Exit poll cheer for Cong

MP, Ch­hat­tis­garh head for photo fin­ish; clear ver­dict for Congress in Ra­jasthan

Business Standard - - FRONT PAGE - ARCHIS MOHAN

Af­ter polling ended for the Te­lan­gana and Ra­jasthan assem­blies on Fri­day evening, and along with this the elec­tions in five states, most exit polls pre­dicted a Congress resur­gence in north­ern In­dia.

All exit polls said Ra­jasthan was un­likely to break its 25-year-old habit of throw­ing out the in­cum­bent gov­ern­ment, with the Congress slated to win the state. Sev­eral exit polls pre­dicted the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) 15-year rule in neigh­bour­ing Mad­hya Pradesh could also end.

How­ever, most exit polls in­di­cated the Bahu­jan Sa­maj Party-Ajit Jogi al­liance in Ch­hat­tis­garh might have hurt the Congress, with the BJP slated to win a fourth suc­ces­sive win there.

A ma­jor­ity of the exit polls also pre­dicted the in­cum­bent Te­lan­gana Rash­tra Samiti (TRS) could re­tain the state and the elec­torate could boot out the 10-year-old Congress gov­ern­ment in Mi­zo­ram.

The count­ing of votes to the five Assem­blies that went to the polls in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber is on Tues­day.

While elec­tion ex­perts con­sider it fal­la­cious to ex­trap­o­late the Assem­bly poll re­sults to pre­dict the out­come of the Lok Sabha elec­tions, the re­sults are likely to be in­ter­preted as a barom­e­ter of the pub­lic mood for 2019.

In 2013, the BJP had won the three north In­dian states, Ra­jasthan and Mad­hya Pradesh com­pre­hen­sively, with its prime min­is­te­rial can­di­date Naren­dra Modi hav­ing cam­paigned widely. The mar­gins of its Assem­bly wins were re­flected in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, with the BJP win­ning all 25 Lok Sabha seats in Ra­jasthan, 27 of 29 in Mad­hya Pradesh, and 10 of 11 in Ch­hat­tis­garh.

The re­sults could also de­ter­mine the po­lit­i­cal dis­course, both of the gov­ern­ment and Op­po­si­tion, for the next few months as the win­ter ses­sion of Par­lia­ment be­gins on Tues­day.

The Sangh Pari­var out­fits are con­gre­gat­ing for a “dharma sansad” in New Delhi on Sun­day to put pres­sure on the Modi gov­ern­ment to bring in leg­is­la­tion to pave the way for an early con­struc­tion of the Ram tem­ple at the dis­puted site in Ay­o­d­hya.

Se­nior gov­ern­ment strate­gists in­di­cated on Fri­day the gov­ern­ment would like to wait for the Supreme Court’s or­der on the Ay­o­d­hya dis­pute rather than push through an Or­di­nance or in­tro­duce a Bill. Ac­cord­ing to sources, BJP Ra­jya Sabha mem­ber Rakesh Sinha did not sub­mit a draft of a pri­vate mem­bers’ Bill on the is­sue, and now the last date for sub­mis­sion be­fore a ses­sion be­gins has ex­pired.

How­ever, there were signs on Fri­day it­self that the po­lit­i­cal tem­per­a­ture is likely to shoot up in the weeks to come. The En­force­ment Direc­torate (ED) car­ried out searches on three peo­ple linked to Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, in con­nec­tion with its probe into al­leged "com­mis­sions re­ceived by some sus­pects in de­fence deals" and “il­le­gal as­sets stashed abroad”, of­fi­cials said.

Congress Spokesper­son Randeep Singh Surjewala said the “sure shot de­feat in five states has un­nerved the Modi gov­ern­ment to again use the old tools — un­leash re­venge and vendetta on Vadra to di­vert the nar­ra­tive”. At a press con­fer­ence, BJP chief Amit Shah also warned the Tri­namool Congress gov­ern­ment in West Ben­gal that his party would carry out its ya­tras in the state. The BJP is look­ing at West Ben­gal, Odisha and north­east­ern states to com­pen­sate for its likely losses in north­ern In­dia.

The re­sults can trig­ger a de­bate whether the losses in Mad­hya Pradesh and Ra­jasthan are that of the BJP’s lead­er­ships in these states, or if they re­flected the grow­ing anti-in­cum­bency against the Modi gov­ern­ment as well with re­ports that peo­ple are up­set about agrar­ian dis­tress and lack of jobs.

The re­sults could de­ter­mine the Modi gov­ern­ment’s leg­isla­tive agenda and spur it to take steps to alleviate the pur­ported anger in ru­ral ar­eas. The loss in Ch­hat­tis­garh could also make the Congress reach out to smaller par­ties like the Mayawati-led BSP, while a win in these states would bur­nish Congress pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi's cre­den­tials not just as a leader of his party but as a se­ri­ous chal­lenger to Modi in 2019.

The Congress has its gov­ern­ment only in Pun­jab and the union ter­ri­tory of Puducherry. It runs a coali­tion gov­ern­ment with the Janata Dal (Sec­u­lar) in Karnataka. It is ab­sent in the en­tire north­ern In­dia, and hasn't formed a gov­ern­ment in Bi­har and Ut­tar Pradesh since 1989, and in Mad­hya Pradesh and Ch­hat­tis­garh since 2003.


Gird­har Vyas, who claims to sport the long­est mous­tache in the world, af­ter cast­ing his vote in Bikaner

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