Millennium Post

Modi’s acceptability on test

After the completion of the Assembly elections to five states, the focus has already shifted to the next Lok Sabha polls, which are just a few months away. Not only are the fortunes of incumbent chief ministers and prime ministerial candidates of the two national parties are at stake, but also the results could influence the morale of the UPA and the NDA in the national scene before the big fight.

The Assembly poll in tiny state of Mizoram in the North East is not attracting any national attention. The Congress returned to power by defeating the Mizo National Front (MNF) in 2008. The ruling Congress is hoping that it will retain power. The BJP has only a token presence. Mizoram has just one Lok Sabha seat, which was won by the Congress in 2009.

Going by the voting patterns in 2003 and 2008, it is clear that the Assembly polls in the other four states had an impact on the 2004 as well as 2009 general elections. Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan – show that winning the states paved the way for their victory in Lok Sabha polls too. Congress had a distinct edge, getting 41 members elected from these States while the BJP won only 29 seats out of 72.

There are some crucial factors which will determine the results this time. The new voters will be one of the factors.  Whom will they choose? Secondly, what would determine the voter preference? Is it the personality of the candidates or their leaders or the issues like price rise and inflation? Thirdly, how much impact the new players like Modi and Kejriwal will have on the voters?

Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi are four of the seven states in the country where there is face-to-face fight between the Congress and the BJP. The total number of seats in these states and Union Territories account for more than seventy in the 542-member Lok Sabha
In the current Assembly polls, Chhattisgarh recorded a polling percentage of over 75 percent, Madhya Pradesh of over 71 per cent and Mizoram about 82 per cent. Rajasthan and Delhi too registered a higher voter turnout. This is being interpreted in various ways. While the Congress claims it is good for the party in the BJP ruled states as the higher voter turn out means people’s disenchantment with the ruling party but the BJP looks at it as the result of younger voters coming out in favor of the saffron party.
Why are the results important this time? There is keen interest because these are the polls just before the next general elections. It is also seen as the barometer for the next Lok Sabha polls. The outcome is crucial for the BJP and the Congress who are bidding for power in 2014. It will be clear whether the Congress party’s claim that their welfare schemes like the MGNREGA, Food Security Bill and Land acquisition bill would help them garner voters or the anti incumbency and the non governance will impact the polls more.

Secondly, it will be a test for the new players like the BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and the Aam Aadmi Party chief Kejriwal in Delhi particularly. Stakes are high for Modi, as he has to prove his vote catching capacity outside Gujarat. Modi baiters inside the BJP and outside are closely following the elections. Of course the BJP has strong leaders like Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh. Former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje also has her own standing in the state.  It is Delhi, with no strong leader in the capital, which will give an indication as to how far Mr. Modi’s perceived charisma can deliver results.

 Thirdly for the BJP and the Congress, it is as much a popularity test for their chief ministers and their capacity to fight the anti- incumbency. Will they be able to ride on their development plank as well as populist measures?

Fourthly, a good performance in the Assembly polls will certainly pave way for the alliances for the 2014 elections. Most regional parties are waiting and watching keeping their options open for a post poll scenario. In a coalition era, it is the arithmetic rather than the chemistry that works.

Fifthly, the best-case scenario for the BJP is to get 4-0 to set the favorable atmosphere for the party, which is already invigorated with the leadership of Modi. The next best scenario is to retain the two states and snatch one of the Congress ruled states – Delhi or Rajasthan. The face saving scenario is a 2-2.

A 2-2 outcome in four Hindi heartland states would suit the Congress as it could then claim that Modi’s much-flaunted campaign had not yielded dividends. It could also target Modi as a leader who has limited influence outside Gujarat. Modi is already seen to be peaking out as he started the campaign much earlier than the Congress and has to sustain the tempo for the next few months.

But a 4-0 win by the BJP or even its 3-1 score would demoralise the Congress ranks and raise questions about Rahul Gandhi’s leadership. Although the Congress strategists may argue that people vote differently for the Lok Sabha and the Assembly polls, there will be a negative atmosphere for the ruling Congress.

Rahul’s image within the party may also take dent. Over all, the results will give an indication of the overall mood of the nation of what is to come after 2014 polls.

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