It has been nearly five years since the Congress took a severe drubbing at the hands of the BJP in the general elections but the party continues to be stuck in the slush of disarray. The disorder in the Congress is inversely proportional to the order in the BJP that has been accumulating feathers in its cap by camouflaging lacklustre performance in governance and dressing it up as stupendous accomplishment. The stage is now set for another electoral battle as the two parties are pitched directly against each other in three of the five states going to the polls in November and December in what is being dubbed as the semi-final contest ahead of the grand finale in 2019.
The one ominous electoral threat in recent years for the BJP has been the likely formation of a united front of opposition parties — that is because the BJP has struggled to beat the combined numerical strength of its rivals in elections. Being the principle opposition party, the Congress had to do two things right: ensure the formation of a Mahagathbandhan, a grand alliance of opposition parties, and pick up issues that have a direct connect with the suffering of the people. The Congress has failed on both counts. Meanwhile, opposition unity lies in tatters and Congress’ obsession with the Rafale fighter jet deal may cut little ice with voters who are reeling under forever-rising prices of petrol and diesel, unemployment and farm distress.
By contrast, the BJP has played its cards well in negating the impact of opposition unity. Mayawati has joined hands with Congress rebel Ajit Jogi in Chhattisgarh causing a major setback to the possibility of an opposition alliance. The BJP caught the Congress napping when influential tribal leader Ram Dayal Uike abandoned the grand old party to join the saffron bandwagon in the state. The Samajwadi Party is miffed with the Congress for failing to respond to it on an electoral tie-up. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) announced that it will contest 200 seats in Madhya Pradesh, a scenario that should have been avoided by the Congress.
Not merely in poll-bound states, the BJP has been strategising, keeping in mind the general elections. It is exploiting fissures in the Yadav clan to deal with the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh. Mayawati is being tied down by the release of Bhim Army chief Chandrasekhar Azad. The potency of the BSP-SP alliance that had jolted the BJP in bypolls earlier this year is being weakened. If the Congress loses MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan despite an anti-incumbency wave across the Hindi heartland, it could prepare the ground for another walkover to the BJP in 2019. The party seems unstoppable in most parts barring a few spots of resistance from regional parties like RJD in Bihar and TMC in West Bengal, not the Congress.
Not learning from the previous mistakes, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi is walking into the BJP trap by keeping Narendra Modi in the direct line of fire. Past experience shows that Modi has emerged stronger every time he has been at the centre of a personal storm. There are no dearth of issues that will find resonance among the people who have been struggling because of economic failure of the government. The hue and cry over the Rafale deal has failed to reach beyond a fraction of voters. The man on the street is no longer surprised by corruption and is coping up with larger issues.