Elections in 2023: 11 electoral contests that will set the tone for 2024 | The Financial Express

Elections in 2023: 11 electoral contests that will set the tone for 2024

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has already claimed that 2024 will be a repeat of the humongous victory the party witnessed in the Gujarat elections held recently.

Elections in 2023: 11 electoral contests that will set the tone for 2024
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How will the Lok Sabha elections in 2024 pan out? The search for an answer may occupy the minds of over a billion Indians as 2022 draws to a close and the world heads into a year will see India emerge as the most populous country on the planet. While many may assume that the writing is clear on the wall, the answer will lie in what the year ahead holds for the political parties in the 10 states where polls are scheduled — or likely to be scheduled — to be held this year.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has already claimed that 2024 will be a repeat of the humongous victory the party witnessed in the Gujarat elections held recently. However, poll outcomes in 2023 will play a key role as voters make up their minds to elect a new government at the Centre.

The tenures of the state assemblies of Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland end in February 2023. Karnataka goes to polls in April-May, while elections are slated to be held in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Telangana and Mizoram in the November-December period.

Besides these nine states, elections are also due in Jammu and Kashmir though there is no clarity on when that may happen. Other than the state assemblies, elections are also due in the cash-rich Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation in the first half of this year.

Of the nine states going to polls in 2023, the BJP is in power in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Tripura. It is part of the coalition governments in Meghalaya and Nagaland while Mizoram’s ruling MNF is part of the National Democratic Alliance at the national level despite the saffron party not present on the electoral scene in the state. On the other hand, the Congress is in power in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan while the KCR-led Telangana Rashtra Samiti is in power in the southern state of Telangana.

Assembly elections in 2023: How BJP, Congress, AAP, TRS and others stack up

Rajasthan Assembly Elections – November 2023

The Rajasthan elections will possibly be one of the most keenly watched this year. Power in the state has traditionally alternated between the BJP and Congress and defying that trend will depend on how the grand old party manages to settle the debate on its chief ministerial face. No other state where the Congress is in power has received the kind of attention as Rajasthan — largely for the power tussle between incumbent CM Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot.

On the other hand, the BJP, which will be hoping that the voters will stick to the 25-year-old practice of electing alternate governments, also faces a similar challenge. There is still no clarity on whether the party will repose faith in former CM Vasundhara Raje Scindia as its chief ministerial candidate or choose to go into polls with a fresh face. The outcome of this election, however, will be crucial in determining the tone of the Congress’ electoral pitch going into the 2024 elections.

Madhya Pradesh Assembly Election – November 2023

The Madhya Pradesh elections will test the BJP’s mettle as Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan will seek the mandate for his fifth term in office. Although the BJP had managed to return to power after a rebellion by Jyotiraditya Scindia and his supporting MLAs brought down the Kamal Nath government, the defeat in the 2018 elections stung BJP the most among all its losses in the Hindi heartland states.

Five years on, the BJP will hope that Chouhan’s image and connect with voters can help it surmount the challenge that the Congress will pose before it. For Congress, the power tussle appears to have been settled with Scindia shifting to the saffron fold. However, the challenge before it will be to ensure that it comes to power with a clear majority. In the last elections, Congress managed to edge out BJP but ended short of the magic figure of 116 in the 230-member assembly. The Congress emerged as the single-largest party with 114 seats and formed the government with the help of Independents and Others. The BJP secured 109 seats.

Chhattisgarh Assembly Election – November 2023

The central state of Chhattisgarh, one of the key Hindi heartland states that slipped out of BJP’s hands in 2018, is scheduled to go to polls again in November this year. The Congress, which swept to power in the state after a 15-year hiatus, is up against the BJP which will be looking to wrest power back from its rivals. The election will be crucial for the saffron party heading into the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.

Carved out of Madhya Pradesh in the year 2000, Chhattisgarh has seen the BJP in power for three full terms while this is the first time that the Congress will complete its full term — it was in power in the state from 2000 to 2003 in its first term. Going into elections, the Congress faces anti-incumbency while bracing for the impact of how the rift between its two top leaders — CM Bhupesh Baghel and TS Singh Deo — unfolds. The Congress had bagged 68 seats in the 90-member Assembly while the BJP was restricted to 15 seats.

Karnataka Assembly Elections – May 2023

From the hijab ban to political killings, the border row with Maharashtra to allegations of corruption against incumbent Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, expect the unexpected when it comes to elections in this politically volatile state. In the elections held in 2018, no party had managed to gain a clear majority. What followed next was several tumultuous months which first saw BS Yediyurappa being sworn in as CM after the BJP emerged as the single pargest party in the state only to resign after failing to prove majority. The Congress and the JDS then came together to form a government in the state. However, in 2019, the alliance fell, paving way for Yediyurappa’s return as CM of the BJP-ruled government. However, the BJP veteran was soon replaced as CM by the BJP high command which appointed Bommai as his successor heading into the 2023 polls.

