AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal is in Gujarat to campaign for the Assembly polls early next year. Kejriwal is trying to fill in the vacuum created by the depletion of the Congress party as a viable opposition. Will AAP be able to position itself as an alternative in what is an all-important state for the BJP? Only time will tell. Congress is also in the process of rejuvenating itself by hitting the road. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is currently undertaking a padyatra to reconnect Congress with the people. The public response has so far been good. It remains to be seen whether this public outreach could translate into any electoral gains for the party in the upcoming Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. And whether Congress could emerge as a viable alternative to the BJP in 2024, the chances of which at this time look very remote. Though only a small number of people will be formally a part of the yatra, its success will be determined by how many more people will join it across the twelve states through which it is due to travel. And also how many people will attend Gandhi’s public interactions.
However, with its recent landslide victory in Punjab, the AAP is on a roll. It hopes to replicate the performance in Gujarat. Kejriwal has shown political skills to get his party up and running out of nowhere. He could very well do so in Gujarat. But it is also true that prime minister Narendra Modi’s charisma is still fresh and abiding and that too in his home state where his remarkable journey began. So, it would be next to impossible to dislodge him in Gujarat. Ditto in Himachal. With every passing year, his political appeal and constituency have grown stronger and wider while that of Congress has correspondingly shrunk.
But there are still two years to go before the general elections are held, and much can change during this time. Two years is a long time in politics. Kejriwal could very well emerge as a dark horse in Gujarat. But at the national level, only a combined opposition could be expected to take on the BJP. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who recently quit the alliance with the BJP, is trying to forge an opposition unity and there are indications that he has had some success in the endeavour. But it won’t be easy to bring all the opposition parties together on one platform, more so, with several regional leaders nursing their personal ambitions. Gujarat and Himachal election outcomes will certainly offer some hint as to what is in store in 2024.
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