India’s Ruling Party Looks to Shore Up State Support Ahead of General Election

Indian State Assembly elections underway in four key states . . . 

Over the next month, four Indian states – Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal – and the Union Territory of Puducherry, with a combined population of almost 240 million, will go to the polls to elect their State Assembly representatives. Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry go to the polls in a single phase on April 6, while in Assam and West Bengal, the elections will take place in multiple phases starting March 27. Results for the five assemblies will be declared on May 2. Apart from Assam, none of these jurisdictions has a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi) majority. Securing broader support in these states, which have not been BJP strongholds, could bolster the BJP’s already strong standing in the lead-up to the next General Election in 2024.

Why are state elections important?

India’s multi-party parliamentary democracy consists of more than 2,300 political parties, although not all garner public support. Larger national parties, such as the BJP and Indian National Congress, appeal to broad interest groups and compete for national elections. The national parties further have state units that represent them at the state and Union Territory level. Both the national and regional parties contest state and national elections and can hold the balance of power. While the upcoming state elections will be determined by local interests and leadership, winning seats at the State Assembly can be a vote of confidence in the national party and can boost its confidence to pursue its political agenda.

Spotlight: West Bengal

The state of West Bengal is an intriguing battleground as the ruling All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) is facing stiff competition from the BJP. State Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee set a milestone in 2011 when AITC toppled the 34-year rule of the Left Front Alliance, and 2021 projections indicate that AITC will continue in office. However, visits to the state by PM Modi and Amit Shah, India’s Minister of Home Affairs, this past month indicate the importance of wooing voters in India’s fourth-most populous state. Analysts predict that though the AITC has not lost its popularity, the BJP will likely take votes from the Left Front and may be competitive.