The revival of Congress in Maharashtra amidst the loud bickering was largely overshadowed by the re-affirmation of Marathas in Sharad Pawar. But overall, while the Maharashtra assembly election had something to cheer for the opposition parties, Haryana’s results are a pure delight for Congress. The old patriarchs, Pawar and Hooda, proved once again that old tigers are still roaring loud and are capable of not only protecting their bastion but also doing some serious damage whenever under-estimated.
In Haryana, Hooda and the other young Chautala, hailed as the scion of Jat’s politics seem to have broken the invincible demeanour of the BJP for now and have definitely unsettled the Ahem and Veham (ignorance and arrogance) of the BJP’s local leadership. In Maharastra, the octogenarian Sharad Pawar not only proved that he is still very jawan (young) but he also re-established that he is young enough to decimate any challenger in his home turf. It still doesn’t take away the strong possibility that not only in Maharashtra, where BJP-Shiv Sena combine has a comfortable majority but also in Haryana, the BJP will form a government, given its deft hand in claiming the center-stage. These encouraging results for the non-BJP fronts might not be able to affect a change of hands at the helm, yet.
A simplistic analysis will reveal that this election reaffirmed the assumptions that national issues do not influence local assembly, much to the disappointment of BJP, which included a high decibel campaign to milk successful removal of Article 370 in both state election rallies. But such an analysis has to include the fact that such an effect is palpable only in region/states where there does not exist a strong anti (or non)- BJP leadership.
Wherever the local leadership is stronger, BJP pushing the debates on a nationalistic plank will suffer. Such has been felt, post the arrival of Modi-led BJP in South Indian states, including Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal, Delhi, and even in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh in early 2019. Although, the last three had been a lost opportunity to the anti-BJP conglomeration in the light of Lok Sabha results in 2019, where people again voted for Modi-led BJP.
Regional Kshatraps of the Congress lost their footholds due to their long association with power, and hence igniting strong anti-Kshtrap (and hence anti-Congress) sentiment in their constituencies. Hence, the real loss of Congress leadership had been in not being able to inspire and establish new leadership in their regional units. Only recently INC orchestrated a hypocritical-process of re-electing the mother over the son of Nehru family. The inability to look beyond the family, while it continues to look for a sabbatical (if not total abstinence) from active politics, reflects that there still, is no light at the end of the tunnel.
There is little doubt that only Congress-led front has the footprint to put any serious challenge to BJP’s rhetoric at the national level, but the grand old party is still stuck in a paradox. While its young scion has long desired to re-connect with the masses, it’s old guards, and the ablest lieutenants want less of him in their Kshatraps. The paradox is that re-imagining Congress can lead to the sublimation of Congress. The other strong regional leaders have their history soiled for being too parochial in their vision beyond their region.
Pawar and Hooda represent the same kind of old guards. BJP’s success owes much to its deftness in playing with these fault lines exceptionally well—as it does with Modi-fying the BJP. The results howsoever encouraging for the opposition parties, still fell short of putting any brave fight at the national level. With the re-emergence of a nationalistic fervor across the country, having a weak opposition without an acceptable counter-vision is fatal. The Congress and other national parties had long ignored the appeal due to their politics of convenience. Now facing the behemoth, they can continue to do at their own peril, but they need to understand the ground beneath is caving very fast.
The above article was first published here.