ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Political Significance of Assembly Election Results

The recent election results negate the politics of dominance cherished at the centre.


The results of the legislative assembly elections in five states—West Bengal, Assam, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and Kerala—hold political significance beyond their immediate electoral context and state boundaries. With the Trinamool Congress (TMC), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and Left Democratic Front (LDF) alliances registering resounding victories in three states, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which managed to retain just one state, has been unable to gain substantial electoral ground when faced with a strong regional party or a combination of parties. This has halted the BJP’s ambitious quest for electoral and political hegemony. More importantly, the election campaign by the regional parties saw a reformulation of speeches and realignment of slogans. These reconfigured narratives proved successful against the BJP’s electoral mobilisation, which was based on a combination of pan-India issues pitched by the central leadership on the one hand, and the communal card on the other. As the election results show, this strategy proved less effective against parties that used both regional cultural identity and a promise of good governance to ensure electoral success. However, this expansion of political space translates into an alternative to the BJP at the national level, prompting a coming together of opposition forces, but in the context of a decline in the Congress party’s fortunes in these elections, what possibilities the future holds remain to be seen.

The assembly elections that took place in the shadow of the COVID-19 health crisis point to the federal character of India’s polity and seem to place a challenge to the union government’s increasing centralising tendency. For instance, with the invocation of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (meant for natural disasters) during the lockdown last year, a super-executive emerged that bypassed federal oversight over public health, forcing a diminished decision-making role of state governments, while leaving them to cope with the economic fallout and migrant workers’ crisis. This, in the context of falling goods and services tax (GST) receipts and lowered state revenues that have drastically compromised state government expenditure and scope for providing relief. Elections in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, which were hard hit by the first wave of the pandemic, saw public health provisions and economic response to disruption of livelihoods become electoral issues. In Kerala especially, the LDF’s victory has been attributed to its ability to address the Covid-19 crisis. It is hoped that these results will bring a balance to the long-skewed centre–state relations, challenging the way in which the centre has steamrolled flexibility for state governments in policy matters, seen latest in the union government’s neo-liberal reform push in state subjects, such as agriculture and public health.

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Updated On : 15th May, 2021
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