Assembly polls in five States over the coming months will indicate the lay of the land for 2019
All three of major political forces in the fray nationally and aspiring to come to power at the Centre in 2019 — BJP, Congress and the regional parties claiming equidistance from the preceding two — will have their electoral mettle tested in the forthcoming State polls in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Telangana and Mizoram the schedule for which was announced by the Election Commission last week. The results will be declared on 11 December. The BJP is in power in the three Hindi heartland States. Additionally, it has hopes of strengthening its stranglehold over the North-eastern States by trying to cobble together a post poll tie-up with the regional party which is the principal Opposition to the ruling Congress, the Mizo National Front, especially in a situation where there is a hung House with no single party hitting the majority-mark. The Amit Shah-led party also has not given up on the Telangana Rashtra Samiti supremo and Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao putting his weight behind the NDA after the Lok Sabha poll even as the TRS maintains its equidistance formula going into the State elections.
Early reports from the ground indicate that the going is not going to be smooth for the BJP despite the fact that the Opposition ‘grand alliance’ seems to be a non-starter at least as far as the State polls are concerned. Of course, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has yet to begin campaigning and the tactically ruthless BJP president is busy looking at how best to deploy ‘vote-cutter’ parties/Independents in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, but the fact is there does seem to be significant anti-incumbency in all three States to varying degrees with Rajasthan having the maximum and Chhattisgarh the least, comparatively. The Congress, though, has a record of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory over the past few years and it may yet be left ruing its inability to sew up alliances with the BSP, SP and smaller parties in all three States especially in an electoral contest that looks like going down the wire. In these circumstances, a 3:0 or even 2:1 win in the three heartland States for either the BJP or the Congress is likely to put the winner in pole position for the Lok Sabha poll with the caveat that the BJP, even if does not do too well, still has hopes of making a recovery in time for 2019 given the Modi Effect but the Congress will find it far more difficult to do so as Rahul Gandhi’s popularity, though up, is still far below that enjoyed by the Prime Minister.
Telangana, where the TRS is the clear frontrunner, has seen an unlikely Opposition alliance comprising the Congress, TDP, Left and smaller parties take shape but the jury is out on how effective it will be in countering KCR despite the Congress trying hard to portray itself as the ‘creator’ of the State. For one, its new-found ally the TDP had bitterly opposed the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and more pertinently KCR has long since assumed that mantle. The BJP seem to looking at targeting a few, select ‘winnable' seats and increasing its vote-share in the Assembly poll with plans to use this base to maximise its Lok Sabha seats in 2019.