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Is Congress trying to be a better BJP?

Arti Ghargi




If the Congress accuses BJP of communalising the society, then what Congress is doing along the caste lines is not any different from what BJP has been doing so far. 

Several states across India on April 2 witnessed bloodied Bharat Bandh protests. The protestors opposing the recent amendments introduced by the Supreme Court in SC/ST Act turned violent torching factories, cars and several other vehicles. The violence grew so much that a child was hit & injured by lathis by the protesters in Muzaffarpur’s Maripur area. The violence left as much as 10 people dead. While the Dalit outrage was at its peak, the government was drawing criticism from all the corners of the nation.

The SC/ST Act amendment issue has turned out to be a golden card for the opposition especially Congress who is trying every possible way to cash on it. The Dalit outrage seems to have come to the front of the country’s politics again with even BJP not failing to mention its support to the community in every major speech. A closer look at all of the recent developments raises the question, is Congress turning into another BJP?

BJP and communalism:

BJP has always been accused of using communalism as a tool to polarise the society to build its vote bank. The party leadership does not forget to assert the Hardline Hindutva ideology ahead of every election. Last year, during the UP Assembly Election, Prime Minister Modi at a rally in Fatehpur on February 19, accused the ruling Samajwadi Party of spending crores on constructing boundary walls around cemeteries while neglecting Hindu crematoriums. Recently, UP CM stoked controversy asking the Karnataka people to make a choice between those who worship Hanuman and those who worship Tipu Sultan. There are countless such examples. While appealing its Hindu majority vote bank, it portrays the opposition Congress as Anti-right, Anti-Hindu and Pro-Muslim.


Congress and Caste Politics:

While BJP depends on division along religious lines to build its vote bank, Congress, on the other hand, is countering it with more divisiveness- using the caste politics. During Gujarat Assembly election, the Congress weaved a caste alliance of Hardik Patel(Patidar), Alpesh Thakore(OBC) and Jignesh Mewani (Dalit) to take on the incumbent BJP which was ruling the state for 22 years. Though BJP won the elections, the Caste alliances paid off for Congress as the party improved its tally with impressive numbers.

Repeating the same strategy in Karnataka, the party supported the separate religion demand of Lingayat community-which is a powerful community in the state, both-socially and politically.

Continuing on the same line, the focus is on the Dalits where the party is invoking the legacy of Ambedkar. The party’s support for the Bharat Bandh protest and a day-long fast to protest the Dalit atrocities is a step further in the direction to consolidate the Dalit votes in favour of the party.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi during the Bharat Bandh protest, tweeted, “To keep Dalits at the lowest notch of Indian society is in the DNA of RSS/BJP. Those who challenge this thinking are hit by violence. Thousands of Dalit brother-sister are taking it to the streets today seeking to protect their rights from the Modi government. We salute them.”

It is clear that Congress is trying to assert a picture of BJP as Anti-Dalit and Anti-Minority.

The divisive politics is not new to Indian political sphere; be it division along religious lines, caste lines or linguistic lines.

If the Congress accuses BJP of communalising the society, then what Congress is doing along the caste lines is not any different from what BJP has been doing so far

Is Congress turning into BJP?

Since the Gujarat Assembly Elections, Congress went under major revamping. This revamped Congress has rigorously been trying to shed the image created by the opposition. However, in the process of doing so, the party is following the lines of BJP. The soft Hindutva approach is one of the examples.

Late last year, just ahead of Gujarat Assembly Elections, Congress started its rigorous campaigning in Modi’s home state. While attacking Modi’s Gujarat model was the strategy of Congress, the core strategy also included wiping out its own party image as an Anti-Hindu party. The temple run that followed has not stopped since then. As the state of Karnataka stands on the edge of Assembly elections in the upcoming month of May, the Congress party is trying to reinforce its image as a pro-Hindu party. Rahul Gandhi in Gujarat asserted his Hindu identity as Janeu-dhari Hindu while in Karnataka Siddaramaiah started asserting his Hindu identity recalling the “Ram” in his name. All this quest is to appease the moderate Hindus while still holding onto the Dalits.

However, between the race for raising the vote bank on the religious and caste lines, the ‘Vikas’ seems to have lost the path. The Gujarat Assembly Election had shown a ray of hope bringing the development issue in the light again, but as the Karnataka Assembly elections are nearing, the election discourse is back to revolve around communal and caste politics. Meanwhile, the people are still waiting for the ‘Vikas’!


Vote Share, NOTA and Margins: How Madhya Pradesh slipped through BJP’s clutches

Arti Ghargi



madhya pradesh

 BJP won 109 seats with a vote share of 41% in Madhya Pradesh. It received 0.1% more votes than Congress but still lost.


