Modi wave subdued but curtains not down for BJP

Modi wave subdued but curtains not down for BJP

Congress Party workers celebrate as initial trends show the party leading in the states Assembly elections, at the Congress headquarters in New Delhi, Tuesday, Dec.11, 2018. (PTI Photo)

While Modi wave is subdued, it’s still not curtains down for either him or the BJP, is the message that one gets from the current round of assembly polls in five states—particularly the three Hindi belt states-Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

While Congress is definitely on a revival path, it cannot afford the bubble with excitement as the fact cannot be ignored that barring Chhattisgarh, nowhere else it has had a massive comeback.

Despite Rajasthan being a switch state and ground reports suggesting massive anger against Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, the difference in the vote share between the two parties was just 0.5 per cent. Last time also it was 12 per cent when the BJP had won the polls. So while Congress has made gains, BJP is not out. In the number of seats also unlike the mere 21 seats that Congress could win in Rajasthan in last assembly polls, BJP is about to win 73 seats this time even when it is the runner-up.

In Madhya Pradesh, both BJP and Congress have gone almost equal percentage of votes and hence the tight contest is visible in the gap of seats being won by each (BJP-110, Congress-113). This is no mean a show by an incumbent Chief Minister, whose party is in power in the state for last 15 years. Last time when BJP had won, it had got 8 per cent more votes than Congress. Also in the number of seats as well, Congress was way behind getting half of the seats won by BJP (BJP-143, Congress-72).

In Chattisgarh, where last time when BJP had won, voting percentage gap between Congress and BJP was only 0.75, this time when Congress has won with more than two-thirds majority, it has got around 10 per cent more votes than BJP.

Besides Congress losing the trail in North East continues and it lost Mizoram, the last state it ruled. Despite being the creator of Telangana, it failed to win the state for the second consecutive term and in the adjoining Andhra Pradesh also the pie is divided between two regional players---TDP and YSR Congress.

In two key Hindi belt states—UP and Bihar, Congress is only a marginal player, wholly dependent on SP, BSP and RJD. So is the scenario in deep South. Congress is out of power matrix in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Odisha for long. It also squandered a strong chance of winning in Gujarat assembly polls a year back. In Karnataka, it is piggy riding a regional party JDS.

The challenge before Congress as such is to capitalise on these wins and firm up alliances in states where regional parties are in power and get back states from BJP where it is the principal Opposition like Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. It has to also find an answer to BJP's unrestricted march to North East if it has to make a difference in next Lok Sabha polls.

Though it has got a shot in the arm, 2018 is not 2019. This understanding has to be sharp and clear.