The results of state assembly elections in five Indian states were announced today. The voting in some of these states took place during or after the attacks in Mumbai (26-29 Nov.).
The five states, with the prior governing party and the victor of these elections shown, are:
Chhattisgarh (14 & 20 Nov. 1), BJP –> BJP2
Madhya Pradesh (25 Nov.), BJP –> BJP
Delhi (29 Nov.), INC –> INC
Mizoram (29 Nov.), MNF –> INC
Rajasthan (4 Dec.), BJP –> INC
All in all, a pretty good record for the Indian National Congress, the party of incumbent federal Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The only states the INC did not win were those that voted before the Mumbai attacks. And, as I note below, the INC gained on the BJP even in the two pre-attack states that the BJP held, suggesting there were national pro-INC factors at work independent of both the attacks and any particular state issues. Although these states are not necessarily bellwethers, overall, these results have to be good news for the INC as federal elections approach within the next few months.
Hindustan Times summarizes the results:
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) attempt to build a national campaign around the issues of terrorism, inflation, and a deepening agriculture crisis as a prelude to the Lok Sabha elections worked, at best, only partially. Local issues of governance won the day.
The BJP was pushing the “soft on terrorism” line even before the attacks in Mumbai.
The election was fought very much on BJP turf, as indicated by the party being the incumbent in three of the states, and how many of the federal parliamentary seats in these states are currently held by that party:
Delhi, Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh elect 72 of 542 members of the Lok Sabha, while Mizoram elects one. BJP has 57 and Congress 15 MPs in the current Lok Sabha from these states.
Federal elections must be completed no later than May.
So, when will the next general elections take place? There is nothing that suggests that the Congress would advance the polls. Congress hopes inflation will dip sharply from March 2009 onwards and by April-May the party will be in comfortable position. The party also expects to deliver on the issue of security by then, with a new home minister already in place.
Given the use of FPTP, it is always a good idea to look closely at more than just who won (i.e. who may have won a manufactured majority of seats). For instance, in the Rajastan election of 2003, the BJP majority (110 of 200 seats) resulted from 39.2% of the vote (against 35.6% for the INC). In Madhya Pradesh in 2003 the BJP’s 173 (of 230) seats came on 42.5% of the votes (INC, 31.6%). Chhattisgarh in 2003 had a really close election, in votes: the BJP won 50 of 90 seats despite a votes win of 39.3% to 36.7%. Then there’s Mizoram in 2003: the Mizoram National Front won its 21 (of 40) seats on 31.7% of the votes, against 30.1% for the INC.3 Only in Delhi did the winner in 2003 come close to an “earned” majority, with the INC winning 47 (of 68) seats on 48.1% of the vote.4
The 2008 results are available at the Election Commission of India website, but I do not see state-level aggregation of vote totals. Some of the INC wins over the BJP were substantial, however (in seats): 96 – 78 in Rajasthan, 42 – 23 in Delhi, and 32 – 0 in Mizoram (where the BJP barely contests; the incumbent National Front managed only 3 seats). In Chhattisgarh, the BJP won 37 seats to 31 for the INC, which is quite a lot closer than the 50-37 last time (in an assembly of 90 seats, now cut to 70). In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP won 126 seats (a loss of 47), but the INC remains far behind (63, a gain of 25 in an assembly cut in size from 230 to 201).
Note that the Rajasthan result this time around is not a majority, with the INC having 96 of 200 seats (+40 on 2003). The BJP won 78 seats (-32). The INC has a potential ally to support a minority government in the Bahujan Samaj Party (6 seats, a gain of 4). As Adam notes below, it is even more likely to make deals with independent members (many of whom sought the INC nomination, were denied, but won anyway.)
1. Many elections in India take place in stages, with some districts voting on different days from others; always FPTP.
2. Party abbreviations: INC = Indian National Congress, the main component of the governing United Progressive Alliance at the federal level; BJP = Bharatiya Janata Party, the main component of the federal opposition bloc, the National Democratic Alliance; MNF = Mizoram National Front.
3. And 16.2% for the Mizoram People’s Congress and 14.7% for the Zoram Nationalist Party.
4. The BJP had 20 seats on 35.2%. Here my source is a PDF from the Election Commission of India, as Adam Carr does not have a summary on his site.
[Minor corrections, additions made on 14 Dec.]