Last week, state elections were held across Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
These state elections are seen as an indicator of how the people will vote in next year’s national elections. The Congress Party has been in power (in a coalition) since 2004.
This article (from the “New York Times”) discusses the recent state election results:
December 8, 2013
Defeated In Indian State Elections
By ELLEN BARRY and HARI KUMAR
Chief of India's ruling Congress party Sonia Gandhi (left) watches as her son, lawmaker Rahul Gandhi speaks during a news conference in New Delhi. Photo: Reuters
NEW DELHI — The results of state elections in four states dealt a blow to the Indian National Congress on Sunday, signaling the waning power of the dynasty that had dominated Indian politics for nearly all of the post-independence era and giving momentum to the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of general elections in May.
The B.J.P.’s victories seemed largely driven by the sour anti-incumbency mood, high food prices and anger over corruption. In Delhi, the biggest sensation was an unexpectedly strong showing by the year-old party Aam Aadmi, or Common Man, whose jubilant supporters gathered outside its headquarters on Sunday morning, waving brooms to symbolize the cleansing of India’s political class.
The results from the four states — Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — do not offer a perfect template for the coming general elections, since they are all states where the B.J.P. has traditionally been strong. But they make it clear that the Congress Party’s welfare programs and customary promises can no longer compel a younger, urbanized electorate, and that the party has failed to project an image of leadership at a time when voters crave it.
“It is a substantial defeat for Congress,” the historian Ramachandra Guha said as results were announced on Sunday morning. “Congress itself may learn nothing; they firewall their senior leadership from criticism even internally. But what we are learning is that the charisma of the Gandhi family is basically more or less gone,” he said, referring to the family that has dominated Indian political life for decades.
The results, he added, represented the voice of “a much younger group of voters who do not remember the contributions or sacrifices, real or imagined, of Indira Gandhi, the martyrdom of Rajiv Gandhi.”
Preliminary counts posted by the Election Commission on Monday morning showed the B.J.P. — a pro-business, Hindu nationalist party — wresting the state of Rajasthan from Congress’s hands in a landslide, winning 162 out of the state’s 200 assembly seats, to just 21 for Congress. The Congress Party also performed dismally in Delhi, winning only eight of the state’s 70 assembly seats. The B.J.P. won the largest number, 31, but not enough to form a government without joining a coalition. Aam Aadmi, the unorthodox new entry, defied expectations by securing 28 seats in Delhi.
Congress lost a tight contest in Chhattisgarh, winning 39 seats to the B.J.P.’s 49. And the B.J.P. easily retained control in Madhya Pradesh, winning 165 of the assembly’s 230 seats and leaving Congress with 58.
This fall’s campaign had a sharp tone, largely because of the B.J.P.’s aggressive new leader, Narendra Modi. At vast rallies, Mr. Modi, a commanding speaker, has cast the contest as a presidential-style face-off between two men — himself and Rahul Gandhi, the diffident scion of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty. Mr. Modi, the son of a tea-stall operator, presents himself as a self-made man, sneering at Mr. Gandhi as a cosseted “shehjada,” or prince, and frequently alluding to the health problems of his mother, Sonia Gandhi, who remains a respected party leader.
Mr. Gandhi has at times seemed to struggle to retain the attention of his audiences. Ms. Gandhi and her son made a few grave statements as the depth of Sunday’s losses sank in. An unsmiling Ms. Gandhi said the defeat “calls for deep introspection,” including into “the way we took, or did not take, our message to the people.”
Rahul Gandhi said he had plans for a deep transformation of the party, and seemed to dip into the language of Aam Aadmi. “What we need to do as a party is to move ahead of just talking about good governance and move to a paradigm, to a place, where we are actually giving serious space to the common man,” he said. “I am going to put all my efforts into transforming the organization of the Congress Party.”
An ebullient scene unfolded outside the headquarters of Aam Aadmi, which was ridiculed when it announced its formation with barely a year to go before the Delhi election. A crowd gathered, beating drums and throwing colored powder into the air.
The crowd had been chanting for hours when word filtered out that Aam Aadmi’s leader, a wonky former tax inspector named Arvind Kejriwal, had unseated Sheila Dikshit, the Congress stalwart who has led Delhi for 15 years, by a huge margin in her home constituency.
A year ago, Ms. Dikshit appeared to be a formidable incumbent, credited with spearheading the city’s subway system and easing pollution by compelling buses to switch to natural gas. She was among those who had shrugged off the threat posed by the new party.
“Sheila Dikshit told reporters some months ago that Aam Aadmi was just a monsoon pest,” said a poet, Kumar Vishwas, as he read results over a loudspeaker. “Tell me, who is the pest now?”
The new party clearly benefited from political changes that come with urbanization, attracting huge numbers of new migrants to Delhi who were no longer casting their votes based on caste, family or religion.
“Rahul Gandhi’s rich vs. poor and urban vs. rural rhetoric does not appear to have elicited much fervor,” the journalist Dileep Padgaonkar wrote in The Times of India on Friday. “Today’s voters, especially the younger ones, are more receptive to a discourse that harps on education and jobs, and less to one that is redolent with populism.”
Some voters, like Martha DeSouza, were measured about the coming change in governments.
“I think Congress really changed this city,” said Ms. DeSouza, an executive assistant who has lived in both Dubai and the United States. “But now they’ve gotten stale, which is what happens in Indian politics, so we need change.” She confessed some anxiety about the rise of Mr. Modi, whom many blame for failing to stop anti-Muslim riots in his home state, Gujarat. “I think he’d definitely go after minorities again,” said Ms. DeSouza, a Christian.
Others were thrilled. Ram Raj, 50, became deeply disillusioned by watching welfare programs promoted by Congress, saying corrupt officials were freely siphoning off money.
“I am very happy that Congress is out of power,” he said. “I don’t know if B.J.P. will do a much better job, but there was a real need for change.” He said he had been persuaded by Mr. Modi’s development record in Gujarat. “I don’t agree with one family being in power again and again,” he added. Rahul Gandhi, he said, “goes to all these villages and tries to connect with the people, which shows he is trying, but I don’t think it’s coming from the heart.”
Reporting was contributed by Max Bearak, Sai Manish, Betwa Sharma and Malavika Vyawahare.