The result of five assembly elections brought cheers to the Congress and tears (figuratively) to the BJP. Congress took an early lead in the number game and by noon the result of the four state- Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, and Telangana were no longer obscure. But the real nail-biting contest was going on in Madhya Pradesh that gave sleepless nights to both the parties, pollsters and journalists alike. Even 24 hours post the first round of counting, neck to neck fight kept both BJP and Congress clinging on to the hope of victory. Finally, when the numbers on the Election Commission website settled, the Congress had gained an edge over the incumbent BJP with 114 seats while the latter managed to rush ahead on 109 seats.

Kamal Nath

Image Source: Web

For BJP, which was fighting the anti-incumbency of more than a decade and a half in the Hindi heartland state, the rout comes as the first big jolt ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections. But despite the anti-incumbency, it put up a spectacular fight and made it a difficult playing field for the Congress. Though Congress eventually inched ahead of BJP, a closer look at the vote share tells a different story. The statistics spell out some interesting facts about BJP’s loss.

BJP received more votes than Congress and still lost:

Congress won the 114 seats with a vote share of 40.9%. Whereas, BJP won 109 seats with a vote share of 41%. Which means the BJP received 0.1% more votes than that of Congress. The case of vote shares not equivalently translating into seat shares is not new. A similar scenario also was seen in Karnataka where Congress’ vote share was more than that of BJP but the party was left behind in terms of seat share. Majorly consolidation of popular votes in one constituency is said to be the reason behind it. The broad principle is that parties whose popular votes are more evenly spread across regions tend to have better votes to seat conversion ratio.

Madhya Pradesh

Vote share and Seat share in MP


“4337”- the number which could have changed BJP’s fortunes:

The analysis of final election results shows that there were at least 10 constituencies where BJP could have easily outplayed Congress in Madhya Pradesh. These are the seats where the victory margin is less than 1000 votes. The lowest victory margin is in Gwalior South where BJP lost by 121 votes. Whereas, on Rajpur (ST) seat the BJP lost by 932 votes. Out of these 10 seats, BJP lost on 7 seats while Congress lost on 3 seats. As this India Today analysis puts it, the sum total of the victory margins in these seven constituencies (4337 votes) would have put these seats in BJP’s kitty. This number- 4337 votes could have changed BJP’s fortunes and paved the way for Shivraj Singh Chauhan to form the government in the state for the record fourth time.

Madhya Pradesh

Constituencies with less than 2000 margin in MP

Margins Matter:

The vote shares and overall votes polled in favor of Congress and BJP shows that there was a slender difference between both the parties and it was definitely a close call.  Taking this analysis on a micro-level, one can observe that victory margins in many of the assembly constituencies were a decisive factor.  On 18 seats in Madhya Pradesh, the victory margin was less than 2,000 votes whereas on 30 seats the victory margin was less than 3,000. There were 45 seats with victory margin less than 5,000. The extremely strained fights on these 20% seats played a pivotal role.


Image Source: Web

The takeaway from this data is, it is sheer luck that Congress received more votes in these constituencies and the anti-incumbency factor wasn’t at play up to the extent it was expected. Simply put, sheer luck put Congress ahead of the BJP.


Note the NOTA factor:

NOTA, i.e. None of The Above options received 6th largest vote in Madhya Pradesh. According to the Election Commission data, with 5,42,395 votes NOTA measured up to 1.4% of the total vote share. On the seats where BJP lost by less than 1000 votes, NOTA polled more votes. If BJP would have received these votes, it could have won some seats. For example, in Suwasra, BJP lost by a margin of 350 votes. Nota votes polled at Suwarsa were 2,976. In Rajpur (ST) seat BJP lost by only 932 votes while Nota votes were counted to be 3,358.

Madhya Pradesh

NOTA votes in Madhya Pradesh


NOTA trounced BJP NETAs:

While, NOTA votes, if were polled in BJP’s favor in the ten constituencies mentioned above would have changed the scenario, in some constituencies, it actually trounced the BJP. There were four BJP ministers who polled votes less than NOTA. Finance Minister Jayant Malaiya lost by only 799 votes in Damoh, while NOTA received 1,299 votes. MoS health, Sharad Jain who was contesting from Jabalpur North, lost by just 578 votes while NOTA bagged 1,209 votes. In Burhanpur, NOTA scored around 5,700 votes while Archana Chitnis-minister for women and child development lost by 5,120 votes.

