Out of my mind: Endgame

It was clear a few weeks ago that the BJP could emerge as the single largest party in Assam. This is one more brick in its status as the sole national party.

Written by Meghnad Desai | Updated: May 22, 2016 12:40:48 am
Assam elections, assam election results, Assam assembly elections 2016, BJP Assam election results 2016, India news Bharatiya Janata Party, (BJP) leader Sarbanada Sonowal, center, greet his supporters after party won state assembly elections in Guwahati. (AP Photo)

It was not Rahul’s fault. The reverses Congress faced last Thursday in the elections can be blamed on climate change, the nuclear threat, the shocking fall in oil prices, El Niño but not Rahul Gandhi. Once that is clear, we can understand the secrets of India’s politics.

It was clear a few weeks ago that the BJP could emerge as the single largest party in Assam. This is one more brick in its status as the sole national party. Its vote share has risen in areas where it was a newcomer. The Assam strategy was smart. It used a local face to project as CM candidate. The BJP helped its allies win votes. The bid to establish a Gogoi dynasty in Assam failed.

The problem is for the Congress and Left. The Congress now has only one large state, Karnataka, to its account. The CPM has Kerala, not large but of a significant size. The Congress was poison for the DMK, which could have won without the Congress as its partner. The CPM cadre in West Bengal never liked the alliance with the Congress. The CPM vote was transferred to the Congress. No reverse transfer could take place because the Congress has no vote to transfer in West Bengal.

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Thus when in the future the issue of coalitions comes up, the Congress will be seen as toxic. It will definitely not lead a coalition in 2019. It may not even be admitted to a coalition even as a third party as it was in Bihar. Since it will not rid itself of the dynastic leadership, we can watch its decline, patiently waiting for the predictable demise. It will be like a three-hour Bollywood blockbuster where you know how it will end even before it begins. Prashant Kishor may as well quit before he loses his reputation as a winner.

But the CPM also has a problem. It won in Kerala despite fissures. But it has now lost West Bengal for good. Its seesaw between liking and hating the Congress continues in a baffling fashion. It thrived under Congress patronage during Harkishan Singh Surjeet’s days. But the bust-up with the UPA-I on the nuclear issue decimated it at the federal level. Now having befriended the Congress in West Bengal (with no benefit) and fought it in Kerala, the time has come for the CPM to turn itself into multiple regional parties. A Bangla Samyawadi Party could challenge the TMC. A Malayalee Communist Front would perpetuate itself. What does not work is the CPM as a national party.

This is because Jayalalithaa and Mamata Banerjee have proved the profits of playing local rather than national. You are better off as a solid regional party than aspiring to be a national challenger. Mayawati could learn from this to abandon her efforts outside Uttar Pradesh to garner votes. There is also a lesson here for AAP. Its Delhi base is too narrow for its ambitions. But it cannot become a national party quickly. It has a chance now to displace the Congress in Punjab as a first step to becoming a regional power. UP already has two powerful regional players in the SP and BSP. The BJP will no doubt disrupt the arithmetic. It may yet emerge as a kingmaker.

In the meantime, Assam is a gift for the second anniversary for the BJP. It is well earned.

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