Past precedent indicates that Karnataka could be anyone’s game. And clearly, no party is leaving anything to chance. The BJP, sensing the influence that Yediyurappa holds among voters, has tried hard not to antagonize his supporters by appointing him to its parliamentary board, the party’s highest decision-making body. Bommai, who has so far managed to hold to his chair despite calls for his ouster, is pinning his hopes on a balancing act he hopes to achieve through a cabinet expansion. The Congress, upbeat over the response that Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra received in the state, is hoping to end the power tussle between Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar to capitalise on anti-incumbency against the ruling government.

Telangana Assembly Elections

The 2023 Telangana Assembly elections will be the first faced by Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao after the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi went national and renamed itself as the Bharat Rashtra Samithi. The 2022 Munogode by-poll where the TRS beat the BJP by over 10,000 votes has set the mood for the upcoming elections, as KCR has begun his campaign to retain the throne for the third consecutive term.

In the 2020 Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation civic polls, although TRS emerged as the single largest party, the BJP made huge inroads in the fiercely contested civic polls. The BJP’s impressive performance saw the party establish itself as the principal challenger to the TRS in the state, displacing Congress from the spot. In the 2018 Telangana Assembly elections, the TRS won a comfortable majority winning 88 seats in the 119-member Assembly, the Congress and its allies won 21 seats, the AIMIM bagged 7 seats while the BJP had to settle for one.

Meghalaya Assembly Elections – February 2023

The Meghalaya assembly elections are due early next year. In March 2018, the National People’s Party came to power in Meghalaya, dislodging the Congress, and stitching an alliance with regional parties and the BJP. Conrad Sangma, son of NPP founder and former Lok Sabha speaker Purna Sangma, was chosen as the CM of the state. The elections will come in the backdrop of defections which may come as a setback for the NPP. On December 14, four MLAs, including two NPP legislators, jumped ship and joined the BJP. Sangma has announced that the NPP will contest the 2023 elections alone, and this election will be a test for the Sangma-led party.

Apart from defections, the state is also faced with challenges of communal conflagrations and violent border conflicts, corruption charges as well as hostile alliance partners. The state’s capital witnessed one of the worst episodes of communal violence in 2018 when an altercation between a Khasi bus driver and Dalit Sikh resident turned communal. In another incident, the capital witnessed violence again in 2020 when the city saw a series of stabbings, leaving two Bengali-speaking Muslims dead. Further, the NPP also faces corruption allegations, with the government’s alleged inability to clamp down on illegal coal mining and transportation being one of the main issues.

Tripura Assembly Elections – February 2023

The Assembly poll in Tripura is due in February next year. The tenure of the 60-member Tripura Assembly ends on March 22, 2023. In the 2018 elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had formed the state government and won 35 seats, and Biplab Deb was elected as the Chief Minister. Deb resigned in May and Manik Saha replaced him. In the last elections, the Left could bag only 16 seats, while Congress stopped at a distant third.

Saha faces the challenge to iron out the differences growing within the state unit, besides the saffron party’s rocky relationship with its key ally – tribal outfit Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT). The Trinamool Congress factor could also play a huge role here with Mamata Banerjee having initiated an aggressive campaign in the state much before polls.

Nagaland Assembly Elections – February 2023

The 2018 Nagaland Legislative election, held in 59 out of the 60 constituencies, delivered a hung mandate with the ruling Naga People’s Front winning 26 seats out of the 60, the BJP 12, NDPP 18, the National People’s Party (NPP) and Janata Dal (Secular) two seats each, while one seat went to an Independent.

However, later NDPP leader Neiphiu Rio was sworn in as Nagaland chief minister for the fourth time, as his party stitched an alliance and staked claim to form the government with the support of 32 legislators, including the BJP. Returning to power seems a tough ask for the NPF in the 2023 elections after 21 of its MLAs defected to the ruling NDPP in April this year.

Mizoram Assembly Elections: November 2023

The Mizoram Assembly elections will test the BJP’s resolve to breach the only North East fortress that has never elected a BJP government to power. The saffron party, which has not been part of any ruling alliance in the state even once, has announced that it will contest all seats in the 40-member Assembly. The election will also see AAP make its debut in another state. The party has announced plans to contest 25 of the 40 seats.

The Zoramthanga-led Mizo National Front stormed to power in 2018, winning 26 seats in the 40-member Assembly. Factors such as anti-incumbency against the Congress, promise of total prohibition and the implementation of the socio-economic development programme played a key role then. However, it is a rocky road ahead for Zoramthanga to emerge as the CM for a fourth term.

The influx of refugees from Myanmar and the recent arrival of people displaced from the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh will be a major poll issue this time around. The pandemic-induced financial crunch and delays in salaries, pensions etc. will be issues that the former insurgent will have to battle heading into polls.

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First published on: 31-12-2022 at 12:00 IST
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