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How Ajit Jogi ensured Congress’ surprise victory in Chhattisgarh

Arti Ghargi



While Ajit Jogi party pulled some votes from Congress fold, Congress pulled more votes from BJP’s.

“Congress seems to be losing Chhattisgarh once again,” said the anchor on one of the prominent news channel waving his hands across the screen behind him. The exit poll numbers glowing on the screen stated what every pollster believed- Congress stands no chance in Chhattisgarh. There wasn’t even remote possibility. That was December 7. Little did they know, the same Chhattisgarh they struck off Congress’ game would be the first state to giving Congress reasons of celebrations four days later.

Jaws dropped, the numbers flipped and pollsters were left baffled when the numbers started rolling in on December 11. The early trends showed Congress taking a quick lead over the incumbent BJP. Many believed that by noon, the numbers would stagnate giving a clear picture. One of the pollsters sitting on the panel in another news channel’s discussion around election results, casually but rather confidently said, “These are initial numbers and it can change as the more rounds of counting get over.” He then went on to list the reasons why BJP would retain the state. Much to his surprise, the numbers in Congress’ favour only surged while the leads on BJP’s numbers tally plunged as the day proceeded. By 3 PM it was pretty clear that BJP which was ruling the state of Chhattisgarh for the past 15 years, had lost. Not only did the BJP lose the election but also performed poorly in terms of seat share.

The “expect the unexpected” scenario in Chhattisgarh brought some positive news to Congress camp. The Congress state unit which seemed to be staring at the defeat for the fourth consecutive term a few months ago, enthused by the astounding numbers went into celebratory mode.

As much as this victory throws a surprise, it also begs us many questions. How did BJP lose despite the state performing well on economic indicators under the Raman Singh government? How did Congress win proving the exit polls wrong? And lastly, didn’t the Ajit Jogi factor work? Well, let us explain what went wrong for BJP and what went right for Congress in Chhattisgarh one by one.

Anti-Incumbency against BJP:

When Chhattisgarh entered the phase of Election Campaigning, the BJP knew that it will have to battle the anti-incumbency of several years. Despite this realization, the Raman Singh government was quite sure of its victory in the state. The BJP wove its entire campaign around the goodwill of Dr Raman Singh, 66- a leader cut in the mould of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s era who enjoys a corruption-free and untainted image across party lines. So much so that even some of the Congress leaders behind the door accept that the party doesn’t have any leader of the stature of Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh. Apart from Raman Singh’s personal goodwill, BJP also invoked Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s special connection with the state to woo the voters.

Raman Singh

However, even these narratives were not able to overshadow the discontent among masses against the lowest-rung officers or the ‘Sarkari Babus’. The BJP suffered a major backlash from the tribal and Dalit voters. The amendment to the SC/ST acts provoked country-wide protests. According to a report by the government of India, at least 34% are Scheduled Tribes and 12% are Scheduled Castes. The tribal who constitute nearly 34% of the state’s population was clearly angry with the BJP because of land grab by the government for industrial purpose and the government’s failure to implement the PESA Act. The general feeling on the ground was, the benefits of the schemes introduced by the government never reached the masses.

The people wanted ‘Parivartan’ and it is the major reason why despite having Chhattisgarh’s stalwart leader on its side, BJP received a drubbing.


How did Congress win?

More people seemed shocked at Congress managing a crystal-clear majority rather than BJP failing and rightly so. Congress did not have any leader who matched up to Raman Singh’s stature, its entire leadership was wiped in a Naxal attack and Ajit Jogi who was considered master strategist had left the Congress fold to form his own party. These factors were expected to affect the elections results as anticipated in the exit polls results.

Bhupesh Baghel

Image Source: Web

However, all the factors that were expected to go against Congress might have brought the party fortunes. Congress’ campaign wasn’t built around a single personality, rather was a combination of abilities of multi-rung leaders from across various communities. Putting foot on the ground and extensive door-to-door campaigning helped in networking with the masses. The farm loan waiver and MSP and employment generation seem to be the biggest drawer of masses to the Congress.


The Ajit Jogi Factor:

Ajit Jogi, the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh and popular among the Satnami community left the Congress fold and established his own own party. In the run-up to Assembly election, his party even tied up with Mayawati’s BSP. This alliance was expected to hurt the Congress’ prospect in the state. However, his new party, Janata Congress ended up getting only five seats with 7.6% vote share.

