December 6, 2023


Do the assembly election results spell doom for the INDIA bloc?

Weeks and months are a long time in electoral politics. The fortunes of candidates and parties can change in a matter of a few days. But there’s also a thing for precedence and trends, both of which can play a pivotal role come election day. As the results came in from five states for the latest round of assembly elections, the analysis has started.

As the campaigning began, it was the first real test for the INDIA bloc across several states. As results came in, it was clear that the BJP would secure multiple victories. The BJP took Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh, with Congress taking Telangana. The question now is – what happens in 2024? Is it all but sewn up for the BJP?


In the wake of the Karnataka victory for the Congress, it was seen as a triumph of the grassroots. They stayed united against the local BJP. Something similar might’ve happened in Telangana. Add to this the Southern firewall where the likes of Tamil Nadu and Kerala have become tough nuts to crack for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that the heartland trusts Modi. Or at least, they trust his promises more than the Congress’. With all the talk of freebies and welfarism, clearly, one party got the messaging right. The opposition’s relentless attacks on Modi haven’t resonated with voters in the heartland.

Take Madhya Pradesh, for example. They beat anti-incumbency and conventional electoral wisdom. It’s a state where agriculture has done well over the past couple of decades. The sector’s transformation under Shivraj Singh Chouhan was an asset for the BJP. This is despite his not being able to replicate this success in other sectors.

The other big poll issue that made a lot of headlines was caste. Specifically, calls for a caste census. While caste-based political mobilisation came to the fore in the 1990s, recent electoral results have shown perhaps some waning appeal. For the BJP, it’s music to their ears, especially in the Hindi heartland.

What about freebies? Perhaps they don’t carry as much weight as some proposed. The BRS’s defeat represents that unpopularity. Voters, it seems, worry about jobs, housing, electricity, and water supply – the basics. The other big factor that played a role was women voters. The BJP’s victory in Madhya Pradesh seems to be on the shoulders of women voters.

Over the past year, the Congress’ biggest narrative was Rahul Gandhi and his Bharat Jodo Yatra bringing a sense of optimism and enthusiasm among the party cadre. It certainly helped the grassroots members and the larger party cadre to find some solidarity. However, some have argued that attributing this to resounding state-level victories is a faulty analysis.

So, here we are. The year ends with the BJP’s resounding victories in multiple states and the INDIA bloc looking at what’s next. What’s next is the big one – the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Is the INDIA bloc in trouble?

VIEW: Very much on the backfoot

The INDIA bloc would’ve certainly liked to finish the year on a high note but it wasn’t to be. They desperately needed some victories on the board, at the very least to prove they were electorally competitive. Let’s deal with the Congress for a moment. The party’s decision-making mechanism remains within the family’s dynastical form. It has only increased factionalism and caused disorganisation. This allows the BJP to sit back and watch its own goals. After all, they fancy themselves in a one-on-one contest.

What’s troubling for the alliance is the BJP’s performance. In Rajasthan, the Congress vote share was static while the BJP surged ahead with a 3.7% swing in its favour. In Madhya Pradesh, 20 BJP candidates won with margins of over 50,000 votes. Even in Telangana, where it’s not really a force to be reckoned with, the BJP doubled its vote share. In the aftermath, the finger-pointing promptly began at the Congress.

The INDIA bloc now seems to be in flux. Given the performance of the Congress, other parties will now surely jostle for the position to lead. The challenge remains to present a coherent vision and complications will ensue, including potential challenges to seat-sharing agreements within the alliance. The Congress has surely lost any leverage it had on seat-sharing. A fractured Congress leadership will only further destabilise the alliance.

COUNTERVIEW: Silver linings

It’s hard to look for the positives for the INDIA bloc after the assembly election results, but perhaps they’re there. For Congress, the good news is that elections are becoming increasingly bipolar. This is bad news for regional parties, especially those which are caste-based in the Hindi heartland. This could be an advantage for Congress if they can get parties to back it.

There’s no doubting the BJP and Modi’s popularity in the Hindi heartland. They’ve got that seemingly locked. However, the same can’t be said for South India. The Telangana result shows how the Congress can win and stake its claim within the INDIA bloc. From a broader viewpoint, combined with the Karnataka victory, the alliance has that southern firewall.

If the INDIA alliance can figure out seat sharing, that could be the key to victory. That’s the lesson West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee took away from the results. According to her, if it was done before the latest round of polls, the results would’ve been much different. The Congress can take some solace in that it retained its vote share compared to 2018. It gives the alliance a more than decent chance to retake Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh in 2024 if they repeat it or perhaps do slightly better.

Reference Links:

  • Three Things BJP’s Definitive Victory in the Assembly Elections Tells Us – The Wire
  • Poll results will further test I.N.D.I.A alliance – Deccan Herald
  • Assembly Poll Results 2023: INDIA Alliance Faces Uncertain Future As Congress Loses Bargaining Leverage – News18
  • INDIA alliance in the soup after Congress flop show in Hindi heartland – Moneycontrol
  • BJP’s Hindi heartland hat-trick shows time is up for Opposition to get its act together – Firstpost
  • Important Lessons For Congress, INDIA Ahead Of 2024 – NDTV
  • Seat-sharing key to INDIA bloc’s success in 2024 Lok Sabha polls: Mamata Banerjee – Economic Times

What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)

a) The assembly election results spell doom for the INDIA bloc.

b) The assembly election results don’t spell doom for the INDIA bloc.


For the Right:

The Myth of BJP’s Hat-Trick and What the Statistics Really Say

For the Left:

Congress Has No Option But to Recover in Heartland States in 2024