The year 2022 was filled with political drama: sudden changes in power, theatrical campaigns, and stunning election results. In the end, Brand Modi seemed strong, the Aam Admi Party (AAP) had gained strength and the Congress, by contrast, had lost ground.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) easily overcame opposition to the charges in the eighth year of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, despite the social and economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. He retained five of the six states he had held earlier in the year, with convincing majorities.
Yogi Adityanath emerged as the BJP’s new hero figure, writing history by becoming the first chief minister of Uttar Pradesh in four decades to lead his party to a majority. He was a feat dwarfed only by the BJP’s seventh consecutive victory in Gujarat, with a record vote share of 52.5 per cent.
The ruling NDA made another claim to history by anointing Droupadi Murmu as India’s president, making her the first member of a tribal community to hold the nation’s highest office. Her victory was a foregone conclusion, particularly as most of Shiv Sena’s MLAs had moved to the NDA a few weeks earlier, bringing down the Maha Vikas Agadhi (MVA) government of Maharashtra.
The NDA won Maharashtra only to lose Bihar. Fearful of being ousted, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar left the NDA once again to form a government with the support of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). Bihar’s politics were scaled back in 2015, with the difference that the mahagathbandhan was now up against a stronger BJP.
Arvind Kejriwal’s star rose inexorably in 2022, establishing the Aam Aadmi Party as a player on the national stage. Without a single seat in the Lok Sabha, it managed to shed the ‘Dilli ki party’ tag and end the year as a national party by securing a vote share of more than six percent in four states.
After rising to power in Punjab by crushing the big old party, he spent the year nibbling away at Congress’s vote share in state and local elections. Despite losing its only Lok Sabha seat (vacated by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann) to Shiromani Akali Dal (A) and being unable to open its account in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, AAP emerged as a long-term threat to Congress. .
In Gujarat, he got 12.92 percent of the vote at the expense of Congress. Likewise, in Delhi she won the municipal elections by eating up the percentage of votes of the Congress. In Goa, she managed only two MLAs, but with the mass defection of Congress MLAs to the BJP, she found herself in a position to fill the Opposition’s space.
Congress looked clearly anemic by the end of the year, having suffered a net loss of over a hundred assembly seats. Massive infighting in Punjab and Uttarakhand and mass defections in Goa had ruined their chances from the start. He was decimated in Manipur and his heavy losses in Gujarat dwarfed his only victory in Himachal Pradesh.
In the first half of the year, the party seemed more concerned with the dynamics of its presidential elections than with the legislative polls. Frustrated by the state of affairs, Congress stalwart Ghulam Nabi Azad resigned from the party ahead of the election. Mallikarjun Kharge, 80, took the reins with the blessing of the Gandhi family, after winning a one-sided contest against Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor.
Thereafter, the Congress turned its attention to ensuring the success of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, a five-month march aimed at bringing the major party in touch with citizens across the country. Meanwhile, the party went down without a fight in Gujarat, winning less than 10 percent of the assembly seats. Likewise, in the Delhi municipal polls, its share of seats was less than four per cent.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra lost her luster when Congress was reduced to rubble in UP despite her high-voltage campaign. He regained some equity after the Congress victory in Himachal Pradesh, where he had campaigned for the party.
Rahul Gandhi forged a new path and a new ‘man of the people’ image for himself, walking all the way from Kanyakumari to Delhi. Theater abounded, with Gandhi stopping at places of worship along the way and taking every opportunity to attack the BJP’s ‘divisive’ politics. Entering the capital on Christmas Eve with a hundred-day beard, he was met with an enthusiastic reception. The Yatra will make its way through UP, Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir in the new year.
The stage is set for the 2023 assembly elections in Karnataka, the northeast, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Telangana. While the Congress hopes to boost the Yatra in votes in upcoming polls (where AAP is not a factor), the BJP will once again trust Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And at the moment, it is BJP advantage.
Bhavdeep Kang is a freelance writer and author of ‘Gurus: Stories of India’s Leading Babas’ and ‘Just Transferred: The Untold Story of Ashok Khemka’. A journalist since 1986, he has written extensively on national politics. The opinions expressed are personal.
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