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Congress Strikes Back. 2019 Wide Open?

No matter who wins the state, Shivraj Singh Chouhan has put up an extremely spirited battle, against a united Congress

Photo Credit : PTI


The Congress has been resuscitated – once in an ICU, today it’s fighting fit to take on the Narendra Modi juggernaut in the 2019 elections.

These are two perspectives on how to look at assembly elections – counting for which is not over yet.

Chhattisgarh has been the most stunning so far. Nobody expected Raman Singh to give in so meekly. That a party without a chief ministerial face could put up such a stupendous performance – inching towards a three-fourths majority – speaks volumes about the underlying anti-incumbency in the state. Raman Singh, by all accounts, had been an efficient administrator, and voter fatigue with the BJP for three terms may have contributed to a great extent, in this landslide win for the Congress.

Madhya Pradesh, by any reckoning, is a political bellwether state, is witnessing a see-saw battle between a reinvigorated Congress under Kamal Nath (and ably supported by Jyotiraditya Scindia) and the low-key Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the outgoing Chief Minister. MP Is extremely important – it has continuously witnessed agri boom, yet the farmers there are in distress. The state has been efficient in reaching out to the poor, and Shivraj is seen as the benevolent “mama” rather than a ruler far removed from ground realities. Many thought Shivraj was a long-term player, and his governance template could be used nationally to mount an election campaign around a welfare state.

No matter who wins the state, Shivraj has put up an extremely spirited battle, against a united Congress.

Rajasthan fell in a different category altogether.

Many in the BJP had given up on the state, so high was the anti-incumbency against Vasundhara Raje, the outgoing CM (much more than the BJP). By that reckoning, Raje has managed to put up a good fight, and the Congress may need allies to form a government.

In Telangana, K C Chandrasekhar Rao continues to ride the Jai Telangana wave, and has virtually swept the state, pushing the grand alliance of the Congress and N Chandrababu Naidu and others to the periphery. Telangana continues to be a dominant sentiment, and the CM’s welfare schemes – flats to drinking water, stood him in good stead.

In Mizoram, the Congress has been edged out, with the opposition MNF scoring a thumping win. The entire North-East now is thus Congress-mukt.

The election results say a lot about Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s evolution as a leader.

He was initially projected as a leader, who groomed Young Turks. But look at both Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Gandhi’s confidants Jyotariditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot will have to wait in the wings, and it’s the seniors – Kamal Nath and Ashok Gehlot who will be in the driver’s seat.

Rahul has ably managed to integrate the seniors – who were feeling threatened by his ascension – into his core team, and this also shows his learning curve.

To sum up, it’s the Congress’s rise in the heartland that poses a threat to the BJP in 2019. 

However, it’s still not Modi vs Rahul in 2019 – something that works to the advantage of the BJP.

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