Assembly Elections 2023: The top leadership of the Congress assembled in Delhi hours before Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar announced the dates for the upcoming round of state elections to finalise their election plan. With chief ministers Ashok Gehlot, Siddaramaiah, Bhupesh Baghel, and Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu participating in the discussions of the highest decision-making body, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) had only one major agenda: to rally support for the caste census, which the party views as essential to its Lok Sabha campaign.
High-Stakes State Election Predictions for Congress
Rahul Gandhi, a former president and current member of the CWC, stated of the party’s prospects, “The atmosphere is positive.” Gandhi claimed in public that the Congress would win back control in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan while ousting incumbents in Madhya Pradesh and Telangana, but in private, the party’s strategists were considerably more reserved. The outcome on December 3 will have a variety of effects on both the party and the INDIA bloc.
Congress Pins Hopes on State Elections to Gauge OBC Support
First, if the Congress’s strategy to raise the caste census issue, which it feels will provide it an advantage among other backward classes (OBCs), will succeed for them or not, may be determined by the assembly elections. According to the most recent NFHS data, OBCs make up 48% of the population in Telangana, where the Congress wants to challenge the KCR administration. This percentage rises to 75% when Dalits and tribals are included, making it, according to the party’s election strategists, the perfect test market to determine whether the issue acquires traction.
Telangana’s Three-Cornered Contest Contrasts Hindi Belt States
To be clear, unlike the three Hindi Belt states holding elections, Telangana is a three-cornered election with the Congress serving as the primary opponent of the Bharat Rashtra Samithi. OBC voters make up 45% of the electorate in Chhattisgarh, 40% in Madhya Pradesh, and 38% in Rajasthan.
Congress Aims for Gains in Hindi Belt States, Faces Unique Challenges Elsewhere
“We will definitely get benefit from our push for a caste census in the Hindi belt states,’’ said one strategist on condition of anonymity. “In places like Kerala, it will be tricky because there, the upper castes like the Nair community are our traditional voters. But if you look at the entire country overall, then the Congress does stand to gain from it.” Rajasthan has already launched its own caste survey, and if the Congress wins the elections in the states, it would also conduct similar exercises in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
Congress’ Year-Long Rallying Cry and Its Implications for Future Elections
Since the beginning of the year, the topic has served as the party’s rallying cry, and Gandhi has made it the focus of all of his press conferences and public speeches, both inside and outside of parliament. The party will feel more confident heading into the general elections if they succeed in one or more of the states on this platform.
Elections as a Test for the INDIA Bloc’s Support on Caste Census
The outcome of the elections for the opposition alliance will be the second lesson learned by the Congress party. Gandhi responded that he was “sure that a majority of the INDIA parties will also be on board” when asked whether the INDIA bloc supported the Congress on the OBC-caste census issue. The Trinamool Congress (TMC), on the other hand, is not as enthusiastic about the subject as Congress, which is an open secret. Despite the BJP’s current concentration on certain Dalit groups in the state, such the Rajbanshis, caste politics have not played a significant role in Bengal’s elections.
TMC’s Priorities Clash with Congress
The TMC wants to concentrate on problems like inflation and unemployment to resist such attempts. Party spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien responded to a question regarding this on October 2, the day the caste survey result for Bihar was revealed, by stating categorically that the INDIA bloc remained unified in all of its concerns. “If we fail to win any state, then our standing within the INDIA bloc will obviously go down but if we win a couple of the states, then the confidence of the alliance will go up in a big way,’’ said an AICC member on condition of anonymity.
Chhattisgarh Tops Congress’ Optimism, Rajasthan Faces Incumbency Challenge
Party sources are currently the most optimistic about Chhattisgarh’s situation. In the past four years, CM Bhupesh Baghel has solidified his position. Earlier this year, the party intervened by appointing TS Singh Deo as deputy CM in order to appease him. The issue is that Ashok Gehlot is battling against a general pattern of the incumbent being voted out in Rajasthan, even though the party may have successfully, albeit tardily, dealt with infighting. “The best we can say is that our vote share is increasing each month. However, a person with knowledge of the situation stated that our current lawmakers face significant anti-incumbency. Here, the party is hoping that the BJP’s own hesitation to nominate a candidate for chief minister will be beneficial.
Madhya Pradesh’s Electoral Dynamics
Given that the BJP government’s 20-year tenure (with a 15-month break in between) may have resulted in voter fatigue, party strategists are much more optimistic about former chief minister Kamal Nath’s campaign in Madhya Pradesh. According to the strategist previously noted, “It is Congress’ election to lose.” He continued, selecting the best candidate in each constituency is now the only thing left to do.
Congress Emerges as Key Challenger to KCR’s Government
Party members claim that Telengana, where the party is now viewed as the main opponent to the government of chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao, has been the biggest surprise for the Congress. However, they add that the party is still no match for the infrastructure and resources of the ruling party on the ground.
Rahul Gandhi Takes Center Stage
Finally, Rahul Gandhi, who has assumed the role of the grand old party’s mascot, is the centre of attention. Gandhi will launch his election campaign on Tuesday with a rally in Madhya Pradesh, followed by substantial campaigning in other states that will be holding elections, including Mizoram, because he is no longer constrained by daily administrative choices, which are now handled by party president Mallikarjun Kharge. With a landslide of seats in Karnataka, the party had a successful start to 2023, but can that success continue?