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Indian Elections
Congress Trounced, Modi Triumphant in India's State Elections

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.

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  • Kevin

    Will AAP be a factor in the national elections? Or is its strength limited to Dehli?

    • El Gringo

      Right now it is a very Delhi-centric movement. It is possible that it may spread in the future, likely to other urban areas, but not before the upcoming elections. It also remains to be seen whether or not the movement can further translate into votes at the national stage.

  • El Gringo

    Extrapolating a BJP win in the national elections from these state elections would be like assuming a Republican presidential candidate will win because Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska just elected Republican governors.

    • Atanu Maulik

      You just revealed you profound ignorance of politics. Both Indian and US.

      • El Gringo

        I invite you to make a better analogy.

        • Atanu Maulik

          This is somewhat similar to the drubbing the Democratic party in US suffered in 2010. It revealed deep discontent with the party running the show, but does not guarantee that the opposition will win the bigger battles which lies ahead.

  • Atanu Maulik

    This is NOT a defeat for the Congress party per se. Instead this is a comprehensive defeat for Amartya Sen and his tired old failed socialist re-distributionist policies that the Congress party so faithfully adopted. It is those failed policies which is responsible for today’s 4% GDP growth and 10% inflation which doomed the Congress. The message from this election is loud and clear. India’s youth don’t want to be beggars. They want jobs and opportunities to get ahead in life. So freebies and handouts will no longer win votes. Political parties are advised to stay away from Sen and listen to Bhagwati instead. From now on, they will either have to deliver fast growth and jobs and low inflation or get kicked out.

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