After the tough fight Congress gave to the BJP in the recent Gujarat polls, it had appeared that the saffron party’s image was eventually wearing thin. Many felt that Gujarat onwards, the opposition can hope to find again its feet in Indian political landscape. More reassuringly for the Congress, its new chief Rahul Gandhi seemed to have finally found his voice. He succeeded to a large extent to rally support for a more secular vision of India. But as the outcome of the Northeast polls has revealed, the opposition in India has still a long way to go before it emerges as a credible challenger to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi led BJP.
The upcoming Karnataka polls would be a real test for the Congress. The party needs to desperately pull off a victory in the state to stay in the reckoning. A defeat would once again push Congress to the margins and diminish the recently risen political standing of Rahul Gandhi. In Gujarat election Gandhi had seemed to have finally come into his own. And as the reduction in the BJPs seats in the state indicated, Gandhi was close to pulling off a big upset. The BJP did win Gujarat but not without Gandhi giving it a fight and a fright. This had opened a window for the Congress. The window has now been temporarily shut.
The PM Narendra Modi now looks in an unassailable position. The BJP has now even taken a Christian majority Nagaland, an otherwise highly improbable prospect considering the deeply sectarian nature of the party’s ideology. The BJP has now come to rule the Christian majority Meghalaya also, not to mention the Hindu majority Tripura. The saffron party already rules Assam which boasts of around 30 percent Muslim population.
With 2019 national elections less than two years away, there is thus little indication that the Prime Minister Modis reigning popularity could be severely tested by either Congress or any other opposition party. The deft blend of ideology and a development agenda and Modis overarching leadership is expected to help the BJP triumph in 2019 too. The party could even get a stronger majority than it did in 2014. Already the BJP president Amit Shah has set himself a target of 350 seats for 2019. And given his by now famed understanding of the poll craft, the BJP might very well achieve the target.
The opposition, on the other hand, is struggling to form a common front. The BJP is busy setting up its base in south. And considering its well-oiled electoral machinery which can be pressed into service at a short notice, the party is likely to get a political foothold in the all important states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. A reasonable success in South after the political dominance in North will make the BJP invincible. The hope for the opposition is not only to get together but also forge a persuasive alternative narrative.
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