By Edward Barbour-Lacey
Dec. 12 – India’s governing Congress party has suffered heavy losses in three state elections and has narrowly lost in a fourth. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was the clear winner across all the elections; however, the newly formed anti-corruption group Aam Aadmi (Ordinary People) Party (AAP) also saw large gains.
The elections held in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh were clearly won by the BJP. In Delhi, the capital of India, the Congress Party suffered a massive defeat. After 15 years in power it appears that voters desperately wanted a change. The BJP won 31 of the 70 seats, the AAP won 28, and the Congress Party was reduced to holding only 8 seats.
The only election where the Congress Party performed comparatively well was in Chhattisgarh, where the party lost to the BJP by only a few seats.
When taken together, the four states in which elections were held have a total population of more than 170 million, roughly a seventh of India’s total.
The election results were seen as an embarrassing loss for the Congress Party and many analysts see the outcome as a sign of what is to come as the largest democracy in the world holds its upcoming national elections next year.
A front page article in The Indian Express newspaper proclaimed “If there is a message that binds Sunday’s set of four assembly poll verdicts, it is that of the voter’s alienation from the Congress, her growing anger with the party.”
The Times of India added “The take-out for all political parties must be that in modern, aspirational India populism can no longer substitute for governance and wise economic management.” The Congress Party in particular traditionally relied upon customary promises and welfare programs in order to boost its popularity at the polls.
In referring to the surprising success of the newcomer AAP, the DNA Newspaper stated that the anti-corruption party “has injected a new idea into the country’s fractured polity, an idea likely to sprout in the 2014 general election and blossom thereafter.”
Sonia Gandhi, one of the leading voices of the Congress Party, was quoted as saying “This result calls for deep introspection…We will rectify our mistakes.”
The Congress Party has suffered as India continues to struggle through its economic woes. Annual economic growth over the past two years has been reduced by half, to fewer than 5 percent. Many of the young, urban voters have expressed frustration with the Congress Party’s failure to create jobs and attract investment. The BJP has promised to rectify this situation.
Additional issues that have raised the ire of the country’s voters included corruption, high food prices, inflation and violence against women.