BJP shines, Cong sinks further

The results of the Assembly elections held in four states and a Union Territory will give a big boost to the BJP and deal a heavy blow to the Congress. The BJP won a state and made its presence felt in two others where it had no strength, while the Congress lost two states very badly, further shrinking its national presence. The AIADMK won an expected victory in Tamil Nadu, and in West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress’ (TMC) scale of victory was well beyond expectation. After the heavy losses in Delhi and Bihar, which had cast doubts on the BJP’s ability to sustain its winning streak, the victory in Assam is a stimulant for the party. It seized the opportunity that was waiting to be taken in Assam. The BJP struck the right alliance with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Bodo People’s Front, which gave it a striking power much above its weight. More importantly, the Gogoi government was only waiting for a push to go under, suffering from the burden of 15 years of incumbency. But a government in the most important Northeastern state is a political plus for the BJP.

The heavy losses in Assam and Kerala will hurt the Congress badly. The gains in West Bengal and Puducherry provide poor comfort. It does not exist in the political map of most parts of the country in terms of governments. The only major state where it has a government is Karnataka. Blaming the anti-incumbency factor for the loss of both states is to deny the reality of non-performance, organisational decline and leadership failure. The Congress has to do a lot of introspection and take major corrective steps if it has to find its way back to political relevance.

The AIADMK has come back to power in Tamil Nadu beating the DMK, ending the decades-long tradition in the state of the two Dravidian parties alternating in power. Jayalalithaa has asserted her supremacy again, and parties other than the AIADMK and the DMK have been reduced to irrelevance. The DMK made a fight of it but it was not good enough to beat Jayalalithaa, whose image of a decisive, though authoritarian and inaccessible, leader and the many welfare schemes she launched may have helped her to retain power. She also had the upper hand in the freebie race.

The TMC has also returned with an enhanced strength in spite of the challenge posed by the CPM-Congress alliance in West Bengal. This shows that whatever be the charges against the TMC and the Mamata Banerjee government, and the complaints about the rough and rowdy methods of its cadres, the party still commands loyalty or can enforce it. The alliance has, in fact, hurt the major partner, the CPM, which has lost many of its existing seats and found the junior partner, the Congress, winning more seats than it has. CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury may have to answer some tough questions about it. The CPM has the consolation that it has wrested Kerala spectacularly back from the Congress-led UDF. Kerala, too, has a five-year revolving door for governments, and the LDF won by presenting a better alternative to the scandal-ridden and discredited UDF.

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