This happened majorly because, instead of cutting Congress’ votes, Jogi’s party ensured that BJP’s voter base shifts to Congress. Apart from SC and ST, OBC’s are the dominant electoral community in Chhattisgarh comprising 50% of the population. OBC community includes Kurmis and Sahus which have had a traditional rivalry with the Satnami community. Over the years, the BJP garnered this OBC base while Ajit Jogi ensured Satnami community votes for Congress. But, the Jogi factor was also the reason why OBCs turned their back towards Congress. With Ajit Jogi now out of the Congress, Satnami votes went with Janata Congress, however, it led to significant OBC votes from BJP camp shifting to Congress.

Ajit Jogi

Image Source: Web

If we look at the numbers, in the 2013 Assembly elections, Bharatiya Janata Party won 49 seats claiming the CM post while Indian National Congress won 39 seats. The difference of vote share between Congress and BJP was even less than 1%. This gap was easy to bridge for the Congress with Jogi out of the picture.

The vote shares clearly spell out the phenomenon. While Congress managed to increase its vote share by just 3% the seats it drew were more. On the other hand, BJP’s vote share dropped 33%. Which means, while Ajit Jogi’s party pulled some votes from Congress fold, Congress pulled more votes from BJP’s.

Well, now the real challenge in front of the Congress party is to choose a Chief Minister candidate.

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Kerala By-polls: Kerala floods took a center-stage over Sabarimala issue

Arti Ghargi




Though, the number of seats put BJP at the bottom of the race, come to think of it, the real loser here is the Congress-led UDF. The Congress and its allies bagged 11 wards in Kerala bypolls as against the 16 they held earlier.

The results of the by-polls held in Kerala have come as a shocker to everyone, but the ruling Left government. On November 30, by-polls were held in 39 local bodies including 27 panchayat wards, five block panchayat wards, six municipality wards and one corporation ward. The CPI(M)-led LDF won a majority of the seats i.e. 21 seats. Whereas, the Congress-led UDF bagged 12 seats. The BJP, which was eyeing on mighty political dividends after the recent Sabarimala protest that rocked the state, however, was limited to only two seats.

Now, we do realize that the by-polls held in just 39 seats cannot spell out the mood of the entire state but the elections do hold a significance as it was for the first time after the Sabarimala controversy the state was going for polling. Those who have closely followed the recent political developments in the state can bear the testimony of the fact that it was probably rare in Kerala that the Hindu anger erupted at such a large scale.


Image Source: Web

For the saffron party BJP, which has been trying to create a base in the coastal state, Sabarimala issue ticked every box. It was related to Hindus and even led to unprecedented widespread outrage. The party sensing the “Golden opportunity” launched aggressive protests targeting the left-led government. Even then, it did not turn into expected political dividends.

On the contrary, the CPI(M) which had come under fire from the majority of the Hindu society over the implementation of Supreme Court order of allowing women in Sabarimala, expected an electoral backlash. However, the party ended up winning the majority of the seats.

Let us first check the resulting outcome:

Among all the 39 wards, the BJP has increased vote share only in a few of them. It has lost its sitting ward at Parappukkara in Thrissur district to the Left. Now, Thrissur is where the BJP is hoping for a significant gain in vote share in the Lok Sabha elections. BJP could get only 19 votes in two wards in Pathanamthitta district, where the temple is located. The party candidate got just 12 votes in the Palakkad ward of the Pandalam municipality, which has been the epicentre of the Sabarimala protests. the BJP candidate secured only seven votes in the Kulasekharapatnam ward.

Though, the number of seats put BJP at the bottom of the race, come to think of it, the real loser here is the Congress-led UDF. The Congress and its allies bagged 11 wards in Kerala bypolls as against the 16 they held earlier. The tally has now come down to 11.


The LDF wrested five seats from the UDF and one from the BJP (Parappukkara in Thrissur district). The two seats the BJP won were both earlier held by the UDF.

If we compare the votes polled for the parties, BJP’s votes came down from 11,118 to 9869 whereas UDF’s vote came down from 26,722 to 26,092. Though UDF’s vote difference is less than that of BJP, the party lost 5 seats.

What could have been the possible reason for it?

The credit of LDF’s win goes to the BJP. As observed in 2016 assembly elections too, as the majority shifted to BJP, the minorities in the state shifted to LDF. This has taken away UDF’s vote bank which is based upon both the majority Hindus and other minority communities.

As the polarization in the state peaks, a significant part of Hindu votes backing the UDF has shifted to BJP. While a portion of the minority has leaned towards the left.


Image Source: Web

For the left after Sabarimala, the polls were a tough task but the party sailed through it. Though it would be too early for BJP to score major victories in the state, if the trend continues, the BJP may soon replace Congress as the main opposition party in the state. Which is not a small achievement for the marginalized party.

As for Kerala’s voter population, the floods and state’s well-handling of the disaster made the main point of contention than Sabarimala.

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