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Game, set...?

The Congress has done well in the ‘semi-finals’. But the Lok Sabha polls could prove to be much tougher, writes Pankaj Vohra. Full Coverage

india Updated: Dec 10, 2008 13:54 IST
Pankaj Vohra

The Assembly poll results will have far-reaching implications not only for national politics but also for the Congress and the BJP. The results have shown that the electorate has become mature and has voted positively to elect three sitting Chief Ministers: Sheila Dikshit (Delhi), Shivraj Singh Chauhan (Madhya Pradesh) and Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh). The results prove that wherever the CMs could project positive achievements and development activities of their governments, their parties won.

The elections also proved that voters consider the Congress to be the biggest nationalist party in India, considering that some states went to the polls just after the terror attacks in Mumbai. The BJP, which tried to cash in on terror, discovered that its nationalist credentials are not as strong as those of the Congress. For the common man, the Congress had won the 1965 and 1971 wars against Pakistan and its governance generates a greater sense of assurance than the jingoistic stance of the BJP.

The result has also put a big question mark over the prime ministerial ambition of L. K.Advani and has raised doubts over the ability of Rajnath Singh to lead the party in the parliamentary polls. In fact, the NDA may be weakened further and some of its allies like the JD(U) may start looking for partners outside the fold. These developments could force the RSS and the BJP to have to review their strategy and rethink their decision of projecting Advani as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. The BJP enjoyed a lead over the Congress in Lok Sabha seats from MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in 2004. But from the rough data available on Monday, the number of seats could very well go down, thereby diminishing the BJP’s chances further. For the Congress, the victory has brought much-needed relief after a string of defeats in the Assembly polls. The outcome has also prevented the disintegration of the UPA. But the Congress still has a long way to go if it wants to win the parliamentary polls, given that it has a token presence in UP and Bihar, the two most populous states.

The polls results have made sure that Dikshit is likely to assume a far greater role at the Centre. With the kind of mega image she has acquired, she could become a major vote-catcher, perhaps second only to Sonia Gandhi. National politics, however, continues to be in a flux. The chances of an early general election have diminished. The semi-finals maybe over but it is evident that the finals will be contested by the Congress against several regional parties that may ultimately constitute a combination on the lines of the Third front. The BJP needs to review its strategy, if it wants to stay in the reckoning.