Three out of the four poll-bound states, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Telangana rode the anti-incumbency wave as they are set to dethrone the incumbent party to form new governments. While Rajasthan saw a clear sweep by BJP, Chhattisgarh and Telangana saw the return of the saffron party and Congress respectively.
Conversely, BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh stands as the exception echoing a pro-incumbency verdict as it inches closer to a landslide victory.
While anti-incumbency has traditionally been invoked by members of losing parties to rationalise their defeats, a noteworthy shift is observed, particularly with the increasing popularity of the BJP, leading to a more prevalent pro-incumbency sentiment in recent times.
What is anti-incumbency and pro-incumbency?
Anti-incumbency means that the incumbent party is at a disadvantage and is less likely to be re-elected as compared to the opposition. Anti-incumbency is a trend which has been around for decades in the history of Indian politics.
In India, research suggests that incumbent politicians are not just vulnerable, in many instances they are affirmatively disadvantaged. According to research published by Economic and Political Weekly, “incumbents from state ruling parties are 14.5 percentage points less likely to win in state elections than incumbents from other parties.”
On the contrary, pro-incumbency represents a relatively recent phenomenon evident in electoral outcomes. This trend, contrary to anti-incumbency, works in favour of the ruling party. In the 2022 UP Assembly elections, the BJP secured victory for the second consecutive time. Prime Minister Modi remarked in an interview post the triumph, “The people of Uttar Pradesh have already thrown away the old theory of ‘ek bar aao, ek bar jao’ (come to power once and then go). The BJP has itself experienced that it was accepted in 2014, then the people saw our government’s work and we again got elected in 2017, and similarly in 2019 as well.”
Assembly elections 2023
In Rajasthan, voters remained true to the traditional "riwaaj" or custom of reflecting the anti-incumbent sentiment, as Madhya Pradesh's ousted Congress party in a sweeping victory. Since the 1993 elections, the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party have been securing victories in assembly elections on an alternating-term basis.
Telangana, on the other hand, witnessed the decline of the Bharat Rasthra Samithi, the incumbent party that had been in power since the state's formation in 2014. Congress is all set to break the 10-year dominance.
The Chhattisgarh electoral results have stunned the incumbent Congress party as the dominant BJP emerged victorious. Despite initially leading in the first half, Congress later began trailing, reaching a point of no return in the election outcome.
Madhya Pradesh achieved a resounding victory, standing as the sole state among the four to witness the re-election of the incumbent party
Responding to the result, CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan said, "No anti-incumbency wave was there in Madhya Pradesh. There is a pro-incumbency wave in Madhya Pradesh. I thank the people of MP and promise everyone that we will fulfil our guarantees."