Before the D-Day on 8 December, the trends are out, and mostly on expected lines.
After fifteen years in power, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to lose the Delhi Municipality to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
In Himachal Pradesh, BJP is set to retain a narrow edge, as has always been the trend with the winner. Quite like Uttarakhand, BJP’s win will disrupt the swing state phenomena in another Himalayan state.
In Gujarat, on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home-turf, sky's the limit for the BJP.
If the numbers hold on 8 December, or even close, five politically intriguing trends emerge.
One, Arvind Kejriwal’s ‘Delhi Governance Model’ has an electoral audience indeed.
Since late 2019, when the protests began in Shaheen Bagh, the national capital has been on a tipping point. This was followed by the riots in February 2020 and the haplessness of the Delhi CM during two waves of Covid.
Many would remember Kejriwal making a case for the Delhi hospitals to be reserved for the people of Delhi alone in the early months of the pandemic. In the second wave, it was about hoarding oxygen cylinders.
Post-pandemic, the much touted governance has been under scrutiny. It started with the legal proceedings against Satyendra Jain, followed by the expose of the Delhi education model where restrooms were sold as classrooms and renovated classrooms were sold as new schools.
There was the liquor excise policy scam, currently being investigated. However, the people of Delhi have voted for AAP in the MCD factoring all these aspects.
The question is that are they tired of the incumbents or serious believers of a narrative sold as the governance model?
Two, beyond Delhi, Kejriwal’s politics remains a hard sell.
In March 2022, in Uttarakhand, AAP registered a vote share of 3.3 per cent. In Uttar Pradesh, AAP had a vote share of 0.38 per cent. In Goa, it was 6.8 per cent, where the party launched itself amidst much fanfare.
Similar trends are now being reported for Himachal Pradesh, the state bordering Punjab, where AAP registered a landslide victory nine months ago. Most pollsters are giving the AAP a big zero in Himachal Pradesh.
While the BJP must have hoped for the AAP to cut through Congress’ vote share in Himachal, the prevailing lawlessness in Punjab has weighed on the minds of the voters in the hill state.
In Delhi, however, Arvind Kejriwal has had an official elevation. From being mocked as a glorified mayor of the capital, the Delhi CM now may also be the official mayor, running the show from behind.
Three, no one really knows the actual AAP vote share in Gujarat. Turns out, with every percentage point increase in vote share of the AAP, the BJP is expected to win more seats, given that the former will cut through the Congress’ vote share.
In 2017, of the 77 seats Congress won, 49 were won with a victory margin of less than 10 percentage points, 29 were won with a victory margin of less than 5 percentage points, and 17 were won with a victory margin of less than 3 percentage points, and this was Congress’ political peak in Gujarat.
Thus, while most pollsters are giving anywhere between 2 to 20 seats to the AAP in Gujarat, they cannot narrow down the vote share, or the region from where the party will win.
Perhaps, everyone wants to play it safe, given most could not see the magnitude of the AAP wave in Punjab.
However, at a 10 per cent vote share, if at all, Kejriwal would go home smiling, for it will give them the ideal political launchpad for 2024, 2027, and beyond, even if it amounts to more than 130 seats for the BJP today. Right now, Kejriwal needs optics more than the seats.
Four, the Congress is preparing for elections due in some other country or planet, for nothing else explains their decimation in Gujarat.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra is not working for the Congress. Yet, in two states, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, they are bound to finish number two, with the electorate believing in them to play the role of the opposition, even at their lowest.
In Gujarat, the party would be hoping not to lose too much political space to the AAP, but more than 15 per cent for the latter (a big if) and it is curtains for the Congress in the state for the future.
In the larger national narrative, this would be Congress’ seventh electoral decimation in 2022.
Expected to win Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh, the party has absolutely zero momentum going into 2023.
While there might be hope in Karnataka, as it was in the other four states, the lack of leadership and focus does not aid their prospects in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh due for elections in late 2023.
Put simply, 18-months before the Lok Sabha elections of 2024, Congress is as clueless as it was in 2013.
Five, and the risk of stating the obvious; there is nothing to challenge Modi’s Midas touch.
In Gujarat, the road shows were a testament to the popularity of the Prime Minister, even after the party being at the helm of affairs for over two decades.
With several infrastructure projects in the pipeline, the Narmada waters reaching the remote parts of Gujarat, and the voters’ distress taken care of (Patidar agitation, anger against GST, etc), Modi is set to win Gujarat with over 135 seats, as per most pollsters.
Even in Himachal Pradesh, it is a Modi victory more than anything else. The Himalayan region has thrived under the double engine juggernaut, but for the people, it has been about voting for their belief in the Prime Minister.
Assuming the narrow victory predicted happens, the local unit must be credited for seat management, ticket distribution, and handling of local issues, but despite their best efforts, it will be a Modi victory first. Ahead of 2023, this is the momentum Modi and BJP were looking for.
The year 2022 was the political semi-final before the big elections in 2024, and the BJP, as of today, appears to have registered critical victories in six out of the seven states, and for 2023, look favourites to win at least two out of four big states.
Post-pandemic and amidst a global economic slowdown, the Modi factor remains undisputed and unchallenged with Congress snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
For AAP and other regional parties, it is about picking up political crumbs from the vacuum being created by the Congress.
But first, the counting day.
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