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Before the flood

If the Congress, for instance, does not manage to wrest the three states from the BJP, it will go into the Lok Sabha polls with demoralised workers, writes Pankaj Vohra.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2008 00:01 IST
Pankaj Vohra

Factional fighting within the Congress appears to be hampering the chances of the party in the Assembly polls due in November-December. As a result, the Congress may not be able to cash in on the huge anti-incumbency factor in three of the BJP ruled states, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. When the polls were declared, one would have imagined that these three states would come out of the BJP’s grasp and into the Congress fold.

However, this does not seem to be the case — at least not for Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. But if tickets get distributed properly, the position could drastically change. The battle for Chattisgarh is evenly poised and in Delhi the BJP is seemingly enjoying a clear edge, though things may change once the candidates for all the 70 seats are decided.

The outcome of these four Assembly polls in particular shall not be without significance since it would have an overriding bearing on the Lok Sabha elections slated to be held sometime in winter. If the Congress were to lose most of these states, the good work done by Sonia Gandhi would have gone waste.

The trouble with the Congress is that most of its leaders who may find it difficult to get themselves elected to Parliament sit on judgement over others and decide on the fate of potential nominees on the basis of their own strong likes and dislikes — and not on merit. The end result is that many deserving candidates get left out.

This malaise has spread to the BJP as well. Individual leaders, to get their loyalists tickets, have ended up compromising party interests. But since the BJP is a smaller outfit in comparison, this kind of subjective activity does not harm the organisation to the same extent as it does the Congress.

For the Congress, the problem in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh has arisen because it is being perceived that Ashok Gehlot and Suresh Pachauri respectively will bag the CM’s chair in the event of the party’s victory. Though it is Congress policy not to project anyone as its CM nominee, the role played by individuals in the run-up to the polls does give some indication as to who was likely to call the shots. It is obviously going to be the party’s decision as to who should be its final choice as CM. But pre-mature perceptions can prove counter-productive.

If the Congress, for instance, does not manage to wrest the three states from the BJP, it will go into the Lok Sabha polls with demoralised workers. These workers shall also be expected to defend the policies of the central government, which itself has its back to the wall. Prices, inflation and the fight against terror are bound to make the UPA even more defensive as many of the allies may blame the Congress for it.

The entire political atmosphere seems to be surcharged against the Congress. Most of the party’s MPs appeared to be surprised as to why the Prime Minister had chosen to visit Japan and China when the Parliament session was on. His absence did not send the right signals, as also the news that one of his principal aides, Pulok Chatterjee, was on his way to the World Bank. Chatterjee is an excellent officer considered close to 10 Janpath. But such news creates an impression that top and loyal bureaucrats were deserting the government at a very crucial period.

During AB Vajpayee’s time, Ashok Saikia and Ajay Bisaria stayed put till the end and it was only when the new regime took over that they went to their placements abroad, with a little bit of help from both Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh. The point is that there is a lot of uncertainty that has set in, and it is not doing any good to either the government or the Congress. Between us.