December 11 was the most awaited moment in recent Congress history, more precisely since the May 2014 rout which continued unabated till Exit Polls soon after the December 7 Elections started predicting a more comfortable future and perhaps a turnaround in the fortunes of Congress as a political party and Rahul Gandhi as its President.
Prior to these predictions, Rahul had faced an unprecedented 28 electoral defeats starting exactly five years ago with the elections to these very States of Hindi heartland. The advent of Modi as the PM aspirant for the BJP coincided with the worsening fortunes of both Congress Party and the Gandhis. Modi Juggernaut was first witnessed in these States with both MP and Chhattisgarh giving an absolute majority for the Third term consecutively to the BJP and Rajasthan giving the most comprehensive electoral victory ever to the BJP.
The Modi-Shah combination then went on to script the most successful political combines ever in the political spectrum of India. Before December 11, BJP ruled over more than two dozen States and on the verge of making good its slogan Congress Mukt Bharat a distinctly possible political reality but alas not to be. Political cookies crumble faster than you can imagine, it is the inherent nature of the game where you cannot predict the outcome of your most diligently worked on issues.
The December results are in effect a turning point in the the way 2019 Elections will be fought. BJP has lost power in all the three States it held power for various reasons albeit it still throws light on the way forward for all the political parties in the fray. Except for Chhattisgarh, where Congress has notched up an impressive victory both in terms of assembly seats and the vote share, same can’t be said of both Rajasthan to a certain extent and MP to a greater extent
In fact, the the difference in seats in Rajasthan is BJP 73 and Congress 99, Congress has 26 more than the BJP but the resultant vote share is BJP 38.8% and Congress 39.2%, a mere .4% has given Congress 26 more seats in the Assembly. Interestingly, Shivraj Singh who was facing a Triple Anti Incumbency has fared much better speaks of his good work in MP. BJP has 109 assembly seats to Congress tally of 114, but it has a slightly higher voteshare. Congress has 41.1% and BJP 41.2% !
Rajasthan has over the last two decades or so consistently followed the practice of changing the incumbent government every elections, but the Devil lies in the details. When BJP last lost the assembly elections in 2008 it notched up an impressive 78 seats but in 2013 when Congress lost the previous elections it came out with a paltry 21 seats which didn’t even allow it to have a LoP in the House. On December 11, BJP lost the election but still managed a decent 73, while Congress forming governments in 2008 and 2018 has been found short of a majority on both the occasions, BJP had been voted in both 2003 and 2013 with the brute majority.
MP has proved to be real BJP bastion in recent decades, it is primarily due to its hardworking and humble CM, Shivraj Singh has pulled out MP from the category of BIMARU States, the agricultural growth rate has been among the highest in the country. His implementation of central schemes like Ujjwala Yozna and Awas Yozna are among the best in the country. And still, he finds himself on the losing side is worth pondering.
The Congress has succeeded in building up the perception that Modi government is anti- Farmer, the agrarian distress due to falling food prices worldwide has added to the crisis. The trend of falling food prices has agitated farmers from France to Latin America, India which is still a developing economy, where more than 40% of its population depends on agriculture for subsistence could not be any better. It is not the Congress alone which mananges the Perception Building, it has become an important tool in the political lexicon and is used extensively by both political and apolitical players.
The fact that inspite of raising the MSP of foodgrains to the maximum BJP suffered losses of rural seats points to a larger malaise, farm sector needs major reforms which the government has hesitated to pay attention to, the failure of Land Bill in the Parliament has added woes to the conditions. It is impossible for agriculture to sustain such a large population, the burden has to be reduced and there lies the solution, not so simple but definitely to begin with.
Already eulogies over the emergence of Rahul Gandhi as the most potent opposition to Modi is being regurgitated by the captive media. Tomes are being written on his miraculous powers to restore the primacy of Congress as the leading power in the country. Not so surprisingly, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, wearing many hats has gone overboard, ecstatically proclaiming a New Dawn in his periodic ramblings in an Indian Express editorial.
The losses though natural in the political arena are being touted as a rout of BJP and inevitable fading of Modi Magic , the snide remarks by certain sections of media on invincibility, aura, and sustainability are all too evident of the fear which Modi evokes in the opposition.
Does this sound like some impending disaster for the BJP in the General Elections Of 2019 ?
Definitely a Big No but surely a call to restrategise its policies. Even as analysts pour over the results there has been some disquiet in the Urban areas in all the three States which went to polls recently. It is the residual effect of both very momentous decisions, the Demonetisation and the implementation of GST, the Goods and Services Tax and is reflected in the results of the assembly elections.
Rahul Gandhi was quick to pounce upon it in his brief press conference after the victory. He especially mentioned farmers, small traders and the youth , another section of the population which is aspirational is the Youth. The job sector hasn’t seen the kind of employment opportunities which were promised by Modi government. Even though, the Self Employment schemes under various agencies including the MUDRA Yozna has seen exponential growth it hasn’t been able to change the perception. Rahul and the Congress has been better at managing this vital tool of politics.
Small Traders, for the longest time, have been the traditional BJP supporters. GST has left a lot to desire, the paperwork has led to difficulties in effective implementation, in fact, the problem lies at the doorsteps of the traders, they are chary of paying taxes is a well known fact and the GST has put a curb on the rampant tax evasion is evident from the revenues begotten by the government since rolling out the GST.
Non registered traders find it near impossible to trade which has led to some discontent and was subsequently reflected in the apathy of the Urban Voters.
Central government needs to be quick to address the impending issues besides a dose of emotional appeal has the flavour to change the parameters of the General Elections. PThe M must shrug off any despondency if at all to re-energise the cadres. Mahagathbandhan seems like a far off mirage in view of this show by the Congress, it will not be ready to split the pie with likes of BSP and SP in the Hindi heartland.
While, Mamta would be vary of any alliance with the Congress in Bengal, only one who seems more than eager is Chandrababu Naidu who’s more a liability than an asset or perhaps the perennial Party Hopper, Ajit Singh…