such high stakes, the worst-case scenario for Congress is to lose Rajasthan and Chattisgarh and not win any of the other seven states. The best-case scenario is to retain what it has and gain more.

The BJP is on a mission mod. Mission 350′ (to get 350 seats in Lok Sabha) is their stated goal. It is going all out to enable Prime Minister Narendra Modi to perform a hat trick.’

Earlier, the BJP chief Nadda sounded the poll bugle, asking the cadres to “Prepare to win all nine Assembly polls this year. The party is getting votes of Backward Classes, SCs and STs, and is giving them representation. This shows our resolve of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, and Sabka Prayas,” he said; while addressing the party’s national executive recently.

The two parties have already begun their poll exercises, with Modi campaigning in the North East and the Congress concentrating on Rahul’s Bharat Jodo Yatra. Key regional players like the ambitious Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao, hoping for a hat trick, are also preparing for the battle of 2023.

The BJP wants to focus on the South, which has 129 seats, of which the party has only 29 seats, 25 coming from Karnataka. The party wants to win at least 50 seats. But the regional satraps have a firm hold in Southern states, be it Telangana or Kerala.

“The upcoming 2023 assembly elections will be the final journey for communists, and the Congress party will become a poster”, according to Tripura’s former Tripura chief minister Biplov Kumar Deb. It will be a trial by fire between BJP and regional parties in the northeastern states. The seven states count for 25 seats.

After completing Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo’ Yatra, the Congress workers are enthused.

We must wait for Yatra’s electoral impact, as it depends on follow-up. Organizational unity is a crucial challenge, especially in states such as Rajasthan, Karnataka, and Telangana, where traditionally, Congress had done well in the past. The party’s high command must not mess up as it did in Punjab and elsewhere. It must choose its alliance partners and assess its strength correctly.
Secondly, it has to find a balance between old guards and younger leaders. Thirdly, Congress must choose a new, catchy narrative and raise correct issues, particularly of interest to the common man, like bread and butter issues.

For the BJP, money is no constraint, nor is the organization. Above all, the BJP depends on Modi’s magic to sway the voters.

However, the Saffron party is on the back foot regarding price rise, inflation, and jobs. There are no takers for its Hindutva ideology in the South. If the opposition concentrates on the bread and butter issues and convinces the voters to move away from the BJP, it would be an ‘advantage Opposition.’ The BJP also has to fight the dynasties, welfare politics, and social engineering to conquer the South. Regional satraps like K. Chandrashekhar Rao still have a hold on the electorate.

Each player has to use a different poll strategy to win and go for a suitable alliance. The Congress needs a different narrative, while the BJP ideology does not attract people in the South. The parties have to overcome some disadvantages to utilize their advantages successfully. Ultimately, it all depends on the voters and Dame Luck.

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