Two parties, one challenge
A month ago, both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress were struggling with the political situation in two states where they were the governing party. In Uttar Pradesh, the management of the second wave triggered criticism of chief minister (CM) Yogi Adityanath; there was also criticism of his governance style and alleged patronage to certain castes. The BJP national leadership let the controversy play out, uncharacteristically, in public view. But eventually, it backed Mr Adityanath’s continuation as CM while making some adjustments, both at the central and state level, to accommodate leaders of other castes. With this, it hopes to tap into both the incumbency vote (in favour of the CM) as well as the vote of the discontented (who may be disenchanted with the CM but have faith in the prime minister).
In Punjab, the acrimonious battle between CM Captain Amarinder Singh and rebel Navjot Singh Sidhu played out, with the national leadership allowing Mr Sidhu to undermine the CM. Eventually, a power-sharing formula was imposed with Mr Sidhu appointed as party chief. With this, the Congress too hopes to tap into both the pro-incumbency vote (of supporters of Captain Singh) and the anti-incumbency vote (with Mr Sidhu doubling up both as party chief but also chief dissenter against the state government). While the context is different, the BJP’s formula is cleaner to execute — back the CM, while ensuring the PM is seen as above the fray. The Congress’s formula is harder to execute — since the CM has to deal with an official rival in the same party structure.
But both national parties have turned their focus now to two other states. For the BJP, it appears a transition in Karnataka is imminent, withBS Yediyurappa being asked to make way for another leader as CM. The veteran Karnataka leader has an autonomous base, especially within the Lingayat community, and cannot be brushed aside easily. How his possible exit impacts the party’s fortunes in the south is to be seen. For the Congress, the next challenge is Rajasthan, where Sachin Pilot has been waiting for promises to be implemented. The party leadership is now seeking to ensure the accommodating of his loyalists in the state power structure, but whether Mr Pilot’s rival, CM Ashok Gehlot, will allow this remains unclear. From UP to Punjab, Karnataka to Rajasthan, both national parties are attempting to manage state units with an eye on the next election and generational transition, while ensuring Delhi’s writ runs.