There is something about the upcoming Assembly election in Himachal Pradesh that goes beyond routine anti-incumbency. India has been witnessing some very intriguing election results ever since 2014. It started with the Telangana Rashtra Samithi winning the first-ever Assembly election of Telangana and the Congress being wiped out and relegated to third position in Andhra Pradesh.
Between the sweeping re-elections of East Coast satraps Mamata Banerjee, Naveen Patnaik and J Jayalalithaa, the BJP under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah ensured greenfield victories in Maharashtra, Haryana, and Jammu and Kashmir, capped by the one-sided sweeps in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. It's a misconception to say that the BJP has been sweeping everywhere and all the time.
The so-called AAPocalypse in Delhi and the stunning results of Bihar were followed by the return of the Congress in Punjab after a gap of 10 long years. Barring the results of Kerala, none of the states provided what we would love to call 'routine' anti-incumbency verdicts. No, not even Uttarakhand, simply because the scale of the BJP landslide wade it way beyond 'routine' anti-incumbency.
2014: Of a total eight Assembly elections, five were won by the NDA, one by the Congress and two by other Third Front parties.
2015: Two states went to the polls and both elections were won by Third Front parties.
2016: In the five states that conducted Assembly elections, one went to the NDA and Congress apiece, while three elections were won by Third Front parties.
2017: So far, five states have held elections this year and two of those were won by the NDA, with the Congress winning three (the truth is that Goa and Manipur were 'won' by the Congress, but 'gifted' to the BJP).
In total, we have witnessed 20 state elections in the past three years, out of which the BJP/NDA managed to win only eight. The other 12 were won by Opposition parties. Even if we add Goa and Manipur verdicts to the BJP tally, the final scoreline happens to be a tie of 10-10. So against the common misconception, the overall election trends in India have been a 50:50 verdict between the BJP and Opposition parties in the past three years and not one-way traffic towards the BJP.
However, it would be fair to say that barring Punjab (where the Congress piggybacked on Captain Amarinder Singh's personal popularity and some realpolitik seen in the invisible support of RSS cadres who panicked against AAP's hobnobbing with pro-Khalistani elements during the run-up to the polls), the rest of the elections only added to the misery of the Congress — misery that began with the humiliating defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
So, what is so special, if there is anything special, about these elections?
The answer lies in the scale of mandates. In fact, most of these verdicts, this way or that, actually resulted in stunning sweeps. The sheer scales of victories (or defeats for that matter) that we have witnessed in the past three-odd years have been unprecedented. Between the 67/70 verdict of Delhi against BJP and the 300+ verdict of Uttar Pradesh in favor of BJP, we seem to have seen everything.
And the public is doing everything barring delivering a verdict hanging in the grey areaa. Even the "hung" Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir was a sweep at regional level with BJP sweeping Jammu and PDP sweeping the Kashmir Valley. The "hung" Maharashtra Assembly was actually a complete sweep against the Congress. So the Indian public is rather getting clearer in its verdict. Its either this way or that way. No middle ground.
That explains our survey results in Himachal. But as I said in very first line that there is something about the upcoming Assembly election in Himachal Pradesh that goes beyond routine Anti-Incumbency. Looks coincidental that it is mirroring the results of recent elections in neighboring states of Uttarakhand even in the scale of verdict. The interesting thing about Himachal Pradesh is that while in many other states that BJP managed to win after 2014, the party actually lost votes (sometimes as much as 10 percent of the votes) when compared to its peak during the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
But after demonetisation, the BJP has managed to win back not just the vote share but also the sweeping scales of seat share. Even in the state of Punjab, it just about managed to remain on the radar — even with extremely unpopular ally SAD, when it was supposed to be completely wiped out. After the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand verdicts, Himachal Pradesh is showing similar symptoms. Routine anti-incumbency would have resulted in a routine "simple majority" victory of the Opposition, which happens to be the BJP in the state. But the CVoter tracker shows that Himachal is likely to provide another "sweeping" verdict. That seems to be the norm of India at the moment. This way or that way.
The author is an international election observer and founder of CVoter. He tweets @YRDeshmukh
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Updated Date: Dec 18, 2017 07:52:04 IST