VOTING TODAY, LITTLE FIGHT

The die is cast for assembly polls on Monday in Maharashtra and Haryana, two states where the ruling BJP expects a cakewalk. For, the principal Opposition — the Congress — has not been able to get its act together after its miserable defeat in the mid-2019 parliament polls. Prima facie, no anti-incumbency wave is seen at work in both the states, likely due to the cautious manner in which the two governments worked for five years. This too might work to the disadvantage of the Opposition’s (weak) attempt to grab power this time.

Nothing goes to show the governments of Manoharlal Khattar or Devendra Fadnavis worked wonders. Had the Congress leadership taken the seriousness to put its house in order after the Lok Sabha defeat, there was some chance of it finding acceptance now. Generally, people are tired of a party and its leaders in power and might as well be in a mood for change. No such sentiment was evident during the present round of campaign in both the states. Rather, the BJP with PM Modi at the head of its campaign ride, seemed to be digging deep in. In Maharashtra, for instance, the PM came up with a lethal dose at the critical hour – putting both Congress ally NCP’s top leaders Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel on the defensive over their allegedly corrupt roles, and raising the possibility of even treason vis-à-vis Patel’s property purchase deals. Modi’s statement that the powerful politicians who helped Mumbai-blast accused to escape from the country will be facing the consequences soon too was aimed against the NCP or the Congress, or both. Neither Pawar nor the Congress leadership in Maharashtra seemed to show courage to put up a grand electoral fight against the BJP-Shiv Sena combine.

In Haryana, too, the Congress failed to catch up with the campaign of the ruling BJP. Priyanka Gandhi failed to turn up for the campaign though her name was prominently placed in the list of campaigners. Sonia Gandhi excused herself citing health reasons. Rahul Gandhi stepped in more as a guest appearance, and spent more time abroad, meditating. By contrast, PM Modi turned up for over 25 poll rallies across the two states. A question arises whether he should have spent as much time on campaign when serious issues beckon his attention – like the economic downturn. The last word will now be left with the voters in the two states; and D-day is October 24.

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