Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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Game on for runners up in 2024

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In his career spanning 20 years, Sergei Bubka, the great Soviet-Ukrainian pole vaulter broke the world record for a record 35 times. He was the first man to clear 6 meters in pole vault and barring his failures in Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney Olympics as the only dark spots in his otherwise glittering career, he strode like a colossus on the Track and field events and brought worldwide fame to himself, his country and of course the event of pole vault. But on a day when we have the results to elections of 5 states being declared, is there a reason why I’m reminded of Sergei Bubka? But more of that later.

The elections to Punjab, Uttarakhand, UP, Manipur and Goa will have a long reaching impact. With only 2 years to go for the 2024 general elections, this is much more than mere assembly elections. With almost 30% (80) of the total 272 seats that are required for an absolute majority, the electoral landscape of UP has always punched above its weight in the national politics. The BJP won 71 and 62 seats in the national elections of 2014 and 2019 respectively and 273 seats in the recently concluded assembly elections. With this BJP has broken jinx where no sitting chief minister who has completed his term has been re-elected to form the government again in the state.

If there was one strand that conjoined the fates of Modi and Yogi, it was the brickbats that the so-called liberal/ secular brigade had to throw them. The strong attempt to build the narrative that BJP would lose Western UP because of the resentment of the Jats/ farmers who see the role of the BJP in the farmers agitation and holds it as anti-farmer in orientation and policies should be seen in that context. Hannan Mollah, the Communist leader and one of the organizers of the farmers agitation while debunking the exit polls showing BJP coming to majority in the face of the successful farmers agitation, questioned the credibility of the media and moaned ‘How can the impact of the one of the longest protests in India’s history be not reflected on the polls outcome?’

And he was not alone, series of commentators predicted rout for BJP in Western UP against the simmering famers anger. So, what happened? How did the BJP managed to evade and even overcome the ‘farmers’ anger’? In a nation where 67% of the farmers have an average land holding less than one hectare, the ‘farmers movement’ was actually a movement of the ecosystem of rich farmers, mandi agents and colluding political opponents of Modi who saw this as an irresistible opportunity to put his government in dock, their hypocrisy notwithstanding since many of them had similar promises in their election manifesto in the past. Often derided as a cow-belt and Hindi speaking party, the BJP has bellied the pejorative definitions and the dimensions that opponents have tried to cram it in as it extends it’s reign from Gujarat to Manipur.

This election has proved one thing that everyone from former, present Congressmen, their support system but excluding the Gandhis feels that the Congress is a dead horse, and now even the other opposition parties has jumped on to the bandwagon of Congress-mukt Bharat. Unlike the previous ones, this election was preceded by some unusual events :

  • Mamata Banerjee like all the opposition leaders has read the tea leaves on the future of Congress winning elections under Rahul Gandhi correctly. But what was different this time that unlike her previous attempts in coalescing opposition leaders under her leadership, like previous avatars of United Front, this time she has understood that for other political leaders to accept her leadership, she needs more seats in the Lok Sabha that Bengal can afford to sacrifice for her ambitions. With this realization in her mind and Prashant Kishore by her side, she has tried expanding her geography by reaching out to the states where she sees an opportunity to replace Congress while sparing other regional fronts who may be needed to stake a claim to the center should the BJP fall short of majority in 2024. Hence the decision to fight in Goa and campaign for Samajwadi Party in Varanasi. That she has come up with a cropper as the TMC has managed to bag only _-seats in Goa and ended up in a losing cause in UP.
  • With Congress on terminal decline in Telangana and BJP on rise as can be gauged by it winning 4 seats in the 2019 elections, KCR understands that it is not the Congress but the BJP that will emerge as his principal challenger come 2024. To fend off this challenge, KCR has met Tejaswi Yadav, Marxist leaders, Prashant Kishore, Stalin and Rakesh Tikait recently to explore a common non-Congress, non – BJP front that can take on the BJP and prolong his rule in Telangana and perhaps even lay claim to some loaves of power in Delhi. BJP winning 4/5 states has only added to KCR’s nightmare.
  • But there is another man who is impatient to make history. Arvind Kejriwal has long fancied himself as the principal challenger to Modi. Remember he fought the 2014 elections against Modi in Varanasi and claimed the AAP would win more than 100 seats in the election. Chastened by the resounding defeat that the voters handed him, Kejriwal is smarter now and he picks up his battles carefully. He has long realized that to challenge Modi he has to be a notch better than being a Chief Minister of Delhi which many in the rest of India perceives as not being far above than a glorified city Mayor in the political hierarchy. Although Kejriwal had a shot in both Uttarakhand and Goa, time has rewarded Kejriwal with his first win the state of Punjab but he also had the fortune of the Congress scoring a self-goal in the one of rapidly declining states where it is the principal ruling party. There would be a marked difference now – he would have to prove the AAP model in a state where the center is not footing most of the bills of freebies as he would have to earn revenues to foot them unlike in Delhi. But come 2024, the AAP would be spreading its wings far wide and Kejriwal would be fancying his chances as the principal challenger to Modi. His party colleagues calling KCR as Chota Modi and being autocratic should be seen in the same light as one challenger fending off the competition.

Not too long ago, we saw all the above opposition leaders with mutual admiration for each other. But come 2024, the daggers will be drawn as with the win of UP, the primary bone of contention is on who gets to challenge Modi in 2024? But if hubris is set aside and with a pinch of realization, it is no longer difficult to understand that for political watchers, the real fun is akin to what the audience of the pole vault events in all those 35 events must have betted on – who gets to take the second spot?

Suman Debnath

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