With the three crucial upcoming assembly polls in the north expected to throw up surprise results, both the Congress and the BJP — the two main parties in the fray, are involved in intensive course correction in their election strategies leading upto the 2019 polls.
The first indication of a paradigm shift in the BJP is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s all out attack on the Congress in Telangana. He is quoted as saying that others were acceptable and “we can all work together minus Congress.” Will the Congress be the bigger enemy if the Congress wins three of the five States in the Assembly polls?
Pollsters say the run up to the 2019 polls is becoming extremely fluid in terms of potential outcomes. The assembly polls results (which are expected on December 11), will inevitably have a bearing on the 2019 elections. But there are a host of other issues too. The Rafale case and the CBI internal war, both issues to be decided by the Supreme Court. The Ram Janam Bhoomi factor where the Court will resume hearings in January is another pre-poll issue.
The government may not be able to control the outcomes since the Courts are seized of the matter but whatever happens, it will have a bearing on the polls. Overall, there is a picture of uncertainty. Unlike in 2014 when there was a clear Modi wave forming on the horizon, this time there is nothing to suggest that the Lok Sabha polls will turn out to be a walk in the park.
Learning from its past experience, the Congress has gone out of the way to ensure that it is not perceived as a party that is desperate to secure the Muslim vote bank. In fact, it seems unabashedly anxious to assure the majority that it is not going to sacrifice their interests. Rahul’s temple visits were initially viewed with considerable derision but now it has been accepted as the order of the day. The latest ploy was to give details of his gotra to a Hindu priest.
Clearly, the Congress is no longer apologetic about its efforts to woo Hindus. The party has realized that the narrative has shifted and any party that looks as though it is bending backwards to woo minorities, will not get the support of the upper castes. The party is assuming that it would get the vote of the minorities in states other than Uttar Pradesh where polarization is expected.
There is also a realization in the Congress party that claims of a mahagatbandhan would only appear fanciful if it decided to play the big brother. In fact, it does not want to rock the boat in Uttar Pradesh where the Akhilesh and Mayawati alliance appears to be going strong. They are expected to announce the alliance after the assembly poll results. It is believed that a strong alliance in UP would mean a decrease in the number of seats of the BJP by at least 40 to 50.
The Congress party does not want to upset the political applecart by demanding more Lok Sabha seats in UP. It has been offered two. But once the assembly results are out and if the Congress has a good showing it may begin to flex its muscles.
It has indeed been a tricky and extremely fluid situation for both, the Congress and the BJP.
Playing up the Hindutva card? Will that work for the BJP?
Factors in favour
*Issues like Ram Mandir and private members bill in Parliament may force the Congress and the opposition to take a position on Ram Mandir, something they have been avoiding.
*It may give the BJP campaign an added thrust and a new edge.
*It could lead to polarization and consolidate the majority vote in the north
There are however, factors against it
*The movement could get out of control.
*There could be a counter current in the rest of the country where the mandir is not such a major issue.
*The government would be under the control of hardliners.
Both parties are being cautious. Personal attacks on Modi might clearly boomerang on the Congress just as overplay of the Hindutva card could prove to be an albatross around the BJP’s neck.
Hence, a proactive strategy may not really work. Sometimes not taking a decision is also a decision, was former PM Narasimha Rao’s quote when the Babri Masjid fell.
Prudence suggests that both parties would do well to merely wait for their opponent to fumble and fall. The victor in 2019 could be the party that is least proactive and makes fewer mistakes.
In short, it has to be “percentage cricket “at its best.