With the polling in Telangana and Rajasthan over, all the ‘semi-final states’ have voted. Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Telangana now only await the results on December 11. Whether the exit poll prediction of a tight fight, with meagre returns for the Congress, proves true or not, this bout of net practice between the two national parties would have an impact on the Lok Sabha polls.
Why read it via the Congress’s performance? Because, in three of the five states, it’s in a straight fight with the party holding the Union treasury. In the other two states too, the Congress is the big player, in Telangana as a challenger and in Mizoram as the incumbent. In all states, it’s been a chief minister’s fight against anti-incumbency, with the Congress mounting an attack on the ruling side, except for Mizoram, where it’s fighting to retain its last foothold as a ruling party in the Northeast.
The stakes are high in every election, but in this round the Congress and its leadership have unusually high stakes. More than anything else, the vote would show whether the Congress still has the ability to swing and win an election, particularly because anti-incumbency fatigue was tangible in the heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Failing to capitalise on that would be a downer.
The future of three Vajpayee-Advani era BJP chief ministers, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Raman Singh and Vasundhara Raje, too hinges on the results. In Telangana, the verdict is as much on KCR’s first term seen in isolation as on whether he has come good on the latest experiment in state reorganisation. In Mizoram, where the Congress used to have a cakewalk, it is now fighting for survival againt the combined force of regional parties and the BJP. The test is also for the Election Commission, to come out unscarred by allegations of electoral malfunction.