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Cong, BJP have their hands full

Before they take on the rival party in elections, Congress and BJP leaders have their hands full dealing with rivals within their own parties, writes Rajesh Sinha.

india Updated: Nov 10, 2003 18:03 IST

Before they take on the rival party in elections, Congress and BJP leaders have their hands full dealing with rivals within their own parties.

In both the parties, the tussle between leaders and factions has delayed the decision on the lists of their candidates. The prolonged, methodical and meticulous procedure these parties had adopted does not seem to have served much purpose.

They sent observers to every district, then division, obtained feedbacks and got names from the local units up. Supposedly, only names cleared at the State-level were to be considered by the central leadership. But when the time came, all aspirants landed up at the central office in Delhi.

It is business as usual in Congress, though Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s position within the party is stronger than last time. The impression, fed by surveys that do not always match feedback from other sources that the Congress would return to power has encouraged other groups in the party to exert pressure for getting a larger share.

The BJP is in a situation the like of which it has never faced before. Mostly of its own making due to an inexperienced leadership dependent more on corporate and managerial talent than political grasp and base of leaders, it is now faced with a spate of protests, resignations and threatening noises from sundry workers.

As things are, the people do not seem to share the worries and concerns or the enthusiasm. There is no wave – neither for nor against any party. Apart from the main rivals BJP and Congress, other parties in the fray include Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), CPI (M), Samajwadi Party (SP), the recently formed Samajik Nyay Manch (SNM) and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Their lack of ability to win seats notwithstanding, they would play an important role in as much as they cut into the vote base of the main rivals, the BJP and Congress.

The Congress stands to lose part of its voters to INLD, RLD, which cut into Jat votes, and to BSP, which would dent the votes of weaker sections. The BSP, however, was reportedly going for weaker candidates in areas where it could cause a major dent in Congress votes – a fall out of Mayawati’s spat with the BJP.

As for the BJP, resentment against granting OBC status to Jats could put off castes that form its vote base – the Brahmins, Rajputs and Banias. But the decision of SNM, which has been leading the stir for OBC status to social categories that do not as yet have the benefit, to field its own candidates has reduced its potential to harm the BJP. It could have made significant difference if it had only decided to give a call to divert votes of its supporters to some party or candidate – as Jats did in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections, routing the Congress.

The minuses for Congress are a degree of anti-incumbency factor, resentment among the State Government employees for holding up their bonus and dearness allowance, hardships due to irregular power supply and power tariff hike and the resentment of Jats against Gehlot. The BJP also lists loss of Congress women votes to Vasundhara Raje.

Among the pluses, Gehlot lists good governance and resultant absence of anti-incumbency and good management of drought. Gehlot’s personal image and stature is also an advantage. Most surveys have so far given him a definite lead. The BJP’s shortcoming has been its failure to take up any issue effectively. Luke warm response to Vasundhara Raje from other party leaders is also a negative factor.

By and large, in the absence of any wave, what seems likely to matter are local factors, local issues, caste equations and, most of all, the personal hold and reputation of the candidates of the main parties.

First Published: Nov 10, 2003 18:03 IST