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Anti-Incumbency Factor In Assembly Polls

It was presumed before the elections that the hardships faced by the people from demonetization would have a large-scale impact on the elections and the BJP would have to bear the eventual wrath of the people

Never before has an election result been so succinct to define the reasons behind. Even as the BJP managed to form governments in four States - albeit having majority only in two States of the total five States that went to polls - and the Congress wrested power in Punjab with a huge margin, the impeccable credentials of the leadership of both the parties have come under a cloud.

Setting all speculations at rest, neither the demonetization nor the poll-plank launched to polarize votes worked in the elections to the five States. It was presumed before the elections that the hardships faced by the people from demonetization would have a large-scale impact on the elections and the BJP would have to bear the eventual wrath of the people. At the same time, the Samajwadi Party was supposed to be first choice of the people for its initiatives to exercise populist measures to woo the voters in general and abet hatred among minorities towards the BJP in particular. But the election result of UP in particular, however, dispelled the myth.

This is not, as such, to the credit of the leadership of the political parties that turned the electoral battle in their favour by demagogic initiatives. What prompted the poll-result is supposed to be anti-incumbency mandate. But it does not, however, augur well for political parties in power at the Centre and in different poll-bound States in view of ensuing Lok Sabha polls and Assembly elections, respectively.

None of the ruling parties achieved majority to hold on to power in the five States. Whether it was the BJP, the Congress or the Samajwadi Party, all had to eat humble pie in their respective States for obvious reasons. Contrary to the winning political parties' claim about their poll-preparation and much-acclaimed strategic move to wrest power, the mandate is believed to have been prompted by loss of faith in the Government by the people.

Indeed, the BJP has reasons to celebrate its landslide victory in UP and Uttarakhand by wresting power with an absolute majority, but its failure to retain power in Punjab and Goa is comprehensible enough to understand the situation. The defeat of BJP-supported SAD Government in Punjab and its failure to achieve substantial numbers to retain power in Goa on its own is tantamount to the loss that non-BJP ruling parties suffered in UP and Uttarakhand.

Similarly, although the ruling Congress did not fare well in Manipur and lagged behind the magic number to retain power in the State, the party took on the ruling coalition of the SAD and BJP in Punjab in the light of the fact that the latter turned out to be the most unpopular combine in the State over the years. Rampant corruption and lawlessness remained the major charges against their Government in the State that led to their rout in the elections.

More, during the Congress regime in Uttarakhand, the stench of corruption could be felt in the light of the fact that Chief Minister Harish Rawat himself was implicated in a bribery case and a CBI probe had to be ordered against him. Consequently, it cost the party dearly in the elections and the CM had to lose from both the constituencies he contested.

Anti-incumbency had a major impact in UP. In spite of the fact that Akhilesh Yadav and his Samajwadi Party had a strong hold on the minority vote bank that constitutes about 20 per cent of the total votes in the State and was potent enough to regain power in the State, the worsening law and order situation, family feud in the ruling Samajwadi Party and the electoral alliance between the Congress and SP forced the voters to go against the ruling dispensation. The BJP has been voted to power to prevent the Samajwadi Party and the Congress to come back to power in UP and Uttrakhand respectively. On its part, the BJP failed to retain power in Punjab and lagged behind majority in Goa for want of establishing semblance of governance.

As such, both the BJP and the Congress that came to power in the five States can neither afford to ignore the factors behind the mandates they have had nor can they ensure their return to power at the Centre in 2019 elections unless they deliver the goods.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.



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