Poll outcomes will be decisive
The Assembly elections in five states -- Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Telangana -- are in the final stages and the poll outcomes are slated to be out within a week on December 11. This round of Assembly elections was considered to be the most crucial coming just before the Lok Sabha elections, which are about six months from now. These elections were considered important not merely because three of the big states are ruled by BJP but also because the election outcome is likely to set a trend of things to come. BJP is in power in three of the poll-bound states -- Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. In Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the BJP is in power for the past 15 years. Congress is in power in Manipur and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) is in power in Telangana. So, what is on the stake is not only three BJP-ruled states but also two states where BJP had promised to improve its performance. Mizoram with a sizeable population of Christians is the only state out of the seven north-eastern states where BJP is not in power. In Telangana, where the Assembly was dissolved and a fresh election was called six months ahead of the completion of the term of the House, BJP is aiming to win some seats so it can make its presence felt among the southern states. These elections are important because both Congress and BJP have deployed all their resources to ensure their victory. Stakes are high for both the national parties while smaller parties such as Bahujan Samaj Party, too, have thrown their hats in the ring. Now, all rest on the poll outcome on December 11 when the votes will be counted and winners and losers will be announced. The opposition parties which are working towards forging a grand alliance before the Lok Sabha election mid-next year are especially on the edge as they wait for the Assembly election results to be out. Congress is the main challenger to BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. A victory for Congress in any of the three states will be a big morale booster for the grand old party and can enthuse the entire opposition camp. BJP, too, has left nothing to chance in these three states and have put up a spirited fight against Congress' attempt to wrest power from the saffron party. If Congress succeeds to win some of these states, it can have a catalytic effect on the opposition's campaign to drive away BJP from power at the Centre in 2019. Together, these five states hold a significant number of Lok Sabha seats and a trend from the ongoing round of Assembly elections can have a bearing on the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. It is because of this that BJP is especially cautious about its performance in these states. While BJP would want to win most of the five states, it would certainly not like to see a defeat in the three BJP-ruled states because that can be treated as a hint of what is in store for the party when the general elections are held six months from now.
Congress expects the voters to cast their ballot in favour of the party also because in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, BJP has been in power for three consecutive terms and an anti-incumbency factor is likely to be working silently against the saffron party. But in order to keep BJP in the saddle, the party has strongly sided with its Chief Ministers in these states. Even in Rajasthan, where BJP is in power for last five years only and where Congress is somewhat more confident of winning the Assembly election, BJP has reposed its faith in the incumbent Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia. Before the elections, Congress had tried hard to work out an alliance with BSP, which is believed to have considerable influence in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, but its efforts went in vain when BSP demanded a 'respectable' number of seats to Contest, especially in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The idea of opposition's unity that was being worked out by leading opposition parties, mostly regional entities, was given a go by as far as the Assembly elections are concerned. It seems that the opposition parties have made up their mind to contest the Assembly elections independently and work out some kind of seat-sharing formula for the Lok Sabha election. Except for Ajit Jogi's Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) and BSP, which went to the polls in Chhattisgarh as alliance partners, it is the Congress that is pitted against BJP in at least four of the five states. So, from the opposition's point of view, Congress is expected to bring some cheerful news that can galvanise the political environment in favour of the anti-BJP forces.