Saffron rules in India . . .
Except for Punjab, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has emerged as the clear winner in the State Assembly Elections (lower house) for four Indian states – Uttar Pradesh (UP), Goa, Manipur, and Uttarakhand. The results, announced on March 10, did not come as a surprise but denoted the saffron (the BJP's colour) wave sweeping through the states this election cycle. Currently, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, a political alliance with several regional parties, rules over 17 states and union territories or 44 per cent of India’s territory. And while this is a significant drop from 76 per cent in 2018, the BJP remains unchallenged in the national arena.
BJP’s strategy and the female votes . . .
The BJP’s performance in the 2022 state elections indicates the efficacy of its tactics in appealing to regional identities, propagating a narrative that the BJP cares for the welfare and security of ordinary people, coupled with Modi’s carefully crafted national image. In each state, particularly in UP, the party focused on engaging at the local level through welfare schemes and stricter law and order policies, providing a sense of security to voters. Despite stifling dissent, targeting minority communities, and increased polarization, the party’s strategies resonated with the public, including female voters, who voted for the BJP at higher rates than males in these elections.
Punjab, the outlier . . .
Neither the BJP nor its primary opposition, the Indian National Congress (INC), managed to secure Punjab, a key state in the Indian farmers' protest. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), a relatively new and small regional party that has held the New Delhi state government since 2015, took front stage in Punjab – and also gained two seats in the Goa Legislative Assembly. Punjab paints a vivid picture of the INC’s dismal electoral performance and underscores the need for a change in leadership to revive the party’s relevance in national and regional politics. Meanwhile, a number of regional parties, including the AAP, are brushing up their political strategies for the 2024 General Elections. But a fragmented and unclear opposition to the incumbent BJP poses a challenge to a viable electoral alternative.