The Congress lost yet another state in Punjab but ended up winning Himachal – a consolation of sorts ahead of key battles lined up in 2023. The Aam Aadmi Party announced its arrival on the national stage after a historic victory in Punjab and encouraging gains in states like Gujarat.
As usual, the BJP dominated the electoral roster with major victories in states like UP, Gujarat and Assam. In Gujarat, the saffron party easily cast aside the challenge posed by Congress and AAP to post the state’s best-ever electoral performance by any party.
Now, on to 2023.
The year is crucial for two reasons. First, it will witness as many as 9 assembly elections, making it a politically hectic year for all the parties. And second, it will be the curtain raiser for next year’s Lok Sabha elections.
Here are the political trends to watch out for in 2023…
2023 will begin with key battles in the northeast and end with a crucial challenge in central and southern India.
Elections are due in Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland, all three BJP-ruled states. The saffron party would be looking to hold on to its northeast bastion by retaining all three states with the help of crucial allies.
Buoyed by its victories in Assam and Manipur this year, BJP is confident of sweeping the remaining northeast states in the absence of a strong opposition challenge.
It remains to be seen whether the party’s gambit to replace Tripura CM has any electoral impact next year.
In May, it will be a high-octane contest in Karnataka – a state where both the ruling BJP and opposition Congress have a fair chance this time. Both parties are currently dealing with internal differences and leadership issues.
Towards the end of 2023, elections will be held in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Notably, Congress won all three states in 2018. It later lost MP to BJP after a revolt by former leader Jyotiraditya Scindia.
Nevertheless, it remains a formidable player in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
Elections will also be held in Mizoram where the ruling MNF is looking to stay in power. In Telangana, the BJP will be fancying its chances against the TRS, especially after pulling out all the stops in the Munugode bypolls held this year.
New parliament building
2023 will also see a landmark moment when the legislature will finally shift to the new Parliament building – most likely during the Budget session in February-March.
Work is under way at a rapid pace to ensure that the shift happens sometime early next year after a series of missed deadlines this year.
The new building would be a four-story structure with a seating capacity of 1,224, built at a cost of over Rs 1,000 crore. It would replace the existing colonial structure which completed a hundred years in 2021.
Besides the optics, the shift has a deep-seated political implication as it is projected as part of the Modi government’s vision of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’.
It will also align with the Centre’s vision of emerging from the colonial mindset, which was quite apparent with the renaming of Rajpath to Kartavya Path.
Index of opposition unity
In most of the key elections lined up next year, it will be a traditional BJP vs Congress fight. This means most other opposition parties, including AAP, will have little opportunity to gain traction on the national stage.
However, the battle in Telangana will be crucial as it will allow CM K Chandrashekar Rao’s TRS (now BRS) to take the BJP head on. It will also give KCR a chance to revive his bid to build a united opposition front.
Meanwhile, it will be crucial to see whether the opposition leaders like Nitish Kumar and Sharad Pawar are able to bring various parties together to form a united front.
In 2022, there was a strong chorus to project JD(U) chief Nitish as the opposition’s PM candidate. In the run up to the 2024 elections, the opposition front – if any – will have to shape up into something significant if it hopes to prepare a battle plan to counter BJP in the general election.
Rahul on the road
Rahul Gandhi spent most part of 2022 leading the Congress’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, which is likely to conclude on January 26, 2023. The yatra, which traversed through multiple states, is being seen as an honest bid by the grand old party to re-energise its cadre base and possibly revive its fortunes before 2024.
But the true test of the yatra’s outcome will be in 2023 when Congress faces BJP in key states. In most of the states (Rajasthan, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, MP), Congress has a fair shot at overcoming the mountainous challenge posed by the saffron party.
If the Congress does end up with a satisfactory scoreline, the party will certainly claim that Rahul and his months-long yatra bore fruit. It will also give the party a much-needed ballast before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, after two back-to-back dismal performances.
However, if the Congress continues to fare poorly, the party will have to go back to the drawing board and review its strategy. It will also raise questions about Rahul’s ability to lead the party, even as a leader if not the president.
Meanwhile, Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge would also work on some key organisational changes to unite the party at the structural level. His primary challenge would be the battle in Karnataka, his home state.
Congress’s fate in the southern state may well decide Kharge’s own future as the party’s head.
India’s G20 presidency
India assumed its G20 presidency starting December 2022 for a period of 11 months. While it’s a big diplomatic boost for the country, it will also have political implications.
Throughout 2023, India will be holding several G20 meetings involving global heads. Naturally, PM Modi will be at the focal point of these high-level engagements. He will have an opportunity to not just project India as an important global power but shine up his government’s strong foreign policy credentials.
Since 2014, Modi has been a busy PM when it comes to global diplomatic engagements. With historic visits to Israel and Palestine to mega events like “Howdy, Modi” in US, he has won crucial political brownie points by putting “India on the map”.
Ahead of 2024, Modi and his government will have a golden opportunity to hit the foreign policy home run by showcasing India as a global unifier and a key strategic player.