Assembly poll results: Why victors could be losers in Lok Sabha polls

The results of assembly polls in five states have the dangerous potential of raising false hopes for the winners, whether it is the BJP or the Congress. Going by past statistics, it would be impossible to draw a parallel between these elections and the Lok Sabha polls in 2019. As in the past, more often than not, the assembly poll results are on most occasions diametrically opposite to the Lok Sabha polls that follow.

As in the past, more often than not, the assembly poll results are on most occasions diametrically opposite to the Lok Sabha polls that follow

Why too much cannot be read into the assembly poll results?

*The state polls have been fought on local and regional issues.
*There looms a huge anti-incumbency factor against two sitting chief ministers (Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan) who have held sway for over 15 years
*Voter fatigue and many desire change.
*Several local factors like upper cast resentment etc., have also added a new
unfavorable dimension.
*The elections were not fought on national issues.

But, there would be some learning for two main parties — the BJP and the Congress. After all, it is a direct fight for over 500 assembly seats in the three states. Clearly, the North will test the leadership and organizational skills of both, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

However, if the Congress is the winner in at least 2 of the 3 states (Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan), it would be a good way to announce the war cry for the 2019 polls. If the BJP retains at least one of the two states (Madhya Pradesh or Chhattisgarh), it would show that its organizational strength is still intact and it could expect a better showing in the Lok Sabha polls just a few months away.

Quite unlike assembly polls, the Lok Sabha polls are likely to be presidential form, personality-driven exercise. The issues would be corruption, governance farmers distress unemployment etc. Even though he is not designated by the Opposition, as its PM candidate, Rahul Gandhi seems prepared to take on Modi in a no-holds barred one-to-one battle. No Opposition leader has so far at least directly attacked Narendra Modi in the manner that Rahul Gandhi has.

Both the Congress and the BJP are keen for attacks to be aggressive. At the same time, they are trying to ensure that the accusations are not below the belt. In the recent past, like in the case of Congress leader P.C. Joshi, the High Command was quick to rebuke him since there appeared to be a personal attack on Modi. Digvijay Singh, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Shashi Tharoor and several others have been constantly reminded that they should carefully word their statements. They have been told to err on the side of caution.

An interesting aspect of the Assembly polls shows social media is being used to attack opponents. Statements are being twisted out of context to put the speaker on the mat. Congress leader Kamal Nath was one such victim recently where he seemed to be appeasing minorities. His pleas that it was not the case has fallen on deaf ears.

No one knows for sure how damaging these twisted statements will be on the eve of the polls. Many still recall a Congress leader’s statement about Modi being the ‘Maut Ka Saudagar’ on the eve of the Gujarat polls. Since then the Congress has been trying to be careful. The BJP does gets its brownie points once it plays on them.

Meanwhile, the personal attacks against Modi have not entirely stopped.
Rahul Gandhi, in a recent election speech, accused Narendra Modi of defaming chowkidars since he himself was not an effective chowkidar of the country.

Recently, Modi made a direct attack against the Gandhi family and their lack of contribution in the past 60 years.

There are two views on whether the attack on Modi is helping the Congress. If the only issue for 2019 elections is Modi – and it all boils down to ‘are you with Modi or against him’ then the more Modi is attacked, the more he could get sympathy. But the fact is, no one really knows how this will all eventually play out.

For the moment, party analysts are awaiting the assembly election results which are few days away. Whatever strategy is chalked out will depend on the results. However, paradoxically enough, excessive dependence on the results of the assembly polls may well prove to be counter-productive.

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