The New Indian Express - - FRONT PAGE -

With the polling in Te­lan­gana and Ra­jasthan over, all the ‘semi-fi­nal states’ have voted. Ch­hat­tis­garh, Mi­zo­ram, Mad­hya Pradesh, Ra­jasthan and Te­lan­gana now only await the re­sults on De­cem­ber 11. Whether the exit poll pre­dic­tion of a tight fight, with mea­gre re­turns for the Congress, proves true or not, this bout of net prac­tice be­tween the two na­tional par­ties would have an im­pact on the Lok Sabha polls.

Why read it via the Congress’s per­for­mance? Be­cause, in three of the five states, it’s in a straight fight with the party hold­ing the Union trea­sury. In the other two states too, the Congress is the big player, in Te­lan­gana as a chal­lenger and in Mi­zo­ram as the in­cum­bent. In all states, it’s been a chief minister’s fight against anti-in­cum­bency, with the Congress mount­ing an at­tack on the rul­ing side, ex­cept for Mi­zo­ram, where it’s fight­ing to re­tain its last foothold as a rul­ing party in the North­east. The stakes are high in ev­ery elec­tion, but in this round the Congress and its lead­er­ship have un­usu­ally high stakes. More than any­thing else, the vote would show whether the Congress still has the abil­ity to swing and win an elec­tion, par­tic­u­larly be­cause anti-in­cum­bency fa­tigue was tan­gi­ble in the heart­land states of Mad­hya Pradesh, Ch­hat­tis­garh and Ra­jasthan. Fail­ing to cap­i­talise on that would be a downer.

The fu­ture of three Va­j­payee-Ad­vani era BJP chief min­is­ters, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Ra­man Singh and Va­sund­hara Raje, too hinges on the re­sults. In Te­lan­gana, the ver­dict is as much on KCR’s first term seen in iso­la­tion as on whether he has come good on the lat­est ex­per­i­ment in state re­or­gan­i­sa­tion. In Mi­zo­ram, where the Congress used to have a cakewalk, it is now fight­ing for sur­vival against the com­bined force of re­gional par­ties and the BJP. The test is also for the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion, to come out un­scarred by al­le­ga­tions of elec­toral mal­func­tion.

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