Thursday, December 7, 2023

States set for polls


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The coming round of assembly polls will be crucial for the two national parties – the Congress and the BJP. The BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, Congress-ruled Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the MNF fiefdom of Mizoram and the BRS-run Telangana are edging closer to polls even as uncertainty continues over the Modi dispensation’s move to hold polls simultaneously to both the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. Major focus would be on Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan for the reason that they are politically more prominent. The results of the five assembly polls would, undoubtedly, set the pace for the upcoming parliament polls. While a safe prediction about the outcome of these assembly polls is impossible, emerging hints are that the BJP might have a hard task ahead if it has to retain Madhya Pradesh. So too with Rajasthan, where a divided state Congress establishment will have to struggle hard to retain power.
Notably, the BJP could not win a majority in Madhya Pradesh in the last assembly polls but managed to oust the Kamalnath-led Congress government from power later and virtually seize power there. The BJP ran government there for over 18 years and, for most part, the chief minister was Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The BJP is clearly in a mind to keep him aside after the present polls if the party retains power. This is evident from the fact that several stalwarts including some senior Union ministers figure in the lists of candidates. The lists are incomplete yet, but so far Chauhan’s name does not figure in the list. The last assembly polls had also seen a tussle between the central party leadership and Chauhan, which was later cited as a reason for the party’s failure to muster a majority in the assembly in 2018. Though the Centre has pumped in a lot of money into Madhya Pradesh to modernize the highways etc, this by itself would not help the party retain power. An anti-incumbency mood is evident there.
In Rajasthan, the Congress establishment is deeply divided between chief minister Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot, both formidable leaders. This has the potential to upset the Congress applecart there. Rahul Gandhi knows as much, and hence stressed rather on the party’s possible successes in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and “possibly” Telangana too. The fight in Telangana would be between the ruling BRS and the Congress, as the BJP remains organisationally weak. The saffron party is groping in the dark also amid feelings that it does not want to confront the chief minister in anticipation of a future alliance with KCR. The South will remain mostly a ‘no-go” area for the BJP as its leaders there are easy-going and mostly specimens of a kind.


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