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COUNTDOWN is on, yet all key contenders saddled with issues
Congress, BJP and BRS seem to be in serious contention in the forthcoming polls from their standpoints, yet each one is facing peculiar issues with regard to what they intend to deliver post their victories. Congress, particularly, may also have to put up with peeved allies in the I.N.D.I.A as it won’t cede any space wherever it is strong. Still, where it was lagging behind a few months ago, it has emerged a force to be reckoned with, while BJP has only PM Narendra Modi to fall back on – for everything. As for BRS, it appears as though KCR’s dreams may sour in North Telangana
The countdown has begun for the prized provinces of Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and the next 39 days will be crucial as the results of these states can affect the political momentum going into 2024 general elections.
The novelty of these elections is the heightened stakes of the two main contenders – the BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Congress that is now positioning itself as the main challenger after its victory in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka Assembly elections. It was almost after a decade that the Congress is back into elections with some wind in its sails. In between, I.N.D.I.A bloc was formed and after a lot of hesitation, the Congress was roped into it, but the experiment seems to be still in its cradle as there is no semblance of any unity or any attempt on the part of Congress to give any space to any of the I.N.D.I.A partners. Samajwad Party is cut off with Congress as it is not given any space in Madhya Pradesh. “You will get a similar treatment in UP during Lok Sabha polls,” party chief Akhilesh Yadav recently vowed.
The big question now is what if BJP loses two out of three or all three states, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh? Will it have cause-and-effect equation in Lok Sabha elections? May or may not be. Nothing can be said with certainty as we have seen how these three states had voted in a different manner in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. It is being predicted that even Karnataka may not go with Congress during the Lok Sabha elections.
Will the Congress mantra of caste census bear fruit? Will this mantra help in swinging the voters in favour of the grand old party? Well it is a million-dollar question as people these days do not get carried away such promises. “Mero ko kya faida?” (What do I get) is what they first ask. BJP certainly would like to see that this issue does not click to the advantage of the Congress party. It does not want that politics should reorient around caste census. To counter that, it would use the weapon of no political party giving 33% tickets to women in the Assembly elections. Will BJP be a trendsetter by implementing it at least in Lok Sabha if not in the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh or Telangana, for that matter, is a different question.
Congress despite its all-out efforts to reclaim the lost ground is still facing credibility factor though it has shattered the confidence of BJP that no one can challenge them in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Yes, that was the situation till March-April, but now certainly Congress has emerged as a force to be reckoned with.
The Congress party is suffering from the fatigue called anti-incumbency factor both in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Similarly, the BJP is in the same situation in Madhya Pradesh. While the BJP takes jibes at the Congress and the regional parties like BRS, calling them ‘Parivarvad’ parties, the mascot the saffron party has is Modi and none else. It wants to encash his image particularly after the G-20 summit, women’s reservation bill, completion of Ram Temple at Ayodhya etc. The BJP knows fully well that all the states about to go to polls account for about 180-plus Lok Sabha seats.
The Congress party also feels that these elections are do-or-die situation for them. But then its weakness is the poor image of its star campaigners.
In Rajasthan, if the Congress wins, the credit would solely go to the incumbent Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot who wants to create new history. No party in this state in the Aravali range had won two consecutive elections. Gehlot wants to break this jinx. But then his government’s image had taken a beating after the internal squabbles, charges of corruption, increase in crime rate and high debt rate following heavy borrowings, a mistake which the Andhra Pradesh and partly Telangana governments too had done.
Gehlot’s strength is the welfare schemes which had become a hit with the people. Some of the recent surveys indicate that the BJP would win over 125 seats in the 200-member Rajasthan Assembly and the Congress may get around 65-70 seats with a vote share of about 41% or so. But then there are some surveys which claim that Congress would be back in power with about 101 seats which is the magic figure. The ground reality is that people are keeping their cards close to their chest.
In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP is certainly facing a tough competition from the Congress party. This turnaround in the situation with a swing towards Congress took place in the last six months. Undoubtedly, the incumbent CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan who was virtually unchallenged leader liked by the people for 16 years is now on a shaky wicket. The anti-incumbency factor is high. His statements and speeches indicate the kind of insecurity he was facing. In his recent speech, he almost gave a farewell speech saying that people will remember him when he would not be there – “You won’t find a brother like me,” he stated.
The only advantage the BJP has is that it has strong organisation up to booth level but has to face the Narakasura called anti-incumbency. Other problem is the Central leadership of BJP has been overbearing and it has made the CM feel suffocated.
For the Congress, Kamal Nath is the CM face. In terms of popularity, both Chouhan and Nath are neck to neck. While BJP is banking on the welfare schemes, Congress is promising caste census along with other guarantees, without any concern for the kind of burden it would put on the state ex-chequers.
Promises should be deliverable but for Congress coming to power is the only aim. It is banking on its 44% vote share while the BJP has about 45% vote share. Predictions are that Congress may get about 113 to 115 out of 230 seats while BJP may get about 104-116 seats. It could be photo finish either way, analysts claim.
According to ABP-C Voter opinion poll in Chhattisgarh, the Congress and the BJP will witness a tough political battle. BJP may win around 39 to 45 seats out of 90 constituencies, while the Congress can secure 45 to 51 seats. Other parties are likely to bag only 0 to 2 seats. As per the survey, the ruling Congress can get over 45% of votes in Chhattisgarh, followed by the BJP with a 43% vote share.
Down South in Telangana, the BJP has lost its ground and give space to Congress to emerge the main contender to the BRS. KCR is making an impassioned appeal for a third consecutive term. He is expecting a direct benefit from the direct benefit schemes launched by him and the add-on in the recently announced manifesto. It is a fact that the state’s growth has been on high growth trajectory but at the same time, nine years of his rule has also led to high undercurrent of anti-incumbency factor.
Statistically, the party and the government may claim that the per capita income has tremendously increased despite the step-motherly treatment from Centre and its refusal to fund some of its projects, and Telangana has become a leading state in irrigation and agriculture etc., but at the ground level there are many issues which threaten the pink party. There are at least 45 constituencies where the people are said to be unhappy with the poor performance of their MLAs. Issues like unemployment, failure to achieve the targets of double bedroom houses, internal bickering, importance to the lateral entry into the party and the sudden emergence of Congress as main contender are causing jitters to the pink party.
From being an unchallenged party, BRS today is telling the people to be careful with their vote. A vote for Congress will be a retrograde step and will push the state back by ten years, it claims. Soon, the polls will decide the fortunes of heavyweights and last hurrah for some.