Battle of the states - The New Indian Express

Battle of the states

Published: 17th November 2013 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 17th November 2013 08:23 AM

Winter is settling over the north but everywhere there is heat and perspiration—the unmistakable symptoms of election fever. The battle dust raised by convoys of the powerful and the desperate along the dusty roads, sleepy hamlets, small towns and metropolis pretenders of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and far off Mizoram are signs of skirmishes in a bitter battle for power. The destiny of the winners and losers of the Assembly elections in these states would also be weathervanes of which way the winds would blow in the 2014 General Elections. Leading the troops of this modern day Mahabharata are the chief ministers and their opposing satraps old and new; in Madhya Pradesh, the immensely popular Shivraj Singh Chouhan faces a young challenger with royal blood, Jyotiraditya Scindia whose aunt Yashodara is ironically fighting on the BJP side—reminiscent of the royal rife between Jyotiranditya’s grandmother Rajmata Scindia and father Madhavrao. In Chhattisgarh, the anti-incumbency factor has not touched Raman Singh’s spotless laundry, while in Rajasthan, another Scindia takes on two-time CM Ashok Gehlot whose shine has worn off after corruption and indecision marred his term. In Mizoram, four-time CM Lal Thanhawla seems confident of a fifth, even though the Mizo National Front is bent on banking on the support of Christian Mizos who earlier would be happy to attend Lal Thanwala’s Bible classes every Sunday. Yet these elections are being fought as the primaries of an American presidential election with the looming figure of Narendra Modi overshadowing the young Congress prince Rahul Gandhi. He has decided the agenda on his own and is intent on following it. The rest, if they want to be in the race, either follow him or opt out. There’s little choice—or so it seems.

After Indira Gandhi, and since coalition politics became an accepted ugly face of governance, a leader has been born whose centrality is not in doubt. Modi has made this a ole man election, him against the world. His ambition now tinged by a sense that Delhi Is Not Too Far, he is in hyperkinetic mode, dashing from rally to rally, covering more ground than any of his opponents. His acid and vitriol against the Congress is being lapped up by a janta tired of economic stress in various local forms—if it’s costly vegetables and hefty EMIs in Delhi, youth unemployment, inter-regional disparities and caste reservations make up the structural factors in Chhattisgarh, MP and Rajasthan. Everywhere the overall indices are sluggish if not southbound, and the common man—and woman—are forming a ready audience for a focused, Modi-style PR blitz. Thus, the campaign for 2014 has unofficially begun, albeit through state polls. In case Congress wrests one of the two BJP-ruled states, it would offer a rare boost for Rahul Gandhi, who does not appear to be winning too many converts at the moment.

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