Get ready for the do-or-die battle

With the Election Commission’s announcement of poll schedule for Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat assembly elections, poll fever is likely to grip the nation, as winning the states would be a do-or-die battle for the Congress as well as the BJP. But just before these polls, results coming from Gujarat municipality seats and panchayat samitis in Maharashtra have shown a strange paradox.

The BJP, which still appears to retain the mass appeal, managed to win 5 of 7 municipality seats across 7 municipalities in Gujarat by-elections, besides capturing one taluka panchayat seat. Notably, the party has reason to celebrate, as it had suffered its worst loss in local body polls in the state post Patidar community protest for reservation. The anger had helped the Congress to regain its lost ground in the state’s rural areas.

On the similar lines, in Mahrashtra’s gram panchayat polls BJP nominees reportedly got elected in 1,457 panchayat samitis as sarpanchs, followed by Congress (301), Shiv Sena (222) and NCP (194). The results assume significance, as it was believed that BJP would loose in the rural polls. Interestingly, Congress has also claimed victory in Saturday’s polls to 3,131 gram panchayats in 16 districts of Maharashtra. The state election commission, however, stated that it can’t declare party-wise results as these elections are not contested using party symbols. Notably, it was for the first time in the history of gram panchayat polls that elections for sarpanch post were held directly.

The scenario is interesting to watch in the wake of all round criticism of the BJP-led government at the Centre under prime minister Narendra Modi, whose structural reforms of demonetisation and implementation of GST has hit the economic growth.

Amidst this trying times, some key opposition leaders find the opportune moment to exploit the situation and have given a call for unity among “secular” parties to defeat the BJP in the next Lok Sabha polls. Likening the current situation to the Emergency, they claim that democracy is under threat but grassroot voting pattern shows a different pattern. For Modi’s opponents, the need of the hour is to carve a different ideological narrative if they want to give a tough fight to him in 2019.

Arun Kumar Chaubey