The battlefield of Gujarat
This time, Gujarat elections have become a prestige issue for both the BJP and Congress. Earlier, there was an impression that the Congress doesn’t work hard towards trying to win the State polls and neither does the BJP strive hard to register its victory. It was believed that the face of Narendra Modi and strategy of Amit Shah guaranteed the party’s win, but this time, the scenario has changed and the BJP’s election campaign has been tweaked accordingly.
This time also Modi’s appeal remains; it is, in fact, even more than earlier. He is the Prime Minister of the country and represents the Gujarat pride. Amit Shah is, of course, the National President of the party. This time, it is being said, that other stalwarts of the party will also campaign in Gujarat, and a list of star campaigners is being drawn up for particular areas.
Arun Jaitley is the BJP in-charge for Gujarat elections and has been conducting meetings on a regular basis. The State in-charge, Bhupender Yadav, is also toiling hard. Recently, Ravi Shankar Prasad was in Gujarat and addressed a press conference. Some other ministers will also be visiting soon. The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, might also go there for campaigning. A BJP leader says that even Nitish Kumar might be sent for campaigning. Sources say some reasons why the BJP is putting in extra effort this time are discontentment within the Patel community, incidents with the Dalit community, anti-incumbency of more than two decades, and absence of Modi from State politics.
THE PRESSURE IS MOUNTING
Regional stalwarts of many States are worried about the Central agencies. Lalu Prasad Yadav and his family are making regular visits before the Central agencies, and this has made other kshatrapas restless. On one hand, these kshatrapas are alleging that the Centre is misusing its agencies, and on the other, they are treading carefully to not get into any trouble. That is why it is being said that the Opposition is going to face a lot of trouble in forging the grand alliance or mahagathbandhan. A Congress leader, who is associated with the party’s media cell, during an informal talk about the proposed alliance in Jharkhand, said that the BJP ensured the split of the alliance in Bihar, then how could one think that it will allow any alliance between the Congress, JVM, JMM, and RJD? He was worried that the biggest leader of the Opposition, Hemant Soren, could buckle under pressure.
The same thing is being heard about former CM of Chhattisgarh, Ajit Jogi. Recently, he announced 11 candidates of his party, the Janta Congress. After that, one of his close associates said Jogi was afraid that if he took any step in the direction of anti-BJP politics, then problems of his family could increase.
Everybody is aware of what happened to Sharad Pawar; he has distanced himself from the Congress politics. Though he gives statements against the BJP and Central Government, he is not ready to join the proposed Opposition front which is in offing to counter the BJP. In Gujarat also, his party has taken a separate line. In Maharashtra, it is being said that he can go with the BJP. Jaganmohan Reddy is also doing separate politics. It is being said that he has accepted that it would be better to stay in the Opposition than go to jail.
POLITICS OVER CRACKER BAN
The Supreme Court’s decision to ban crackers in Delhi and NCR has served the BJP well, leading some to question the timing. There is a possibility that the decision might be reconsidered before Diwali, say some. This is a fact that nobody was expecting such a verdict. One month ago, the SC had given relief on the cracker ban, which was put in place in September, so everyone was expecting that the relief would continue. But it was not to be. The court said that the verdict pronounced on September 12 would come into force from November 1 and till December 31, the decision pronounced last November would be in place. Last November, the Supreme Court had put a ban on the sale of crackers in Delhi and NCR. So, the moment the decision to ban crackers was pronounced, the ongoing debates and discussions in the media came to an end. People started discussing why courts are interfering in celebrations of Hindu festivals. In the same vein, discussions in the media and on social media also veered towards Jallikattu and Dahi Handi.
Now, it is being said that the SC will give some relief while hearing the pleas which have been filed to review the decision on crackers. However, this is also a fact that execution of this decision is tough because the court has banned the sale of crackers, not on bursting them. So, if someone already has crackers or if anyone buys them outside NCR, they can’t be stopped. If the decision continues, then black marketing of crackers will go up.
SONIA HEADED TO THE RS?
