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State assembly elections gear up for gladiatorial fights

Vijitha Rohana Wijemuni of the Sri Lanka navy, who tried to hit Rajiv Gandhi in 1987 by his rifle butt during a guard of honour, has turned an astrologer. He says he follows Indian politics too. Asked who will win in the 2014 general election, Wijemumi says without blinking an eye-lid: ‘BJP will come to power’. What about Rahul Gandhi? ‘He will become the Prime Minister, but in the elections after May 2014 Lok Sabha poll’, he says unhesitatingly.   

What is, however, more important is a series of coming elections in the states in the run up to May, 2014. But Wijemuni does not talk about assembly elections and says they are inconsequential and may not have bearing on Lok Sabha poll. He disagrees that the outcome of these election may set the tone for the Lok Sabha poll.

 Though the battle lines in four states have been drawn, it is too early to make a poll forecast but astrologers say the poll results may shock and surprise both the Congress and BJP leaders. Though it sounds unbelievable, the Congress may romp home in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan with comfortable majority and three-term Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit may be defeated. The soothsayers are non-committal about BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh.   

The elections are due in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, ruled by the BJP, in November--December and the Congress-ruled Rajasthan and Delhi are also slated to go to poll at the same time. If Sheila Dikshit wins in Delhi, it will create a record. No chief minister,   except Jyoti Basu, has won for a record fourth time. Judging by the good work Sheila Dikshit has done, it will not be a surprise if she wins for the fourth time. It will, however, be a surprise if she loses but astrology is a dicey business; its predictions may go awry by a whisker. It is no exaggeration to say that she has changed the face of Delhi.

Initial reports indicated that the BJP is all set to oust the congress under the leadership of Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan but later reports disclosed that Ashok Gehlot has recovered much of the lost ground. Few popular schemes quietly launched by him have started yielding results. Still nobody can predict the exact situation in the run up to election. There is, no doubt, that Gehlot Government suffers from anti-incumbency factor. The public welfare schemes launched by the Gehlot government include – CM’s food security programme, ensuring free food to those below poverty line, free medical help, free maternity care, free medical aid for animals, interest free loans to Kisans for their crops, free education to children and rural road development programme.

Few know that Ashok Gehlot is a magician which he inherited from his ancestors. His rivals feels that he may whip out some magical trick to mesmerize the people at the last moment to vote for the Congress. From all accounts, the BJP is much better placed in Madhya Pradesh. But the Congress leaders have patched their differences and zeroed on young Jyotiryaditya Scindia to lead them but he lacks stature and experience. The only leader of stature is Digvijaya Singh who is not interested in going back to state politics but he will have an important role to play in the upcoming election. One wonders if Scindia can oust firmly entrenched Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

In spite of all the claims made by Chouhan of a clean leader, his rule has not been corruption free. A section of the BJP leadership wanted to project him as the Prime Ministerial candidate but could not make any headway.  His only plus point till now is that the Congress is ill-prepared to face the BJP challenge. It will, however, not be an easy sail for Chouhan.

If the year 2012 was bleak for the Congress, which continued to be besieged by an avalanche of scams and anti-graft agitation – 2013 looks equally grim. The Congress-led UPA government at the Centre had managed to bridge governance deficit to some extent by finally pushing FDI in multi-brand retail, kick-starting the landmark direct benefits transfer scheme and hanging of the 26/11 accused Ajmal Kasab. But the year 2014 is strewn with thorns.

The food security Bill has also now been cleared. Another worry for the Congress is that the canny state satraps such as Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh, MP’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar are cloning the food security scheme through the public distribution system in their states, taking sheen out of the central scheme.  There are also question marks about the Congress party’s ability to leverage political capital out of schemes such as direct benefits transfer and food security. The cash transfer scheme may not prove to be the ‘game changer’ that it has touted to be. In the absence of logistics, it may take more than a year to implement the scheme in all the 600-odd districts across the country.   IPA
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