Assembly Elections 2016: Not so gloomy for Congress, not so rosy for BJP

Thanks to the wonderful performance of the spin doctors belonging to the “Congress-mukt Bharat” camp, we have now been led to believe that the grand old Indian National Congress is almost gone for good.

We have also been gripped by the perception that the Bharatiya Janata Party will, sooner rather than later, be marching ahead winning elections across the nation from Kamrup in the East to Kutch in the West, Kashmir in the North to Kanyakumari in the South.

Assembly Elections 2016. Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

And all this would happen by 2019. Little wonder then that an over-zealous Times of India came up with this front page banner headline Friday morning: “A Congless India, Almost”.

But a spin is a spin. And perceptions and realities often differ in politics. Scratch the surface just a little and you will come up with at least three political realities that may not jell well with the current perception:

First, Congress has bagged 115 seats in total compared to the BJP’s overall tally of 64 in the recently concluded Assembly elections in five states. This effectively means that the BJP could win just four seats in as many states if you leave aside Assam.

By now all the details are out in the open. The Congress has, in fact, bettered its performance in three states – West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

After a long, long time in West Bengal, the grand old party finds itself placed in the second spot with 44 seats – 11 seats above the combined strength of the Left. That’s no mean achievement in the face of what is now known as “didigiri” on one hand and big brotherly attitude of the leftists on the other.

The BJP remains stuck at three seats even as the Congress could raise its tally by two seats compared to the 2011 Assembly elections. In Tamil Nadu, the Congress won eight seats this time against five in the 2011 polls.

And in Puducherry, the party has now got 15 seats compared to just seven in the 2011 Assembly elections.

Second, even a casual look at the voting percentage figures makes it clear that Amit Shah’s party couldn’t match its 2014 performance in four of the five states that went to polls – not even in Assam where the BJP could get just above 29 percent votes on its own this time. At the peak of the Modi wave in 2014, the BJP had polled here over 36 percent votes.

Indeed, Kerala is the only state in India where the BJP could match its 2014 performance – voting percentage wise. It’s a different thing if the party could win a solitary seat in this southern state.

Third, BJP’s ignominious defeat in Bihar and morale-boosting victory in Assam are more or less similar in nature and spirit. The only difference is that Amit Shah’s party was at the receiving end of a potent coalition called “mahagathbandhan” in Bihar compared to Assam where the party romped home on the strength of a rainbow coalition of not-so-similar political forces. The Congress refused to learn lessons from Bihar. But the BJP did – and quite commendably at that.

Few people know that in the second week of December last year, the Congress, the AIUDF and the AGP had almost stitched a deal to fight the Assembly elections together in Assam.

Prompted by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, a series of meetings had taken place in this regard in New Delhi. Everything had been decided upon and only a formal announcement remained to be made in this regard.

Even Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi wanted this alliance to materialise. But there is always a gap between the proverbial cup and the lips.

For reasons best known to himself and his son, it was Tarun Gogoi who set his foot down and called off the formal announcement. The alliance was dead even before it was born.

The fate of the Congress was sealed in turn. Can you imagine what would have happened in Assam, had this proposed coalition seen the light of day?

The BJP, which had been smarting under the weight of the Bihar debacle, had learnt its lessons rather well. Ably aided by Sarbananda Sonowal, who had migrated to BJP from AGP, and Himanta Biswa Sarma, who had joined the saffron camp deserting the Congress, Amit Shah didn’t lose time in stitching a coalition with AGP and BPF.

The day this alliance was formed, Himanta Biswa Sarma, who happened to be Tarun Gogoi’s master strategist in the earlier days, declared: “The BJP will win hands down”. And they did win hands down. Their confidence was based on the failure of the Congress to stitch an alliance with AIUDF and AGP.

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Updated Date: May 21, 2016 14:24:31 IST

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