The Conundrum for the Congress this election season!

It is a mini election season again in India with 5 states going to polls in the next few weeks. Commentators who don’t understand the concept of a Semifinal, call it the Semifinals before the final which is the Lok Sabha poll in May 2024. In any competition, the Semifinal stage is a knockout stage where a team gets eliminated and doesn’t get a place in the final. So, these state elections, just going by definition cannot be Semifinals as the party that loses (in this case the BJP or the Congress) will not be eliminated from the race in 2024. At best, it can be called as another round of league matches which add to the points (brownie points to be precise) before the final.

Usually during any election in India, there is usually a huge buzz and noise around it even months before the elections are announced. However, though the elections are for crucial states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Telangana this time however the buzz has been muted. The ongoing crisis in the Middle East region and the ICC ODI Cricket World Cup could be the probable reasons for the slackening of interest.  As the poll dates get closer, I am sure, there will be a slight increase in the noise and news about these state elections.

Irrespective of the buzz, if you are an avid current affairs buff as I am, you will obviously be interested in what will happen in these elections.  Various opinion polls and surveys have given the edge to the Congress in at least 3 of the 4 big states (MP, Chhattisgarh and Telangana) which if it happens, will be a big morale booster for the Congress in the league stage. Interestingly in 2018, Congress won all three Hindi heartland states and yet, in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, BJP swept these states.  Only after this, commentators started to believe in the theory that people vote differently for states and Centre though similar trends existed before as well and commentators conveniently blinded themselves with their confirmation biases. Whether there will be a change in this phenomenon or not is an interesting thing to watch.

For the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the ruling BJP is pitted against a grand opposition alliance which has branded itself as INDIA or the INDI Alliance. However, it seems that this alliance will come into play only for the finals in 2024 and not for the league matches i.e., the state elections happening now. The Congress, which is the main national player against the BJP in India, in the context of the INDI alliance, is in a strange situation as far as its performance in the upcoming state elections goes.

If it does very well, which is to win all 4 states namely Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Telangana, it will be a great win. But one that will not be taken well by its coalition partners in the INDI Alliance. Congress naturally will claim more seats in states like UP, Bihar, Delhi, West Bengal etc… claiming that they have now defeated BJP in almost 6 states (including Himachal and Karnataka) in the last 1 year.  This obviously doesn’t augur well for the aspirations of the regional parties like SP, TMC etc.….

On the other hand, if it performs poorly in which case, it loses all 4 states, it has two problems. One, it loses its main narrative of being the resurgent Congress post-Bharat Jodo Yatra well capable of beating the BJP. Second, it loses all its bargaining chips with its partners thereby weakening its own position of contesting any significant volume of seats let alone winning.

And finally, if the performance of the Congress is average winning 1 out 4 or 2 out 4, in which it is likely to retain Chhattisgarh (its best bet) and probably manage to win MP, still the bragging honours will be limited to winning two states which it had won in 2018 as well.

It is therefore understood as to why Congress wants to do all discussions on seat sharing etc. only after 3rd Dec, when the results will be out for these rounds of elections.  And it is not going to be a pleasant experience discussing seat sharing with its alliance partners against whom it had just fought and won the battle in case it does well and if it doesn’t do well, rue the fact that the allies chipped away the Anti-BJP votes away from it.

It is therefore an unenviable situation Congress is in and thus its conundrum is visible in the way it has put in cold storage all its moves with respect to INDI Alliance. This has put the alliance constituents in quite a discomfort obvious from the public utterances of its leaders like Arvind Kejriwal, Akhilesh Yadav and Nitish against the Congress.

For the Congress, it is a case of Lose – you lose and Win – you lose.

0 thoughts on “The Conundrum for the Congress this election season!”

  1. Good one Anand. Brilliantly captured Cong’s potential predicament post 3rd Dec.
    – Though translating arithmetic to reality is not easy & not always possible, still a good reference point is >40% doesn’t vote for BJP in parliament elections. So on paper BJP is not invincible
    – Then will it be possible to capture 60% votes by bringing together all parties only on the anti-Modi/BJP plank without any other common theme? Will attacking Adani an effective ploy to get at Modi? Will it not expose the lack of any other singular credible people issue to attack Modi ?
    – In democracy & electoral battle credibility of a leader is important and that determines his or her ability to gather votes. Who is the credible face or the one that 60% of electorate has faith n trust ?

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