India’s provincial polls confirm dominance of BJP - GulfToday

India’s provincial polls confirm dominance of BJP

Narendra Modi (centre) addresses party supporters at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi on Thursday. AFP

Narendra Modi (centre) addresses party supporters at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi on Thursday. AFP

The right-wing nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi won four of the five state assembly elections on Thursday, while the relative newcomer Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which rules the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi, scored a surprising victory in the border state of Punjab. Political experts believe that the victory of BJP in the most populous north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh is a prelude to the party’s victory in the national election in 2024 after its 2014 and 2019 victories.

Uttar Pradesh has 80 representatives of the Lower House of Parliament, the Lok Sabha, the House of People, and it is believed that which party gains majority of parliamentary seats will rule India. The BJP had won 75 of the 80 seats in the 2014 parliamentary election, and 62 in 2019. Hence the high expectation that the BJP’s victory in Uttar Pradesh once again points to a BJP victory in the next national election. But the BJP cannot be sure of its future victory. It will have to work hard and prove its credentials in every election. Indian democracy keeps political parties on their feet all the time.

A surprise in this round of provincial elections has been the victory of AAP in Punjab. AAP is the outcome of the anti-corruption movement against the then Congress-led coalition government in 2011, and the party was formed in 2012, and made its electoral debut in the provincial election in the national capital, Delhi. It had won an overwhelming majority in 2015 and again in 2020. AAP has given rise to the hope that this new party, with its emphasis on governance, is a breath of fresh air in Indian politics. It is slated to win more than 90 of the 117 seats in Punjab, pushing out traditional rivals, Congress, and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). This victory has given rise to the speculation that AAP could emerge as a national party as the old party, Congress, seems to be fading out. It is of course too early to predict the future trajectory of AAP, but the victory of AAP first in Delhi and now in Punjab does reveal that the new party is spreading its footprint, however slowly.

The continued dominance of the BJP in UP, and the emergence of AAP in Punjab, only affirms India’s vibrant democracy because BJP and AAP are part of the many political parties that hold power in different provinces in the country. India remains a proud multi-party democracy though the contest of power among the many parties projects an image of chaos. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the most powerful and popular leader in the country, but in every election, he campaigns hard for their party. Modi does not take the people’s support for granted. Another sign of a demanding democracy.

What intrigues political observers in these elections and the clash of parties is that the people seem to pick and choose parties and leaders with an uncanny instinct. They seem to know which of the parties and which of the leaders will provide a stable government. This forces the political parties, whether they win or lose, to reassess their agendas and strategies, to understand what worked and what did not.

And many a time, the winning party would have more seats but the number of people who supported them would be less, and the parties that had won fewer seats had more people supporting them. So, the losers do not despair, and the winners remain on their feet. The Indian voter keeps a close watch and the political leaders are aware of it.

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