AA Edit | Congress finds electoral hope in political winter of discontent

With a massive election win over its principal rival, the BJP, in that state, the party is highly optimistic across India.

The Congress Party started the year 2023 with understandable despondency, despite some silver linings — its top leader Rahul Gandhi discovered India and rediscovered some political mojo with his nation-long Bharat Jodo Yatra, followed by the decision to elect a non-Gandhi as the party president, which led to an inspired choice of Mallikarjun Kharge, and, finally, a win in the Karnataka Assembly elections.

Over ten months of this year, the mood has considerably changed. With a massive election win over its principal rival, the BJP, in that state, the party is highly optimistic across India. Ahead of elections to five states to be held in a few weeks, the Congress Party is even mildly jubilant and euphoric, if only in anticipation of some highly credible to incredible performances.

The biggest metamorphosis for the party occurred in Telangana, where it had lost its deposit in the Munugode byelection in December last year, and was written off by most, including insiders, as being almost finished off in the state. With none giving it any chance of recovery, and the BJP having emerged as the real challenger to the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi, which is looking for an elusive and never-before hat-trick by any chief minister in South India’s history, the Congress was in the dumps.

But ten months being too long a time in politics, the scenario today is completely different. Pre-election surveys from Telangana indicate that the Congress is not only far ahead of the BJP as the primary challenger to the BRS, but according to some, even set for an unbelievable win, a view its leader Rahul Gandhi aired recently.

The ruling BRS, which has already declared all its candidates, is set to launch a new manifesto to counter the six guarantees of the Congress, which cover a gamut of benefits for different stakeholders. BRS supremo K. Chandrashekar Rao, however, is confident of an unprecedented third win, based on his performance and delivery of both development and welfare schemes.

The Telangana Congress, under a new leader, Lok Sabha MP A. Revanth Reddy, has harnessed the considerably high anti-incumbency (as per some surveys, the highest amongst the five states going to polls in this winter). He has also branded the BJP and BRS clandestine partners. He is looking to take his party to a point where a victory is within grasp, and that is only one of the reasons for the party’s national mood.

The Congress and most surveys say that it has a comfortable chance of retaining Chhattisgarh. But the party also believes it can reverse the trend of changing governments in Rajasthan, and using the possible disarray and anger in the Rajasthan BJP unit, hold on to power there, despite the five-year public feud between CM Ashok Gehlot and dissident Sachin Pilot.

The election in Madhya Pradesh will be tight, but interestingly, like in Rajasthan, the BJP may not declare a chief ministerial face, and thus indicate an end of the careers of the three illustrious saffron leaders — Vasundhara Raje Scindia, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh.

But the BJP plays hard and fights till the end. It hopes to win in Rajasthan, and retain MP, besides playing kingmaker in Telangana, if there is a hung House.

Sadly, Mizoram gets least space in most analyses and reflections on elections — as do other northeastern states — given their low Lok Sabha seat count. The Mizo National Front may come as the top party, by most indications, but the House may still be hung, leading to various possibilities between the MNF, the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM), and the Congress.

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