Five states are due to go to elections in November and December and their outcome will set the stage for the general election being held next year. Incidentally, the BJP is in power in three of these states – Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh – while Mizoram and Telengana, the two other states facing polls are ruled by Congress and TRS respectively. The result of the polls in the BJP ruled states will be politically very significant. Should the party retain the states or win back two of them, it will add to the chances of the BJP to win the general election. Similarly, losing the three states or just two of them will correspondingly diminish the party’s prospects of retaining power at the centre. The state elections are similarly crucial for Congress and for that matter the wider opposition. They will be a test, not only for their efforts to unite but also for their winnability. Already considering that the Congress has found it difficult to stitch an alliance with the Mayawati’s BSP, and also with Akhilesh’s Samajwadi Party, the going for the opposition looks tough.
But one thing that goes for the opposition is that unlike during 2014 to 2016, there’s no all-encompassing political wave in favour of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. True, Rahul Gandhi looks a better bet than he did previously but he has still to go a long way to match Modi’s profile. The truth is it will not be sufficient to dislodge Modi from his position. That seems still very unlikely. The fact is that Indias larger secular opposition is still in tatters and fighting over scraps. Gandhi may be a better challenger now, but there is still no major pan-India leader in sight to take on the Modi.
The opposition will have to make more substantive move to get together in the weeks to come to offer a more credible challenge. It would be an uphill task for the opposition. The BJP in its current avatar will not only need the opposition unity but also an alternative ideological narrative.
The saffron party offers a deft blend of ideology and a development rhetoric. It has Modi as an overarching leader. If the opposition fails to gets its act together, the BJP could even get a stronger majority than it did in 2014. So, the elections in five states offer an opportunity for the opposition to unite and fight the BJP together. Only this strategy can be realistically hoped to bring about a political change at the centre. And with the election campaign already underway in five states, time is fast running out.
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