Congress, BJP hold breath as three states go to polls

Congress, BJP hold breath as three states go to polls

The semi-final for the next General Elections, as most political pundits say, is just a couple of months away in the form of high stake elections in the three BJP-ruled states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

Political parties are gearing up for the battle of nerves as these elections have the potential to make or mar the poll prospects of the two national parties in the long run.

While the Congress is boasting of wresting all the three states from the BJP, the saffron outfit feels it will be able to shrug off anti-incumbency, if any, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi being its poll face. Many are already seeing these elections to be the trendsetter for the mother of all elections in 2019 – the Lok Sabha polls.

With NDA’s four years in office over and agrarian distress keeping the party governments in many states including Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan on toes, many question the effectiveness of a `Modi wave’ in these state elections.

Madhya Pradesh, in particular, has been the epicentre of farmers’ agitation recently and the death of six farmers in police firing in Mandsaur in June 2017 has put the BJP government there in a tight spot. The farmers' groups had recently held a 10-day state-wide agitation state to mark the first anniversary of Mandsaur.

There is intense interest in the upcoming elections, especially after the results in Karnataka where the Congress joined hands with the JD(S) to thwart the single largest party BJP’s bid to come to power.

The fourth poll-bound state is Mizoram, which is ruled by the Congress and the contest here is between the Congress and the Mizo National Front.

It is the outcome in the three cow belt states, where the ruling BJP and the main Opposition Congress are in a direct contest, that in all probability determine the next course of Indian politics. The results, either way, will have serious implications for both sides.

The BJP has already reached a peak in these states in the last LS elections winning 26 out of 29 in Madhya Pradesh, all 25 in Rajasthan and 10 out of 11 seats in Chhattisgarh, thus winning 61 of the 65 seats in these states. The Congress could win only three seats in MP and one in Chattisgarh while it failed to open its account in Rajasthan.

Many doubt whether the BJP will be able to repeat its 2014 performance. It lost two of its LS seats in by-polls in Rajasthan this February to the Congress.

In Assembly polls, while Rajasthan has behaved like a switch state with power alternating between the BJP and the Congress every five years, the Congress has not tasted power in MP and Chhattisgarh since 2003, where Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh respectively have been the BJP mascot for over 15 years.

All the three states have Muslim population below 10%. While Rajasthan has 9.10%, MP has 6.5%.

Chhattisgarh has merely 2.02% of Muslim population and hence local provocations for polarisation politics are less and personalities could matter.

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