India entered the home stretch of the run to the national elections in the summer of 2024 with Monday’s announcement by the Election Commission of India, of elections in five states, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, and Mizoram, which will be held between November 7 and 30, with the results being announced on December 3. It is a run that started with the Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat elections in late 2022, three-and-a-half years into the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA)’s second consecutive term in power. The NDA is eyeing what no government has achieved in five decades — returning to power for a third term.
It is now a given that people vote differently in state and national elections. In 2018, for instance, the Congress won in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and formed the government, but six months later, in the national elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the loser in all three contests, won 62 of 65 Lok Sabha seats. But there are still several interesting aspects of the coming elections.
One, these elections will demonstrate whether a caste census has any salience for voters with the Congress promising exercises similar to the one conducted in Bihar in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh if it wins the elections; the Congress state government in Rajasthan beat the EC’s announcement by declaring, late on Saturday night, that it would conduct a caste census. It is now clear that the Congress, and regional parties such as the Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, and Janata Dal (United) — the three were the prime beneficiaries of the Mandal movement, the reservations in government jobs and educational institutions announced in 1990 — see the caste census as a way to break the rainbow Hindu coalition the BJP has built across forward castes, the less-dominant other backward classes (OBCs), and Scheduled Castes and Tribes with its Hindutva-plus-welfarism appeal. Two, at a regional level, the elections will show whether the Congress has been able to stage a revival in Telangana, where the Bharat Rashtra Samithi is in office, and whether the crisis in Manipur will have any effect in Mizoram where the Mizo National Front (MNF), part of the NDA, is in power. Manipur is ruled by a BJP government. Three, with the Congress being an incumbent in two of the five states, and the main Opposition in the other three, its performance will have a bearing on the dynamics of the INDIA bloc of Opposition parties. The stage is now set.
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