The ruling Congress Party in India was overwhelmingly defeated in several recent state elections that are considered an indicator of voter preferences ahead of next year’s national parliamentary elections. The New York Times reports:
Preliminary counts posted by the Election Commission on Monday morning showed the B.J.P. — a pro-business, Hindu nationalist party — wresting the state of Rajasthan from Congress’s hands in a landslide, winning 162 out of the state’s 200 assembly seats, to just 21 for Congress. The Congress Party also performed dismally in Delhi, winning only eight of the state’s 70 assembly seats. The B.J.P. won the largest number, 31…Congress lost a tight contest in Chhattisgarh, winning 39 seats to the B.J.P.’s 49. And the B.J.P. easily retained control in Madhya Pradesh, winning 165 of the assembly’s 230 seats and leaving Congress with 58.
These result, though remarkable, should not come as much of a surprise. Corruption scandals, high inflation, stalled economic growth, and ineffective leadership have plagued the Congress government throughout its tenure, and especially recently. The Gandhi family dynasty that has dominated the Congress Party and India’s national government for decades is increasingly seen as isolated not just from voters, but even from members of their own party.Rahul Gandhi, the latest heir of the that dynasty, isn’t generating enough excitement and hope to offset feelings among many Indians that the country is adrift.It’s worth noting one of the more surprising beneficiaries of the changing winds in Indian politics—the Aam Aadmi or “Common Man” Party (AAP). The AAP was only formed last year following popular protests against corruption. The party’s anti-corruption agenda was especially relevant in Delhi, the national capital, where it resonated across religion, caste, and social divides. Winning 28 seats, the AAP trounced Congress, which won 43 seats in 2008 but only 8 in 2013. The BJP emerged at the top in Delhi with 31 seats, not enough to form a government on its own.The biggest winner in all these state elections is Narendra Modi, the BJP’s candidate for prime minister. His promises of reform, economic development and his strident anti-Congress speeches have resonated wherever he has campaigned so far. His rallies draw tens of thousands of supporters, far bigger than the crowds that attend Gandhi’s speeches. “One thing is clear, the mood in the nation is anti-Congress, and that is not arguable anymore,” chimed a BJP spokeswoman.National elections still a long way away, and these state elections all took place in Hindi-speaking states in northern India where the BJP should naturally find itself popular among voters, but it’s hard to avoid the view that Congress faces an steep uphill climb.