OPINION | HOW MODI SHATTERED CONGRESS PLANS?

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The stunning hat-trick by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the three Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh has dealt a stunning blow to the Congress-led opposition alliance. The only consolation was Telangana, where Congress won. On Sunday evening, addressing party workers in the BJP headquarters, Modi said, “By giving a hat-trick, the people have now guaranteed a hat-trick for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections”. Modi said the lesson that should be drawn from the election results is that people have shown zero-tolerance towards corruption, dynastic politics and appeasement politics. “This election result is the stamp of approval from the people to carry on with the fight against corruption…The Ghamandia (I.N.D.I.A) coalition lacks the zeal for service to the people and it is full of negativity and abusiveness”, he said. Modi said, today’s result sounds like a warning to those who are obstructing development, indulging in corruption and are helping anti-national forces. “Reform yourselves otherwise the people will finish you forever”, the PM told the opposition. With his speech, Modi set the agenda for next year’s general elections. BJP is going to fight the elections on the agenda of development, backed by what the PM called, “Modi Ki Guarantee”. Modi knows that the opposition parties will become more united after Sunday’s defeat and may try to spoil the atmosphere, but he advised party workers not to get trapped in negativity. His message was for the youth, women and farmers too. The problem with the opposition is that it lacks a fine orator like Modi. A leader whose persona has a magnetic effect and he commands a clean and spotless image. The opposition parties are yet to regain their composure after the stunning defeat. Sunday’s victory was historic. It was the fifth electoral victory in Madhya Pradesh by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan with BJP winning 163 out of 230 seats, leaving 66 seats for the Congress. The Chhattisgarh result was stunning. All the exit polls had predicted a Congress victory, but BJP upturned the tables by winning 54 out of 90 seats leaving 35 for the Congress. In Rajasthan, there was an undercurrent which Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot felt during polling, but he could not gauge in whose favour was the undercurrent going. BJP won 115 out of 199 seats, leaving 70 for the Congress. In Telangana, the people gave a ‘bye, bye’ to Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao, with the Congress winning 65 out of 119 seats, leaving 39 for KCR’s Bharat Rashtra Samithi. There is hectic political activity going in the four states for selecting chief ministers.      MADHYA PRADESH   The Madhya Pradesh result was surprising. BJP has been in power for 20 years, with Shivraj Singh Chouhan as the CM for 18 years. Congress had rested its hopes on anti-incumbency sentiment among voters, but BJP put a dampener on such hopes. Neither the BJP nor the Congress leaders anticipated this result. The people of Madhya Pradesh stunned both. Chouhan’s stature is surely going to rise after this victory. He was being written off during the election campaign. On Sunday, Chouhan won by a record margin of 1,04,974 votes from Budhni constituency. The credit for BJP’s landslide victory goes to the hard toil put in by Chouhan who addressed more than 160 public meetings. Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, worked for nearly three months in the war room, executing the party’s poll strategy. As an after-effect,  Jyotiraditya Scindia, who joined the BJP after his revolt against the Congress leadership, will get his due place in his new party and he may be given a bigger responsibility. The political future of Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh, both old warhorses of the Congress, is almost certainly over. For Digvijay Singh, it was a double embarrassment as his son Jaivardhan Singh barely managed to win the traditional Raghogarh seat by a margin of only 4,505 votes.  Digivijaya’s brother Laxman Singh lost from Chachoura by a huge margin of 61,570 votes to BJP’s Priyanka Penchi. The love and affection that the people of Madhya Pradesh showered on Chouhan has surprised everybody.   RAJASTHAN   Congress got a severe shock in Rajasthan. Gehlot could not gauge that the undercurrent among voters was against his party. Most of the exit polls proved wrong, and the BJP got a resounding majority.  Eight independent candidates, most of them rebels, and seven candidates from smaller parties won. 16 ministers from Gehlot’s cabinet lost. They included Pratap Singh Khachriawas, Govind Ram Meghwal, Bhanwar Singh Bhati, Shakuntala Rawat, Vishwendra Singh, Ramesh Chandra Meena, Shaley Muhammad, Zahida Khan, B D Kalla, Bhanwar Lal Jatav, Parsadi Lal Meena, Ram Lal Jat and others. Gehlot had fielded six of his advisers. Out of them, five lost. They included Sanyam Lodha, Rajkumar Sharma, Babulal Nagar, Danish Abrar and former chief secretary Niranjan Arya. It is a fact that the Congress party had been facing a battle between Gehlot and his bete noire Sachin Pilot and the common voters were fed up of this feud. Pilot had toiled hard to make his party win five years ago as state party chief. He had addressed more than 240 rallies in 2018, but when he was denied the plum post of CM, he and his supporters revolted in 2020. Gehlot removed Pilot from the post of deputy CM and he was also removed from the state party chief post. This time, Gehlot denied tickets to several supporters of Pilot. The result: Sachin Pilot did not toil as hard as he should have done. He only addressed 24 rallies, and won his Tonk seat by a margin of 29,475 votes. The