THE BLOG

Indian National Congress Receives a Flogging From the Bharatiya Janata Party

Following record-breaking electoral participation, the results of four state assembly elections were announced on Sunday. With the general election mere months away, the resounding 4-0 victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party -- the official opposition in the center -- served as an ominous flogging of the Indian National Congress, which heads the country's ruling coalition.

The four states in question were Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, previously held by the BJP, as well as Rajasthan and Delhi, previously held by the Congress.

Chhattisgarh saw the closest contest between the two national parties, yet the BJP still managed to secure a majority with 54 percent of the assembly's seats. This was despite the electoral boost the INC received in certain tribal regions of the state following a murderous attack on a Congress party convoy by Maoist rebels this summer -- which claimed the lives of 29 congressmen.

Meanwhile in Madhya Pradesh, which also had an incumbent BJP government, they nevertheless received a decisive mandate, winning 165 out of 230 seats, with a mere 58 going the way of the Congress. This will be the third term for the popular chief minster of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

Rajasthan provided the best news for the BJP and some of the worst for the INC. The BJP was elected to 81 percent of the state assembly's seats while the Congress only managed to win 11 percent. This is in a state with an incumbent Congress government that was announcing welfare scheme after welfare scheme in order to brighten their electoral prospects. It has been widely reported that the BJP's chief ministerial candidate, former CM Vasundhara Raje Scindia -- a scion of the royal family of Gwalior -- was the principal factor in the BJP's outstanding performance in Rajasthan.

The final and most interesting result was announced in Delhi, which includes the country's capital city of New Delhi. Congress Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who has led the National Capitol Territory since 1998, was utterly routed in the elections, which saw her party win just eight out of 70 seats. Unfortunately for the BJP however, they were unable to claim absolute victory as they did in the other three states, due to the presence of the newly emerged Aam Aadmi Party.

The Aam Aadmi Party, founded just a year ago, made an incredible début, taking 28 of 70 constituencies, including strongholds of both the Congress and the BJP. The AAP's leader, Arvind Kejriwal contested in the incumbent chief minister of 15 years' own constituency and thumped her by upwards of 25,000 votes. The AAP also defeated another Congress stalwart in Chaudhary Prem Singh, who had held his seat since 1993 and had not lost an election in over five decades. This time however, Singh finished third, thousands of votes short of both the AAP and the BJP.

Although the AAP's success and stellar performance is a clear sign of a healthy democracy, it has nevertheless caused the splitting of the anti-congress vote, leaving Delhi without a government. The BJP, with 31 seats, falls a few short of a simple majority. On the other hand, the Congress offered to support the AAP into government, yet the later quickly rejected the offer. There are but a few options that remain. The BJP may manage to convince, or allow, enough dissidents from the INC or even the AAP to switch over to the BJP, thereby securing a clear majority. Or the unwillingness of all the parties to talk to each other would likely result in President's Rule followed by fresh elections in which the BJP or the AAP would likely form a clear majority.

Despite the uncertainty faced in Delhi's state assembly, as far as the national picture goes, the BJP has undoubtedly emerged as the victors following these elections -- which have seen the INC wither into the background. Although this has not by any means proven any immense wave of support behind BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, it has certainly disproved the opposition's notion that he is a divisive figure who would seriously undermine his party's electoral chances. The question of whether Modi, who tirelessly campaigned in all four of these states, can lead the BJP to victory in the general elections has faced its first true test, and by most accounts, the answer as of December 8th, is a resounding yes.