Opinion | Assembly Poll Results Likely to Increase Chance of NDA’s Expansion and Tussle Within INDIA Bloc

December 05,2023

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) dealt a big blow to the main Opposition, the Congress, by snatching Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh with a clear majority while retaining Madhya Pradesh with a big mandate. The southern state of Telangana was the only consolation prize for the Congress, which won the state for the first time, defeating the two-time Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao of Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS). These states account for 82 seats in the Lok Sabha.

Undoubtedly, these results ahead of next year’s Lok Sabha elections are likely to have an impact on both the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Opposition-led Indian National Democratic Inclusive Alliance (INDIA).

Possibility for BRS to join the NDA in Telangana?

This year, after the Congress defeated both the BJP and Janata Dal (Secular) in the Karnataka state assembly elections, there was a churning in the Opposition in the state. The outcome was that both the BJP and JD(S) decided to join hands and the latter officially joined the NDA. Both parties view Congress as a common enemy and that’s what forced them to come together. Arithmetic was also one of the important reasons behind this new alliance as the combination of BJP’s 36 per cent and 13.3 per cent of JD(S), when added together, was 6 per cent more than Congress’ 42.88 per cent votes.

A similar thing was witnessed in Telangana, where the Congress, for the first time, won with a clear majority by defeating the BRS. However, the combination of BRS’ 37.35 per cent and 13.90 per cent of BJP, when added together, is 11 per cent more than the Congress’ 39.40 per cent. It has to be mentioned that since Congress started to strengthen itself on the ground, the state chief minister and party’s supremo KCR toned down his attack against the BJP and increased his attack against the Congress. In fact, as the state elections kept approaching, KCR, who himself dreamt of becoming prime minister and even changed his party’s name from Telangana Rashtra Samithi to Bharat Rashtra Samithi, started to realise that his hold on the state faced a threat from the Congress. Even the state’s political grapevine had stories of a secret understanding between BRS and the BJP.

For a regional party like the BRS, staying in power is crucial for survival in its stronghold. And for the BJP, the immediate task is to lessen the number of seats of the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls from the state. With BRS losing a significant section of Muslim votes to the Congress, it may not be difficult for the former to ally with the latter. The state saffron leadership, however, may not be ready for this alliance as it sees hope by utilising the current anger against the BRS. Let’s not forget that the saffron party saw an increase of both 7 per cent votes and 7 seats in comparison to the last state elections. However, the central leadership of the saffron party may not be averse to ally with the BRS, if the situation demands.

To be fair, it is too early to speculate about this alliance at this stage but with the Lok Sabha polls just months away, the possibility of this can’t be ruled out.

NDA to add another constituent in Tripura?

The spectacular results in favour of the BJP are likely to have an impact in the Northeast state of Tripura, where there have been reports of royal scion Pradyot Debbarma’s TIPRA Motha joining the BJP-led state government. These speculations have risen due to the soft approach of Motha, despite the fact it is the state’s main Opposition party towards the state’s saffron government. Also, it is not a secret that some legislators of the tribal party want to join the ruling party to enjoy the fruits of power. That’s the reason Pradyot has several times criticised a section of his party leaders for eyeing power.

Apart from this, Motha, which grew in the tribal belt by promising the infeasible demand of Greater Tipraland, has been losing momentum — and to sustain its hold, it needs to get something from the Centre like direct funding of the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC). For the Motha to survive, it needs to be friendly with the Centre and with chances of the BJP coming to power increasing after the victory in three Hindi heartland states, accounting for 65 seats in the Lok Sabha, Pradyot can’t afford to antagonise the saffron party, which also needs the former’s support to retain the Tripura East Lok Sabha constituency. It has to be mentioned that there are still three vacant slots in the state cabinet and there have been reports that the BJP is ready to allot two ministers to the Motha.

Results likely to increase the tussle within the INDIA Bloc

After the Congress failed to win any of the states in the Hindi heartland, it is obvious that the party’s authority as the main leader is likely to be challenged by the constituents of the INDIA bloc, most of them are regional parties like Trinamool Congress (TMC), Samajwadi Party (SP), and Janata Dal (United), and also the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). However, the Congress party’s victory against the regional party BRS, whose leader has the ambitions of occupying the post of prime minister, is also an important message to the regional leaders of the INDIA bloc like Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, aspiring for the post of the prime minister. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal — whose party, although technically a national party as its strength is limited to only the northern states of Delhi and Punjab — too has the ambitions of becoming the prime minister.

Telangana’s results are going to be used by the Congress to remind the other constituents that big dreams may be costly for them in their own strongholds — an attempt by the grand old party to blunt their attack on its ability to lead the INDIA bloc.

At the same time, it is also true that Rahul Gandhi can fetch more votes in comparison to other leaders of the bloc. But his leadership is going to be challenged by leaders like Kejriwal, Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Mamata and Nitish, who much before the results have expressed their disappointment towards the Congress’ seriousness in strengthening the bloc. They view Rahul as politically incapable of defeating the Modi-led BJP.

Since the formation of the INDIA bloc, there has been a tussle among the constituents. The results of the four states, instead of pouring cold water, are likely to only accelerate this tussle leading to an uncertainty about the political future of the INDIA bloc ahead of the Lok Sabha polls of 2024.