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Columns
Major set back to BJP and CPIM in by-poll
 
By K.Gopalakrishnan

(Feb 7, 2018): The results of the by-poll in Rajasthan and West Bengal have come as a shocker to the Bharatiya Janata Party and the CPIM. While in Rajasthan the BJP was trounced in two Lok Sabha constituencies and one assembly segment by the Indian National Congress with substantial margins, in Bengal CPIM has slipped into third position, with the BJP becoming number two, in one assembly and one Lok Sabha segment and the gainer is Trinamul Congress. Mamta has proved her unshaken popularity in the state. The Congress in Bengal has fallen to the fourth position.

By-elections may not reflect the public mood as the campaign has a major content of local issues. Yet in the elections in two states this cannot be applied as the voting has a clear pattern. Take the case of Rajasthan where the Congress has won with sizeable margin in all the seats. To say the least the Congress showing clear signs of revival in the Hindi belt as only few weeks ago it registered electoral victories in the municipal elections in Madhya Pradesh. Similarly Mamta has proved that none can challenge her in Bengal in elections after elections in the state in the recent times.

A look at the voting pattern in Gujarat and Rajasthan show that the rural voters are no more enamoured about the BJP and Narendra Modi’s oratorical appeal. In Rajasthan galloping prices of essential commodities, increasing unemployment and absence of much promised development has disillusioned the voters. Equally notable is that the backbone of BJP support base was the Rajputs and a section of OBCs. The mood of the voters is reflected when we look at the figures.

The pent up anger and disappointment of the people were fully exploited by Congress party. Rahul Gandhi who was overlooking the campaign chose a new young team led by Sachin Pilot. Some senior veterans were apprehensive of the move as they felt without Ashok Gehlot, a former chief minister and PCC veteran, in the team there could be problem. There was indeed some who disagreed with Rahul. But he stuck to his new team with new faces and took on the Parivar tacticians head on.

For the new team, youthful and without image problems, it was easy to expose the administrative failures, corruption, misrule and the plight of the people. Fortunately for the team the chief minister of the state was not only unpopular with the masses but among the party members too, including the hard core Nagpur crowd. Even Narendra Modi’s magnetic personality and impressive oratory is on the wane looking at the crowd response.

Take a look at the figures: In Alwar Karan Singh Yadav of the Congress won with a margin of 1,56,319 votes defeating BJP’s Jaswant Singh Yadav. In Ajmer Raghu Sharma had 1,54,336 votes against BJP’s Ram Swaroop Lamba with 1,28,291 votes. At Mandalgarh Congress’s Vivekh Dhakar too could win in spite of a rebel in the field.

All these in spite of the country’s Prime Minister, BJP President, union ministers and State chief minister and entire campaigning and tremendous resources at their command. In the case of Congress even Sonia Gandhi could not be in the campaign due to health reasons. What is more the Congress was virtually nowhere in the last elections as BJP had a virtual sweep in Rajasthan.

For Rahul, soon after taking over the top post of the historic party, Rajasthan performance is a shot in the arm. The image of an inexperienced young man known for unguarded and ill informed comments as well as but of man political jokes is disappearing. His new team in the AICC office headed by Sam Pitroda is working out strategies and briefing Rahul on national and international policies and issues are compelling the BJP top bosses, including Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, to react to Rahul’s comments on various issues.

The result indicate that in states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Chattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh where the fight is between the Congress and the BJP the party can put up a good fight in 2019 parliamentary elections if Rahul succeeds in building teams immediately and reorganise the party machinery. The mood of the people is changing and there is growing disenchantment with the BJP. If BJP fails to come out with popular programmes and pro poor schemes, the Congress has a fighting chance.

In any case Congress no more crestfallen and rudderless, proved by Gujarat and Rajasthan elections. In Madhya Pradesh the state-wide Padayatra by former chief minister, Digvijay Singh, is becoming a wake up call for the party in the state if one goes by the reports. Rahul is likely to make Jyodiraditya Scindia the team leader. Son of late Madhavrao Scindia , Jyodiraditya has sizeable following in the Gwalior region and is a dynamic image with a clean image. In short the Congress is waking up and reviving in the Hindi belt and is unlikely to allow a cake walk for the BJP in the coming assembly and Lok Sabha polls.

In Bengal Mamta has once again proved that there is hardly any party or leader who can challenge her. The news is that the formidable left fort is crumbling in the state. In Bengal sweep by Mamta Congress is swept out and the CPIM pushed to third position with BJP becoming the second most popular party.

Karat’s tactical line has pushed the once formidable revolutionary poitical force to third position in the state. As one humorously put if Karat line is followed the party may opt out of parliamentary politics and go back to underground revolutionary activities! The chances are that the result would embolden Yechuri to pursue his tactical line more forceflully and effectively in the party Congress in April 2018. The differences between Yechuri and Karat may intensify further in the process.

With a number of allies of the BJP like Shiv Sena, Telugu Deshom and Akali Dal getting disillusioned with the big brother attitude of the BJP and the Left camp getting divided with the growing differences between the CPIM and CPI realignment of political forces in the country is a distinct possibility. Such a development is unavoidable with regionally formidable political parties looking for national level partners with power share intentions at the Centre.


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