Why voters choose differently

Centre, State Elections

By Brij Bhardwaj

Political observers have been pre-occupied with the attempts by opposition leaders to unite and form a common front to take on the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party in 2024 elections to the Lok Sabha by putting up a common candidate. Hence, they have missed the significance of the important message being sent out by the Indian electorate by voting differently in elections for State Assemblies and national poll for the Lok Sabha,

This trend shows that the Indian electorate is selective and uses his brain while voting in elections and cannot be taken for granted. All those who ignore this trend will be making a big mistake as this is the pattern by which the stranglehold of the Congress party was broken. State units of political parties are like branches of a tree, if a branch starts falling, the tree will not be able to survive for long. This trend started when Central leaders of the Congress Party started ignoring State units and felt that they could impose their will and put in place men of their choice as State Chief Ministers, ignoring local claims and preferences. The BJP has now adopted the same trend.

If this continues it will not be long before the hold of the political party weakens. If power goes into the hands of opposition parties in important States, the ability of the Centre to rule and implement its policies will become very difficult. The poll watchers have started speaking regularly about this trend. In the current scenario it was noticed in West Bengal Assembly elections. This was reversed in Gujarat because Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoys a unique position in that State, which is his pocket borough, It, however, did not work in Himachal Pradesh.

Now it is on test in Karnataka, the state which has been BJP’s prize possession and entry point in South. The troubles for BJP have been partly of its own making— frequent changes of Chief Ministers, ignoring claims of leaders who built the State unit from scratch. For a progressive State like Karnataka, the Gujarat model holds no attraction. It has been a base for new age revolution like artificial intelligence. It has a high degree of education and better standard of living.

It has suffered from bad governance; The State rulers have been guilty of ignoring wide-spread corruption. The city of Bangalore, once a choice of all those who wanted good life after retirement and a favourite of new age industries is now a sick city. Its roads are in bad state, lakes overflow because of pollution and all natural outlets for water have been blocked by illegal construction. Under the circumstances if people show anger when asked to vote it should not surprise anyone.

Even in the past, the state of Karnataka has voted differently in elections to the State Assembly and the Lok Sabha. It was a complete sweep for the BJP in Lok Sabha, but it was denied a majority in State Assembly election. The lesson is clear— no election in India can be won without a strong leadership in the State. The BJP has been aware of importance of State elections and fights every such election with its full might. Its formidable election machinery is deployed and popular Prime Minister Modi campaigns extensively. The results, however, differ depending on local conditions. In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP scores because its Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has built his own brand image. In the North East it has prevailed as Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma  is an astute politician. The magic cannot work everywhere.

The BJP has become a marginal player in Punjab after it parted company with the Akali Dal. In Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar will need overdose of tonic to win after having failed to get majority in last elections. It is not sure of victory in Maharashtra after the Shiv Sena chose a different path. The SS has suffered a split but remains a strong player on ground with cadre remaining loyal to family tree which was home for Sena. India, the parties must remember is too big and diverse a country, to be governed from the Centre.

In India the power flows from States to the Centre and not vice-versa. All empires which became indifferent to the aspirations of States have suffered. We have too many languages and too many aspirations, which have to be met. They need local leaders to understand and meet local aspirations. Strong Centre may prevail for some time, but cannot continue for long. What is happening in State elections cannot be ignored and anyone who does it will have to pay a price for it. A battle between issues of State and plans of the Centre is an interesting one and its results will be watched with interest.

The next test of the theory that the voters have decided to make different choices while voting for the State Assembly and the Lok Sabha is on the cards. The States which will be going to the polls next are, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana. In all these three States there will be a direct contest between the Congress and the BJP. In the last elections, the BJP lost Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, while in Haryana it failed to get a majority. Out of them BJP is in power in Madhya Pradesh because of a faction of Congress led by Jyotiraditya Scindia left the Congress and joined the BJP. While in Haryana it made a pact with a faction of Lok Dal to get a majority. In Rajasthan, Congress continues to be in power.

In all these three States, the BJP was in trouble and failed to get a majority. But in the Lok Sabha polls it swept these three States. And the Congress could get only token representation. Will this be repeated again this time, or will it change if the opposition parties are able to reach an agreement to put up a united front. — INFA