The elections in the five states of Rajasthan, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram will be a massive litmus test for the Narendra Modi-led BJP government and Rahul Gandhi-led Congress party, according to four panelists appearing in the prime time debate session held by BloombergQuint.
On being asked whether the results of these state elections will reflect personally on the two leaders, most of the panelists, which included: A K Bhattacharya, Editorial Director at the Business Standard; Purnima Joshi, Political Editor at Hindu Business Line; Sadanand Dhume, Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and Amitabh Tiwari, Political Commentator and Strategist, they stand as a greater test to Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, than Modi’s.
Why is this?
To Bhattacharya, it’s because:
"“If the Congress doesn’t do well in these state elections, it reflects badly on not just them, but also their Opposition alliances.If Modi doesn’t do well, he will treat these elections as the semi-finals and treat the 2019 polls as the final, and will use this as a strategy to win those elections.”" -
Dhume, however, spoke about how if the BJP lost in one or more of these states, especially in Rajasthan Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh – where it has been in power for 15 consecutive years – it would create a dent Modi and his “aura of invincibility”.
If the Congress managed to win in two or more of these states, Dhume said, it would make them the viable leader of the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ or the National Opposition.
"“It’ll be good for the Congress in terms of alliance building, since it’ll make them the viable leader of the National Opposition.”" - Sadanand Dhume
Is it a Modi vs Rahul Battle?
Purnima Joshi, however, is of the idea that while everyone is looking at the elections as a Modi vs Gandhi battle, these elections aren’t about them at all.
The central theme woven around these elections, she says, is that instead of focusing on Modi’s invincibility – which people voting for him have always noticed and talked about – the focus this time is on issues such as farm-distress, Aadhaar-linked problems, the failure of demonetisation and other problems rampant under the BJP government, she says.
The players, here too, are the incumbent chief ministers in the different states, that have for the past 15 years, time and again, been contesting these elections and formed a vote-base for themselves.
An important factor to mention here, the panelists said, was that victory in a state like Rajasthan would not help the Congress, as the state has a tendency to throw out incumbent governments. So in order for Rahul Gandhi’s leadership to be recognised, the Congress would have to win in MP, Chhattisgarh or Telangana at least.
Is Modi Distancing Himself From These Elections?
Bhattacharya made an observation about how Modi was seemingly “distancing” himself from these state elections.
"“Notice the total number of rallies that Modi has conducted in the states contesting the elections, and compare his past numbers in other state elections even to say a Yogi Adityanath – you’ll see the numbers and way lesser. He’s not spending that much political capital in these elections. This could be indicative that Modi is deliberately trying to keep a little distance from these elections, as his real battle will be three months later in 2019. He can preserve his political capital for the 2019 elections.”" - A K Bhattacharya
The panel subsequently debated whether BJP faring poorly in the state elections would increase Modi and Amit Shah’s at the national level.
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