While the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are still locked in a tight contest in Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections, the former has secured a majority in Chhattisgarh and also looks set to form government in Rajasthan. Considering the “wave” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP’s electoral performance since 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has certainly come a long way under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, emerging as a challenger just months ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
But what are the factors that led to an impressive performance by the Congress against the BJP, which was in power in all three Hindi heartland states – Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh? Here’s a look at some of the factors that might have played a key role in the determination of the Assembly elections 2018 results:
1. Dilution of SC/ST Atrocities Act: In April, the Supreme Court passed an order, revoking the provision of immediate arrest under SC/ST atrocities act. This move by the top court triggered widespread protests, compelling the central government to revoke the order and reinstate the earlier provision. This move led to anger among those hailing from general category, costing the BJP dear primarily in Madhya Pradesh. It might have led to the loss of Brahmin votebank for the BJP.
2. Farmers’ woes: The Congress has, over the past couple of years, repeatedly raised the issues concerning farmers and their protests. The Congress designed its campaign for Assembly elections 2018 around the issue of farmers. Though the BJP also made all attempts to reach out to the farmers, who staged protests in several parts of the country, including the national capital, in recent past, it seems to have failed to counter the narrative set by the Congress party.
3. Loan waiver: The Congress promised during campaigns for Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh that it would provide loan waiver to farmers if voted to power in the states. It even promised that the loan waiver would be announced within 10 days of the election results. This promise by the grand old party might have succeeded in wooing a considerable section of electorates. No such promise was made by the BJP.
4. Hindutva: Both the BJP and the Congress party promoted themselves as supporters of the cause of Hindutva. In Rajasthan, the BJP went full throttle in playing the Hindutva card, but it apparently failed to ensure votes for the ruling party.
5. Temple run: Congress president Rahul Gandhi visited several temples in the run-up to the Assembly elections in the Hindi heartland, despite persistent attack by the BJP over the same. The Gandhi scion was accompanied by regional leaders as well during his visit to the temples in different states. Leaders like Ashok Gehlot, Sachin Pilot, Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia were often seen alongside the Congress chief during his visits to temples. The BJP tried to capitalise on the issue, but it failed to turn the tide in its favour.
6. Employment: The Congress as well as the BJP promised during the campaign trail that they would provide adequate job opportunities to unemployed youth. The Congress assertively claimed that the Modi government at the Centre and the BJP governments in the states failed to fulfil their promises of giving jobs. The grand old party succeeded in reaching out to the voters over the issue.