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Cong reflecting on simultaneous state and general polls?

February 16, 2013 21:17 IST

Congress is wary that state elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and New Delhi to be held in December will impact its prospects in the 2014 general elections. Sheela Bhatt reports   

“There is a debate going on in the Congress if it should hold Lok Sabha elections along with the state elections or not,” said a senior party leader while talking about current issues that are being discussed among the top leadership. 

Currently, the election campaign is underway in Tripura, Nagaland and Meghlaya.

After the three northeastern states, Karnataka is scheduled to go to polls where the term of assembly is ending on June 3. The most crucial four state assembly elections are due in December. The tenure of the New Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan assemblies is ending in December 2013 while Chhattisgarh assembly’s term ends on January 4, 2014.

Lok Sabha elections are due only in mid-2014, but the Congress is wary of the preceding election process in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and New Delhi.

By all yardsticks, these are four important states with 590 assembly seats and 72 Lok Sabha seats. So when the results of these four states are out, the mood of almost one-fifth of the Lok Sabha will be reflected. The political stock of the Congress is so low currently that the party is contemplating if it should cut their loses by holding the state and Lok Sabha elections simultaneously.

However, the decision is not an easy one to make. 

A section of the party believes that if in December, the Congress loses in Chhattisgarh, MP, Rajasthan and New Delhi it will have a fatal impact on the party’s prospects in the Lok Sabha elections. Even if it loses three states the psychological setback will be huge.

Also, the most crucial factor is that in these states there are Hindi-speaking areas where the presence of the Bhartiya Janta party is prominent and where the Congress is pitted against it directly.

In absence of prominent regional parties in these four states, the loss of the Congress will emerge starkly and will impact Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s leadership.

The party’s internal assessment is that in Chhattisgarh the chances of a win are bright and in MP it’s likely that Shivraj Singh Chauhan will overcome anti-incumbency.

Also, Chauhan may win because there are too many leaders in the Congress while it has few workers.

In Rajasthan, a victory is dicey for Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s rule is nothing to talk about. In New Delhi, anti-incumbency against Sheila Dikshit’s government is worrisome, to say the least. Like MP, it’s a divided house for the Congress in New Delhi and this would make things difficult for Dikshit. 

In Rajasthan, Gehlot is lately trying to improve his image and has introduced a free medical service that has caught people’s attention, but party men feel that Vasundhara Raje’s feudal appeal is likely to click for the BJP once more. And though the BJP is not having an easy time it’s better poised in Rajasthan and New Delhi where it is currently not in power.  

Congressmen feel their stakes are too high because the distance between these four state and Lok Sabha elections is narrow. It is wary it may face anti-incumbency by the time the Lok Sabha elections arrive even in states that they emerge victorious. 

What if the Congress loses all four states or more than two states? This is the big question that the party is facing.

The party is also debating if the 2014 election will have to be conducted along with state assembly elections then what will be the impact of the measures to be taken in the upcoming budget. And what if the 2013 monsoon fails?

Again on the issue of an uncertain monsoon in 2013 there are two views. In India, drought forces states to intervene in a big way and sometimes measures taken to help affected people bring electoral dividend if handled shrewdly. But, if the people feel that the government’s welfare measures are not enough then it can add to anti-incumbency.

Hectic activities are on in Congress’s so-called war room at Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Road office. Madhusudan Mistry, Congress general secretary, is getting reports from all over India about these hot issues and gathering information on the party’s prospects in each Lok Sabha constituency.

The Congress is tightening its belt and getting ready, although, it doesn’t have a political wherewithal left after facing scams after scams to face early election in 2013 or even the scheduled election in 2014. 

Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi