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HindustanTimes Tue,16 Sep 2014

After LS polls, it's time for big battles in states

Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 27, 2014
First Published: 01:14 IST(27/7/2014) | Last Updated: 10:05 IST(27/7/2014)

Popularity tests never end for political parties — much like tinsel celebs. After the decisive victory in the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP cannot sit back and relax. Neither can the Congress, which lost the big war — and almost all the battles — and got reduced to only 44 MPs, its lowest, in Parliament.

They have to go to war again in four states — Maharashtra, J&K, Haryana and Jharkhand — sometime later this year.

The pressure on the BJP will be to maintain its winning streak, and victory in these four states will further strengthen Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s grip on the organisation.

On the other hand, victory for the Congress — it is ruling all the four states either on its own or in coalition — will come as a huge morale-booster for the cadre.

Already, winning all the three seats in the Uttarakhand by-elections is prompting Congress leaders to claim that the ‘Modi magic’ is fading out.

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But the immediate cause of concern for the Congress is to put an end to faction fights in these poll-bound states.

The assembly polls will once again put Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s campaign strategy to test, especially after drawing tremendous flak from within the party for an “uninspiring and lacklustre” campaign and “faulty distribution” of tickets.

In Maharashtra, CM Prithviraj Chauhan is under fire from his own party people for his style of functioning. What’s more, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), an ally for the past 15 years, is upset with him and has been demanding his removal.

The Congress dissidence, led by industries minister Narayan Rane, gained momentum after the party managed to win only two seats in the Lok Sabha elections, while the NCP bagged four. The BJP-Shiv Sena combine, on the other hand, swept the polls riding on the Modi wave, winning 42 of the total 48 seats.

In Haryana, CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda is fighting a siege by different factions led by senior leaders Kumari Selja and Choudhary Birender Singh. With former CM and Indian National Lok Dal supremo Om Prakash Chautala in jail over corruption charges, the state will witness a keen contest between the Congress and a resurgent BJP.

In Kashmir, the Congress has decided to go by the wishes of its leaders, who wanted to go it alone in the assembly polls. The state will witness a four-cornered contest with the Peoples Democratic Party and the BJP hoping for major gains. The National Conference is facing one of the toughest ever polls in its history given that the party for the first time failed to open its account in the general elections.

Jharkhand, one of the most volatile states in India ever since it had been carved out of Bihar, has witnessed nine governments and three phases of President’s rule in 14 years. Although the Congress has never ruled the state, it supported the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha government of Shibu Soren in 2005, a shoddily patched up government under Madhu Koda in 2006 and the present JMM coalition.

Differences have already surfaced in the alliance partners as several Congress leaders are up in arms against CM Hemant Soren.

The advantage is clearly with the BJP after it won 12 of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in the state.


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