other Gurjar leader who won on Congress ticket was Ashok Chandna. He won by 45,004 votes. Six Gurjar candidates on BJP tickets won. The message from the people of Rajasthan is loud and clear. One cannot cheat people by making false promises or inducements. The Congress tried all experiments from Rs 50 lakh health insurance, to monthly payouts to women, senior citizens, farmers and unemployed youths. But the electorate rejected these promises. The people preferred strong, spotless, effective and decisive leadership. BJP fought the elections without any chief ministerial face, and went to the people in the name of Modi. The people reposed their trust in Modi’s guarantee. Naturally, questions will now be raised about Gehlot’s political future. Sachin Pilot will have to chalk out his own path. To sit out for five more years could be politically suicidal for a young leader like him. The after-effects of the Rajasthan election result will be seen in the coming few months.   CHHATTISGARH   The voters of Chhattisgarh belied all claims made by exit pollsters. The exit polls had predicted a clear majority for Congress but were proved wrong. BJP’s win in this state is purely because of Modi’s image and ‘guarantee’. During the elections, the BJP lacked a strong organization and leadership and there were no preparations worth the name. It appeared as if the party had already surrendered, but two weeks before polling, Modi changed the way the wind was blowing. Congress had made promises to buy paddy and cow dung from farmers, and promised free education for students from kindergarten till post-graduate courses, but Modi guaranteed a better life for all. The people trusted Modi’s guarantee. It remains to be seen how Modi will fulfil people’s expectations in Chhattisgarh.     The defeats in Chhattisgarh, MP and Rajasthan are a big setback for Congress. All the hopes of the main opposition party for 2024 polls were based on securing victories in these three states. The Congress wanted to lead the I.N.D.I.A alliance of opposition parties. The path to return to power at the Centre was supposed to pass through these states. Rahul Gandhi did not want to lose these states at any cost. Because of this, contrary to his nature, he accepted all the demands of Ashok Gehlot, Kamal Nath and Bhupesh Baghel. Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi toiled hard and addressed meetings. They promised freebies. One can gauge the depression in Congress circles from the fact that on counting day, hotel rooms had been booked in Karnataka to transport the winning MLAs by planes and helicopters. This responsibility was given to Karnataka Deputy CM DK Shivakumar. But the defeat was such a huge one that all these preparations came to nought. Not a single top Congress leader appeared in the media on Sunday to give reactions. I spoke to a top Congress leader. He said, ‘What can we say now’? He said, ‘Rahul’s Bharat Jodo Yatra had passed through MP and Rajasthan, and nothing was left to chance. Rahul had tried to corner Modi on the OBC and caste census issues, but it fell flat.’ Rahul harped on Adani theme, and lost the three states. He visited temples, recited Hanuman Chalisa, drove a tractor as a farmer, and spent time with truck driver, railway coolies and auto drivers, but none of these helped. Rahul made fun of Modi after India’s ODI World Cup final loss, by describing him as a ‘panauti’ (bad omen), but now the Congressmen find him as a ‘panauti’. In a nutshell, Rahul tried all the means at his disposal, but the arrow did not hit the bull’s eye. The defeat in these three states has poured cold water on Congress’ plans. Another attempt to re-launch Rahul failed. Rahul will now have to hire new advisers. Either the present advisers will have to write a new script for him or they will have to search for new jobs.   TELANGANA   The only silver lining in the gloomy atmosphere came from Telangana, where the Congress will form its government for the first time since it attained statehood. Revanth Reddy, a young leader, will become the chief minister. BRS supremo K Chandrashekhar Rao’s decade-old regime has come to an end. While BRS ally AIMIM, led by Asaduddin Owaisi, retained its seven seats, BJP won eight seats, seven more than last time. Telangana is the only state where the exit polls proved correct. KCR did not appear before the media. He sent his resignation to the Governor from his home. Revanth Reddy and KCR had contested two seats each, but only one seat each. In Kamareddy, both KCR and Revanth Reddy faced each other, both lost, and the seat went to BJP candidate Katipally Venkata Ramanna Reddy, who defeated KCR by 6,741 votes. BJP’s vote percentage in Telangana has increased to 13.9 per cent. Congress did come to power in Telangana this time, but it is a fact that the BJP has increased its base in the state for the first time. This is surely going to cause tension for Congress, KCR and Owaisi. The election result is a warning signal for KCR’s party. KCR had changed the old name of his party TRS to BRS because he wanted to be active in national politics. He was fully confident of winning this election and had planned to hand over power to his son K T Rama Rao and come to Delhi. But the people of Telangana have spoiled his plans. It may be that BRS may have to revert back to its old nomenclature TRS. The Congress had focussed on Muslim voters in Telangana this time and succeeded. And now, the BJP is going to take advantage of this. It will try to mobilize Hindu voters. The after-effect will be seen in next year’s general elections. That is why, on Sunday evening, Modi said, “The people of Telangana have opened the door for BJP…The day is not far when the people of Telangana will open the door of their hearts for BJP.”

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