All elections in India throw opportunities to ‘political’ analysts to pontificate. The past couple of decades have seen the opinion poll industry too grow like mushrooms. While analysts revel talking on alliances and other matters the ‘pollsters’ put out figures of all kinds; in many instances if not all the source of finances, the methodology and the sample size are shrouded in mystery and yet they manage to get the numbers right and thus get away with what they did and manage to stay in business. This, in some ways, is true with the ‘political’ analysts too.
The most recent instance of this is with the coming round of assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan, Telengana and Mizoram. Let me hasten to add that the scene in Mizoram is not part of either the analysis or the polls; I am not venturing into any conclusion as to whether it is bliss to be on the margins, geographically and metaphorically, as is Mizoram in this instance. And analysts are seen blaming the Congress president, Rahul Gandhi, for having failed to seal an alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the three States – Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan.
It is beyond their nature, inherent as it is given the fact that they are ‘political’ and hence analyse their own way, to count the fallout of such an alliance in the given times. Three facts stare at one’s face in this regard:
Why the BSP Alliance Is No Big Deal The BSP has hardly shown any presence across the state in the past two decades and has secured a decent percentage of votes in some constituencies in these states bordering Uttar Pradesh; and even this has been in one or another election and not consistent. The BSP is staring at the possibility of erosion of its support base to Chandrasekar Azad ‘Ravan’ and the politics he has foregrounded in Uttar Pradesh. The BSP’s past record is that the party has and will not have any compunctions against teaming up with the BJP if that brings positions of power to its leader.
Given these, it was not in the Congress party’s interest to strike an alliance with Mayawati’s party in the three states that have borders with Uttar Pradesh. In addition and perhaps most important in the game that electoral politics has now come to, a Congress-BSP alliance was potent with an upper-caste backlash against it and this indeed could help the BJP for sure in Madhya Pradesh and in parts of Chattisgarh. Caste and particularly the upward mobility of the Dalits are indeed a cementing force in our discourse for unity of the upper castes.
The Congress party had been in the political business for too long and Rahul Gandhi certainly is older than he was when he used to say that the Congress belongs to all the castes and all the communities. The truth that caste is a real category (and not a fiction), that we live in a fractured society (and not a monist one) and that caste is more akin to chemistry and not simple arithmetic are lessons that one learns being in politics and particularly when one is struggling to put his party back on rails. Rahul Gandhi seems to have been coached pretty much on these now than he was a decade ago. He was aware that the BSP with his party would be more of a burden than an asset in Madhya Pradesh; and if he was not, his party’s leaders from Madhya Pradesh made him aware of it.
In addition, the coming round of assembly elections are important to the Congress from the point of its positioning ahead of the May 2019 general elections. In this sense the party could not afford take the strategy it had in the Gujarat assembly elections; in December 2017, Rahul Gandhi steered his party to take in such opposites as Jignesh Mewani and Hardik Patel in its fold and even lent its party symbol to Alpesh Thakor. December 2017 was time for the Congress to simply hold on and such an alliance gave the BJP a run for its money. I had argued then and will continue to argue that the Congress was saved a lot of trouble when it fell short of a majority by just a few seats. It would have been trouble to run a government in Gujarat with such individuals in its fold.
Some Ground Realities
The Congress party has not only held on but also found its ground since then. It may not have the media building its fortunes as had V.P.Singh in 1989, Atal Behari Vajpayee in 1998 and 1999 or Narendra Modi in 2014. Neither is Rafale another Bofors nor is stability the only factor that the people in these states are looking for; they have had stable regimes in these states for too long. The promises of a flight to moon are not credible any longer and the fact that prices are rising and the farm sector in crisis are realities that people experience in their everyday life and do not look for the media to tell them.
The people also know that the Congress is as much incapable of taking them to the moon or ensuring milk and honey in the rivers and streams that flow in their midst. Then, the people of India have shown their propensity to vote against someone and that perhaps is where the Congress party is now looking for its hour in November and December 2018. It was best, then, for the party to have stayed away from sewing pre-poll alliances of the kind it did in Gujarat some ten months ago. It remains to see whether it works. Gambles are meant to work or fail and it is imperative for a leader of a party trying to re-invent itself to gamble rather than lay back.A lot is in common in these states going to polls with things as they were in November 1993. The Congress needed a vote-swing as much as it needs now to win majority in the state assemblies. And I recall Congress veteran (and one whom those in the media shall hate for the dirty things he did during the Emergency), the late Vidya Charan Shukla asserting a Congress victory then: The Congress, he smirked, is used to tumbling into victory as much as it snatches defeat from the jaws of victory!