Assembly Elections: The Message!

Should recent results of four assembly elections be viewed as an important indicator of possible developments affecting this country’s politics in the future? Undeniably, a lot of noise has been made over the limited political appeal of the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in these assembly elections. However, against the background of increasing importance of regional factors and state-based leaders, a similar problem affects all national parties. There is no denying the fact that cautioned after its defeat in Bihar assembly polls, BJP played a wiser role in Assam. This refers to the party, during its campaign, having given greater importance to its Assam-based readers. They were not marginalised or sidelined while projecting BJP’s central leadership.

Besides, some importance must be given to previous Lok Sabha poll results from Assam. From this state’s 14 seats, seven were won by BJP, three by Congress and three by AIDUF. Against this background, there seems nothing surprising about BJP’s victory from Assam. BJP has won 60 seats in the 126-member assembly, with 26 won by Congress and 13 by AIUDF. The new Assam assembly has 30 Muslim members, with 15 belonging to Congress, 13 to AIUDF and two to BJP.  Clearly, the sizeable population of Muslims in Assam, 34.2%, was not ignored by the parties in the fray, including the BJP. It may be noted, that all 13 newly elected members from AIUDF are Muslims. Also, the maximum Muslim members are from Congress.

The BJP, apparently, did not ignore the importance of the minority while contesting Assam elections, Wiser after its defeat in Bihar assembly elections, the BJP apparently chose not to go overboard in playing its Modi-card but chose to put the local leaders in the forefront. Though they had not fared well in Lok Sabha polls, both the Congress and AIUDF had apparently not given much importance to this hard reality. Also, had they contested the assembly elections together, the Assam results may have been different.

The importance of the Lok Sabha polls and the use of Muslim-card cannot be ignored also while analysing the assembly election results from West Bengal. Out of 43 members in Lok Sabha from West Bengal, 34 belong to Trinamool Congress, four to Congress, two to CPM and among others two to BJP. A similar pattern is visible in the assembly elections with Trinamool Congress having won 211 seats in the 294-member assembly. The Congress has won 44 seats, CPI-M - 26 and among others, BJP- three. Clearly, the BJP was able to mark its presence in Lok Sabha from this state. Its gains in assembly may also be viewed as significant enough to register its presence.

The newly elected West Bengal assembly has 56 Muslim members. Among them, 29 belong to Trinamool Congress, 18 to Congress, eight to CPI-M and one represents All India Forward Bloc. Clearly, the key parties in the fray gave substantial importance to the Muslim voter. Trinamool Congress did not fail on this front. This party gained against others in view of the local appeal held by Mamta Bannerjee among voters in West Bengal. In comparison to Bannerjee, the rival parties were not able to project a strong enough local leader. It may be recalled that during previous assembly polls, the Congress had aligned with Trinamool Congress. The Congress, apparently, viewed that by aligning with the Left Front, during this phase, it would be able to defeat Trinamool Congress. The Congress did not give substantial importance to the popularity enjoyed by Mamta Bannerjee here. The same may be said about the Left Front.

In Tamil Nadu, the link of Lok Sabha results and that of the Muslim population cannot be sidelined. Muslims constitute 6.5% population in this state.  The 232-member assembly has only one Muslim member representing the Muslim League. Out of 39 members in Lok Sabha from Tamil Nadu, 37 belong to AIADMK, one to BJP and one to Pattali Makkal Kachi. Compared to the Lok Sabha results, AIADMK’s gain has gone down a little. In the 232-member assembly from Tamil Nadu, 134 belong to AIADMK, 89 to DMK, eight to Congress and one to Muslim League.

In Kerala, where the Muslim population is 26.6%, the 140-member assembly has 29 Muslim members. It may be noted that of 18 members representing Muslim League in the new assembly, 16 are Muslims and two non-Muslims. Among the 21 members in Lok Sabha from Kerala, eight are from Congress, six from Left Front and two from the Muslim League. Considering this background, the defeat suffered by Congress in Kerala at the hands of the Left does not seem to be a recent development. With only one member representing Puducherry in Lok Sabha, it is not possible to compare this result with that of the recent assembly elections.

Elated by their Bihar victory, Nitish Kumar and his colleagues tried turning the tide in their favour during these assembly elections and failed miserably. Being outsiders, they carried little importance for voters in these assembly elections. Regional factors and the associated Muslim-card may be expected to play a crucial role in elections in coming months too!    

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 June 2016 on page no. 11

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