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Election fever

Election fever

During the ongoing Assembly elections in five states, political leaders have used all kinds of metaphors and hyperboles to drive their point home. While Congress President Rahul Gandhi kept his focus on the Rafale deal and the controversies surrounding it, his party men touched a new low by dragging the names of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's mother and father in the election campaign. It is also for the first time that Rahul Gandhi has made his gotra public in a bid to show that his temple-hopping is not just an election-time gimmick but he is also a devout Hindu. Another interesting comment came from Congress leader CP Joshi, who questioned the ground on which PM Modi, Uma Bharati and Sadhavi Ritumbhara have taken up the issue of Ram Temple at Ayodhya. Joshi said that only Brahmins know about the Hindu religion and other castes such as Baniya or Dalit have no say in the matter. Joshi had to tender an apology after he was reminded that his utterances are not in line with his party's principles and ideologies. As the Assembly elections in the five states are in final stages, the air is filled with expectations, with both Congress and BJP making claims of winning the elections. The poll outcomes from these states are going to set the tone for upcoming Lok Sabha elections and therefore, all the parties are taking this round of elections rather seriously. A victory to Congress in any of the five states would be a great morale booster for the grand old party whereas BJP would like to retain power in three of the five states where it is in power. A victory to BJP in some of these states would further underline the fact that the Modi magic is still working and can be capitalised upon in the Lok Sabha election. If Congress registers an emphatic victory in these elections, it will further boost the unity drive of the opposition parties and the talk of resting power from BJP at the Centre will become louder. But if BJP retains the states where it is in power and if it performs well in Telangana and Mizoram, where it does not have any significant presence in the respective Assemblies, BJP can emerge much stronger and would approach the upcoming Lok Sabha election with a higher degree of confidence.

As far as the Lok Sabha elections are concerned, major political parties have already begun their preparations. For BJP, the saffron brigade is already camping in Ayodhya and is pressing for the construction of Ram Temple. Shiv Sena and people like Baba Ramdev are putting pressure on the Union Government to bring an ordinance for the construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya. They say that the Ram Bhakts cannot wait for the Supreme Court to hear the cases and give its verdict. The sudden groundswell in favour of Ram temple at Ayodhya has not gone unnoticed by the opposition parties. Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati came down heavily on BJP and RSS for raking up the Ram temple issue just before the general elections. Mayawati holds significance in the context that she, together with Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav, has been able to work out a winning formula of caste alliances in Uttar Pradesh. As a fresh element in the ongoing caste polarisation, words are out that Lord Hanuman was a Dalit and as expected it has sparked off an animated debate on whether Dalits should be handed over the management of Hanuman temples in the country. Bihar and UP hold special significance in BJP's scheme of things. Together, the two states have 120 parliamentary seats of which 100-odd seats were won by the BJP-led NDA in the last election. To repeat that electoral success in the forthcoming Lok Sabha election, BJP needs to recalibrate its equations with regional partners and keep the caste factor in mind all along. Showcasing its performance ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the Bihar government is ready with plans to highlight liquor ban as one of the major successes of the government. In Uttar Pradesh, the government seems to focus on Ram temple and Hanuman as Dalit themes. In the coming months, many similar things are expected from the two states. In both the states, Congress is a marginal force as the regional parties RJD in Bihar and SP-BSP in Uttar Pradesh call the shots in their respective states. Among the issues that the opposition has raised in the ongoing Assembly elections in the five states include farmers' issues. There has been a mega farmers' rally in Mumbai a couple of days ago and also one in New Delhi. The neglect of farmers' issues may prove costly for any party who ignores them.

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