There will be a lot of changes in the Congress when Rahul Gandhi takes charge. Some say Sonia Gandhi will not fight the Lok Sabha Elections. A party leader says that she will pave the way for her children for the Lok Sabha, like Sharad Pawar, and will go to the Rajya Sabha. In 2014, Pawar had not fought the Lok Sabha polls and vacated his conventional seat for his daughter, Supriya Sule, in a way declaring her as his political heir. Later, he had become a member of the Rajya Sabha.
Notably, in the Nehru-Gandhi family, only Indira Gandhi was a member of the Rajya Sabha at the time she was elected the Prime Minister. She had become the PM after the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri, and at that time, she was not a member of either House. So, in August 1966, she was elected to the Rajya Sabha. After Indira, Sonia could be the second member who would join the Rajya Sabha.
Sources in the Congress say Sonia is also stepping aside for Rahul and Priyanka. Till the end of this month, Rahul will become the president of the Congress; he is already a Lok Sabha MP. It is being speculated that Priyanka will fight the next Lok Sabha Elections and Raebareli will be her first choice. Most of the Congress leaders are in favour of this. This is also being said that Priyanka might be roped in to look after the party organisation.
There will be another message also if she fights from the Raebareli seat. This has been the traditional seat of Indira Gandhi; she always won from here. Amethi was Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi’s seat, and Raebareli belonged to Indira. So, there will be a message to the Congress workers if Priyanka fights from there. The leaders who see Indira in Priyanka will be jubilant. Though, this might be an awkward situation for Rahul. However, amidst the speculation of Sonia going to the Rajya Sabha, it is being said that she will remain active in politics. She will continue to be the chairman of the Congress parliamentary board, and might also remain the chairperson of the UPA.
KSHATRAPAS AND EARLY POLLS
This is the first time when discussion for the Lok Sabha Elections has started one and a half year before they are scheduled. In many States, the debate has started even two or three years before the schedule. This is primarily happening because Narendra Modi is in support of conducting the Lok Sabha and Assembly Elections simultaneously, and has started a discussion on this in the country. That is why it is being said that the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in many States could be held before schedule.
One by one, many regional stalwarts have agreed to the pre-scheduled elections. Probably Nitish Kumar is also ready for holding the Assembly Elections along with the Lok Sabha polls. The tenure of Bihar Assembly will expire in December 2020, but Nitish is ready to go for elections along with the Lok Sabha polls, if that actually happens. People are saying that he will press for seat sharing with the BJP according to his wish and that is why he is ready for pre-scheduled elections.
Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Odisha go into elections along with the Lok Sabha. Leaders of these States are also ready, and say that if the Lok Sabha Elections are conducted before schedule, then the Assembly Elections should also be held before schedule. The CM of Odisha has given an indication that he is ready for elections at any point of time. In Andhra, the TDP and BJP are alliance partners, so there is no confusion. The TRS was in a dilemma, but now KCR has given an indication that he is also ready for early elections.
DILEMMA OF THE CONGRESS
There are two types of debates over elections right now. One is over ‘one country, one election’ and the other is for early elections. The Congress is in a dilemma over this. The party is in favour of early elections, but not of elections in all States at one time. Sources say that recently senior leaders of the party held a meeting and discussed all aspects related to this. It was decided that the Congress will oppose the proposal of conducting early elections.
In fact, the Congress doesn’t want the tenure of Assemblies to be curtailed and their dissolution before schedule. The party argues that every Assembly has been elected for a fixed duration, so there is no point in dissolving it unless there is a Constitutional crisis. In fact, the Congress is apprehensive that if all States go into elections along with the Lok Sabha, it would be like taking a referendum. State elections will be conducted on the face of the Prime Ministerial candidate. Amid all this, the Congress will most certainly face great loss.
However, the Congress doesn’t have any problem if the Lok Sabha Elections are conducted before schedule. The party leaders are saying that they are ready for elections at any point of time. The Congress, too, feels that the time is favourable for them. The economy is not so strong, they believe, and so there is anti-government sentiment in the country. Inflation is going up and there are several issues on which the Government can be attacked. Though the Congress leaders strongly feel that Modi will go into elections when he sets things right.
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