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HT EDIT -Two parties, two stories The BJP and Congress poll strategies are a study in contrast

September 23, 2019 04:54 AM


Two parties, two stories
The BJP and Congress poll strategies are a study in contrast
Maharashtra and Haryana go to polls on October 21. This is the first set of assembly elections after the Lok Sabha polls. The polls are happening in the backdrop of extremely significant decisions by the Narendra Modi government, particularly its move to change the constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir. It is taking place amid an economic slowdown. These issues will shape voter preferences, as will state-specific factors, and the performance of the respective governments over the past five years. But fundamentally, the two polls are a study in contrast about functioning of India’s two national parties.

Soon after the Lok Sabha elections ended, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) began preparations for the Maharashtra and Haryana polls. The party narrowed down on the target for each state; threw its weight behind the incumbent chief ministers, Devendra Fadnavis and Manohar Lal Khattar, thus stemming the possibility of any internal jostling; identified issues and possible candidates; activated workers who had just finished with the national polls to go back to voters; and appointed national in-charges for the states. It deployed Mr Fadnavis and Mr Khattar on state-wide yatras; commenced rallies by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president and home minister Amit Shah; and unleashed a propaganda blitz on the achievements of the respective governments. By the time polls were announced on Saturday, discussions in the BJP were not about whether they would win in the two states — but the extent of the victory.

The Congress, meanwhile, spent the past four months paralysed. It dealt with a national crisis of leadership when Rahul Gandhi resigned as president, with an alternative in Sonia Gandhi being found only last month. Factionalism in poll-bound states persisted, with the sharpest being in Haryana. A compromise formula was found only in early September on the issue of leadership in the state. It is struggling with the desertion of leaders in Maharashtra. The party has not been able to identify issues — or target the BJP on the ground on its sources of vulnerability like the economy. And its social coalitions in both the states is weak. The two stories of the two parties shows Indian democratic competition is becoming increasingly one-sided

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