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The five find-outers

Despite some surprise results, the Congress and the BJP can’t take things for granted.

india Updated: Dec 08, 2008 22:30 IST

The five assembly polls have turned up quite an Alice in Wonderland verdict — not just for those in the fray but for political pundits as well. Now that the Congress has held on to Delhi, taken Rajasthan and Mizoram with the BJP retaining Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, certain trends are emerging. The foremost is that the BJP’s attempt to convinnce voters that it would be the best bet for national security after the Mumbai terror attacks did not find enough takers. If the BJP had hoped to cash in on the UPA government’s ‘reputation’ as the keeper of a ‘soft State’, it failed very badly to do so. A variant of the ‘TINA’ factor — in this case, a ‘TIRNA factor’, There Is No Real Alternative — may have kicked into place. The assembly polls also highlighted the fact that local issues — prices, development etc — were issues that mattered more than all-encompassing ‘national’ concerns.

In Delhi, the anti-incumbency factor did not work against the Sheila Dikshit government thanks to the BJP playing a negative campaign with nothing really on the plate to offer. Ridden with factionalism, the party wheeled out a face from the past, V.K. Malhotra, who faced a revolt in the ranks from day one. As the HT-Cfore poll before the polls showed, those candidates who performed well are home and dry.

In Rajasthan, the defeat of the Vasundhara Raje government has left the BJP bewildered. Along with inner-party ranklings against her imperious style of functioning, a realignment of the caste vote seems to have played a major role. The Gujjar-Meena clashes that were resolved inconclusively by the CM came back to haunt her with the powerful Meenas turning their backs on her and the Jat and Gujjar vote split down the middle. The perception of non-inclusive development in the state may have contributed to further alienation.

The same factionalism that was the bane of the BJP saw the Congress falling apart in Madhya Pradesh as different power centres ensured that the party scored a self-goal. In Chhattisgarh, the Congress’s hopes of grabbing the tribal vote were put paid to by the BSP’s efforts, thereby ensuring a BJP win. And Mizoram went according to conventional logic when the opposition Congress won on the anti-incumbency platform.

There is one message in all these five results. No one should take the Lok Sabha polls for granted. Especially when an amorphous ‘Third Front’ could be taking shape along the way and may cut into the vote share of the two big parties that have shared the spoils in this round.