Lok Sabha polls 2014: Back to basics for Congress and BJP


Election 2014 was supposed to be an unequal battle. Political observers had written off the possibility of a UPA comeback and the dice looked loaded in favour of the BJP-led NDA. The game has got even now.

Of course, back then nobody foresaw the implosion in the BJP and the NDA over the former’s decision to elevate Narendra Modi as the face of its election campaign. Everyone underestimated the power of the Congress’s survival instincts; some even predicted its death. Not many were willing to buy that Indian polity is no more about the Congress-BJP duality, but an arrangement of centrifugal forces whose support to national parties is more a matter of convenience than of compulsion.

With the playing field level, from now on it has to be a battle of strategies for the Congress and the BJP. Their task is cut out. They not only have to win a good number of seats but also attract allies to add to the numbers to go beyond the 272 mark. Touching 150 appears difficult for both at the moment.

With Rahul Gandhi at the helm, the Congress has started strategising much earlier. While the media and the opposition have been obsessing endlessly over whether he would be prime minister or not, or whether he has a view on issues of national import, he has been silently active reviving the moribund Congress organisation across states. Away from the media glare, he has been repairing the disconnect between the party’s leadership and the workers, tackling the problem of factionalism in state units and replacing deadwood with fresh blood. He is revamping local level organisations and declogging channels of communication between the top rungs of the party and the lowest.

It’s an arduous, long-term process. But Rahul has shown no fatigue so far. Many might find it a pointless, even an escapist, exercise but anybody with even pedestrian understanding of politics would acknowledge that leaders amount to nothing without a strong organisational network to fall back upon. He is busy with the basics; the media critics can keep debating whether he is prime minister material or not.

And yes, while Rahul is at it, the party is making its caste maths right.It was evident in yesterday’s Union cabinet reshuffle. The Congress is shifting whom it perceives to be efficient back to the organisation. It does not expect the reputation of the government to give it a victory and it does not expect the urban middle class’s perception of the government or the party to change dramatically no matter what it delivers now. So, the safe bet is to go back to the rural voter, which has so far shown no great resentment towards it. If it’s armed with something like the Food Security Act, it would provide the grassroots workers an effective talking point.

The BJP and the Sangh Parivar have decided to begin all over with a new leader at the helm. Of course, the decision to elevate Narendra Modi as the face of the campaign could not have happened without detailed analysis of the pros and cons. Their insistence to stick to him despite resistance from the marginalised old guard in the BJP and allies in the NDA, would come at a price but there is no reason to believe that they have not made a cost-benefit analysis of the move.

Modi is a polarising leader. It’s this specific asset that the wider Sangh Parivar is going to utilise to the hilt. The simple logic is, what’s the point having Modi at the top if there’s no polarisation? That’s his strength. All that talk of development and growth is for the consumption of the middle class and it could be countered easily with statistics. But to get votes eleswhere, polarisation is necessary. Don’t be surprised if you hear of the revival of the Ram temple movement soon from the fringe elements of the Sangh Parivar and the beginning of a mobilisation on a specific religious issue. The Congress is waiting for an electoral windfall by way of counter polarisation.

Both parties have discreetly redirected focus to the non-urban India as part of their strategy. Of course, Uttar Pradesh would be the major battle ground given the number of MPs it sends. Keep your finger crossed.


Gujarat Congress to boycott Modi’s swearing in


The Congress will boycott the swearing-in ceremony of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, today.

Congress leaders believe that a grand oath taking function is misuse of public money, and therefore it should be boycotted.

For past many years, the Gujarat Congress boycotts Navratri festival, Rann Utsav, Kite festival and all other major public functions organized/patronaged by the state government.

Congress in Gujarat not only boycotts, but also opposes the functions like Garib Kalyan Mela.

During the last Vibrant Gujarat Summit, Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil had sent a letter to Union Finance Minister demanding Income Tax inquiry on those who promise investment in Gujarat.

Newly-elected Gujarat Congress MLA passes away


A newly-elected Congress MLA on Friday passed away in a private hospital here after suffering brain haemorrhage.

52-year-old Savitaben Khant was yesterday declared elected from Morva Hadaf Assembly constituency in Panchmahal district.

Khant was at the counting centre yesterday when she felt giddy and fell off the chair. She was rushed to a hospital in Godhra, the district headquarters of Panchmahal.

After her condition deteriorated, the Congress leader was shifted to a private hospital here, about 100 km from Godhra, they said, adding she was kept on ventilator but died around noon due to brain haemorrhage, her family said.

Khant, a resident of Viramiya village, had defeated her nearest rival Bijalbhai Damor of BJP by a margin of 11,289 votes in the newly-formed constituency. Tragically, she was unaware of her victory till she breathed her last.

Her supporters rushed to the hospital here after learning about the illness.

Khant’s body will be taken to Godhra to enable the party workers to pay their respect before the last rites are performed, Panchmahal Congress leader Samarsinh Patel said.

With Khant’s death, the Opposition party’s strength in the 182-member Assembly has been reduced to 60.

Congress won where Rahul Gandhi campaigned: Manish Tewari


Heaping praises on Congress scion Rahul Gandhi, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari on Thursday said that all the constituencies of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh where Rahul Gandhi had campaigned have tasted success.

To give a boost to the Congress in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, Rahul Gandhi as well as Congress president Sonia Gandhi had campaigned in the states.

The magic of Gandhis’, however, seemingly failed to impress voters in Gujarat where the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Narendra Modi poised for a hat-trick of wins in the state. The Congress, however, notched power in Himachal Pradesh.

In Gujarat, the BJP was headed for a win in 116 seats, just short of the 117 it won in 2007. The Congress appeared to have improved its tally marginally from 59 last time to 60 this time.

In the hill state of Himachal Pradesh, the BJP’s Prem Kumar Dhumal government prepared to exit office for the Congress that was poised to comfortably win 36 seats in the 68-member Assembly.