Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge has finally broken his silence over seat-sharing in the five poll bound states going to polls in November, but only to express party’s confident mood. “We will see this. Let the 5-state election take place first,” Kharge has said implying that there will be no seat-sharing arrangement for the Vidhan Sabha elections.
Several senior Congress leaders have also been saying that they have not initiated talks on the sharing formula and they are waiting for the assembly poll results before announcing the same. In their confidence, however, the party’s joint leadership has been facing all sorts of odds including pressure from INDIA alliance partners to have seat-sharing arrangement in the poll-bound states while risking division of anti-BJP votes. Additional troubles they are facing are continued ED raids on congress leaders and their associates, that has been weakening the party’s electoral campaigns and preparedness.
Though party leadership has been showing brave face before the electorate, certain statements of the Congress leaders including of Rahul Gandhi and party president Mallikarjun Kharge itself betrays their confidence to some extent. Such as while answering whether the upcoming poll is semi final for the Lok Sabah election, Kharge categorically said, “No that is not the case. Every state has different election issues, voting is done as per those. Parliament elections are different from Assembly elections … PM Modi calls every election a poll to elect him – Municipal elections, Assembly elections… . Is he himself going to become CM? So, people vote for local leaders, who worked and resolved their issues.”
Even Rahul Gandhi has earlier said the Congress would win the four states. “I would say, right now, we are probably winning Telangana, we are certainly winning Madhya Pradesh, we are certainly winning Chhattisgarh. Rajasthan, we are very close, and we think we will be able to win.”
These two statements and many others betrays the general confidence among the Congress rank and file. Why Kharge rejected the idea of these elections being considered as semi-final for the Lok Sabah election 2024, when political analysts in general have been considering these state elections being held just before the Lok Sabha election to be semi-final, and also the BJP is emphasizing now that these elections are semi-final for the Lok Sabha election 2024? There must be some doubt prevailing in the mind of Congress President, or he is avoiding any awkward situation in case Congress does not perform well as it is expected to at present.
As for the Rahul Gandhi’s statement, since the ground reality in Telangana is not favouring the Congress enabling it to topple the ruling BRS, his claim of winning Telangana can be considered as sign of overconfidence.. However, his statement that they are “very close” to win Rajasthan, manifests some electoral weaknesses in that state.
Nevertheless, the joint Congress leadership in the Centre and in the states has so far been performing well. They have definitely succeeded in making the party resurgent in the last one year, especially after Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra since September 2022. In November 2022 Vidhan Sabha election in Himachal Pradesh, the party was able to throw the ruling BJP out of power by spectacular win of 40 seats in a 68-seat assembly. Later in May 2023 in Karnataka it rendered a humiliating defeat to the ruling BJP by winning 135 seats in a 224-seats assembly. An additional reason for the present confidence is that Congress won them by shattering the so called “invincible charisma of PM Modi” and RSS-BJP’s all efforts of communalising the elections.
As we reach closer to the November assembly election in Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Telangana, the Congress seems to have continuously been gaining popularity. The Central leadership has been by and large successful in containing infighting within the Congress to the minimal compared to severe infighting prevailing in the BJP.
Congress is set to gain in Mizoram where the ruling NDA is suffering from strained relationship between MNF and BJP. CM of Mizoram and MNF leader has refused to share same platform for joint political rallies. It is the fallout of the Manipur violence continuing since May. It is advantage Congress, not only in Mizoram but the entire North East. Reports emanating from the state suggest that Congress may spring surprises by winning unexpected number of seats in Mizoram.
As for Telangana, Congress may not be able to defeat the ruling BRS, but certainly will perform well by winning more seats and increasing share of votes.
In Chhattisgarh, Congress has very good chance of retaining power. The party is in close contest in Rajasthan with the BJP, but still has upper hand and hence most likely to retain power. In Madhya Pradesh, Congress’ popularity is on the surge, and the ruling BJP is trying hard to retain power. BJP is suffering from the double anti-incumbency both as a ruling establishment in the state and the Centre.
There are several other reasons for the Congress’ Confidence before the assembly elections. Nevertheless, the real test for the Congress will be in the forthcoming Lok Sabha election 2024, in which the party cannot perform so well singlehandedly. Congress is dominant political force in these five states and no other INDIA alliance partners has much support base, but in other states it is just the reverse.
The present confidence of the Congress will have to be brought down to ground reality. For example, rift emerged between SP and Congress on the seat-sharing issue in Madhya Pradesh, has escalate to Uttar Pradesh, where SP is dominant political party while Congress has little support base. SP leader Akhilesh Yadav is angry over disrespectful language used by Congress leader Kamal Nath when he said, “Akhilesh wakhilesh chhodo”.
Now Lucknow Pradesh Congress headquarter has put a billboard with Rahul as 2024 PM, which has been criticised by Samajwadi Partly leaders. Congress leadership hope that the assembly election result would give them better elbow room to negotiate for more seats with INDIA allies. However, it runs a risk of unnecessarily antagonising the alliance partners. Seat sharing formula so far has not been declared, and it is getting late, since it would not be going to be easy as we have been seeing in case of Uttar Pradesh, where Congress has been willing to contest more seats compared to its electoral strength in the state. (IPA Service)