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Crusading 2018

Crusading 2018
2017 began with a serendipitous high for BJP—with elections in Manipur, Goa, and Uttar Pradesh swinging in the lotus party's favour, only the anti-incumbency hit Punjab alliance of SAD-BJP lost out to the stronghold of the Congress led by Captain Amarinder Singh. The ending of the year though was slightly different; the Gujarat polls taking the centre stage witnessed a strange upheaval that hadn't been anticipated by the precise calculations of exit polls or the opinions of proficient analysts. It went on to show, in a way, how the electoral mind in the country is still volatile, willing to switch favours. With the discontentment of demonetisation running afresh through people's veins, many expected that the UP elections would exhibit a tough fight between the BJP and the SP-Cong alliance. Yet, contrary to predictions, BJP whitewashed the state, reducing the coalition of convenience to a petty 54 seats in the 403 seat elected legislative assembly. With the Gujarat elections scheduled for the second half of the year, the dimming performance of the Congress across elections had reduced ordinary expectations from the Grand Old Party of the country. Gujarat, therefore, was written off in favour of BJP—despite strong anti-incumbency sentiments, with both the GST and demonetisation not working well among the traditional business classes; to add to the doom, Gujarat was witnessing an existing, fuming agrarian crisis and increasing unemployment among the youth. Nevertheless, BJP was slated to come back with a significant majority, as the Rahul-led Congress wasn't seen as a comparable contender to combat the power of the Modi-Shah duo. Yet, again defeating expectations, Rahul came back strong giving BJP a tough fight in their backyard. Their citadel stood shaken as the lotus party, despite a victory, was reduced to a mere 99 seats, far short of Amit Shah's confident foresight that had guaranteed over 150 seats in the 182 member assembly. Beginning on a high, the end of 2017 would have left BJP slightly shuddered. Yet, to their entire credit, coming back for a sixth-term required a strong perseverance that has been displayed time and again by the cadres of BJP who meticulously work across booths in individual constituencies, ensuring that their votes do not drop below the danger levels. 2018 is the last step before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The Congress has been freshly rejuvenated with the Gujarat verdict, and now with Rahul firmly holding on to the reigns of the party, it is sure to shift its gears and make fresh inroads by coming out of the slack that had stalled its growth in the last three years. Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh along with the northeastern sisters Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Tripura, will all fight for the stakes in the coming year. Laying the path for 2019, this year would set the tone for the next five years of governance in our country. BJP has begun making inroads in the northeast, parts of which have been plagued by militancy, a refugee crisis and an impending demand for independent states. The Naga elections are for now cloaked in a cloud of doom as the secession movement has demanded for a postponement of the polls. The northeast has been almost alien territory for the BJP, with Manipur and Assam only within its foresight. Tripura, which has had the communist government in power across four terms, is witnessing anti-incumbency as the clash between the tribal and native Bengali populations deepens with time. The Sarkar government in Tripura has been successful in retaining power owing to its credit in controlling the AFSPA which has torn apart large sections of the northeast, particularly Manipur. BJP is looking to make inroads with the aid of a successful alliance with the Nationalist Party of Twipra that strongly opposes the Bengali centric Sarkar government ruling the state since 1998. Congress had been an equal stakeholder in the state before Sarkar took on complete control in the late 1990s. However, with the Congress' dwindling performance, the BJP has emphasised its focus on Tripura. It is unlikely that the lotus party will gain benefactors in all states, but with well over majority of the states in the country already in its kitty, coalition governments in a few would ease the way significantly for 2019. The big tickets will be with Karnataka and Rajasthan as both states could well witness a switchover in their existing governments. Congress must ensure that it secures its power in Karnataka while attempting to topple BJP in Rajasthan. As with Gujarat, the Congress has to emphasise on propelling a positive campaign and highlight its effectiveness that would ensure its victory in Rajasthan, which has also witnessed alternate governments across years. All in all, 2018 will be a crucial year for both BJP and Congress, to set the tone for 2019 when the Lok Sabha polls are conducted sealing the centre for the next five years. Will the Modi magic work or will Rahul's resilience pay off—only time will tell!
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