In Tamil Nadu, the Congress has attacked both the AIADMK and DMK. In West Bengal, the party is locked in a battle with Ms Banerjee in a bid to retain its base and ensure that the Trinamool Congress does not absorb it. In Punjab, the Congress’ main battle is with the Shiromani Akali Dal, though the fact that the Akalis are in an alliance with the BJP gives it a more national colour.
In large swathes of the country, the fact is that the BJP and Congress are locked in battles not with each other but with a predominant, regional party. The rise of regional parties has been a steady feature of the polity. Newer social groups have become more assertive; with the deepening of democracy, there is fragmentation of the polity. At a time when the Congress is looking its weakest, many in the party are hoping that regional parties will outperform the BJP to such an extent that a ‘Third Front-backed by the Congress’ formation becomes viable. For Mr Modi, the challenge will be different. After a bitter battle, how will he reach out to a Banerjee, a Jayalalithaa, or a Patnaik if he needs the numbers? One thing is clear. A great deal of political management will go into soothing electoral wounds and bringing the necessary political outfits on board for the government, whosoever comes to power.