Rahul Gandhi has turned into the star campaigner and the biggest hope for the BJP. Yes, you read it right; the Congress vice president indeed has many in the BJP praying for his success in this election.
Rahul’s road show in Ballimaran—home of the legendary poet Mirza Ghalib—drew an impressive crowd on Wednesday. Before that, during his rally on the outskirts of the city, Rahul generated generous laughter and rapturous applause when he accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of wearing a ‘Rs 10-lakh suite.’ Both the developments must have made the BJP happy.
To win this election, the BJP needs the Congress to remain in contention and do well, at least in its traditional constituencies. But pre-poll surveys show that the Congress is in free fall and its vote share is disappearing at escape velocity. The AAP is the biggest beneficiary of the decline of the Congress. Most of the surveys suggest that out of the every 10 voters the Congress is losing, almost seven are going to Kejriwal.
In 2013, the Congress got around 25 per cent votes in Delhi and won eight seats. The AAP polled around 29 per cent votes and the BJP’s share was 33 per cent. Surveys suggest the Congress is losing around 10 per cent votes in this election. But the BJP’s share is going up by just three per cent, the rest of the voters have been swept away by jhadoo. Naturally, the BJP wants Rahul to arrest the slide and ensure that the Congress doesn’t slip further.
But the Congress appears to be in no mood to oblige, it is rolling over without a fight. Kejriwal feels the Congress will not open its account in this election and the 70 seats in Delhi will be divided among the BJP and AAP. “The Congress needs to win a seat to be in a position to offer support,” he told TV channels when asked if he would seek the party’s support if there is a hung assembly. Many surveys predict the Congress tally would be between 2 and 7. But the feeling on the ground is that the Congress is headed for a complete wipeout.
A survey conducted by Zee TV says Congress leader Ajay Makan will struggle to save his deposit and Kiran Walia will be a distant third in the New Delhi constituency. Even in constituencies dominated by minority voters, the AAP has replaced the Congress as the first choice.
The decline of the Congress explains the BJP’s consternation in Delhi. When it won the Lok Sabha polls, leading in nearly 60 Assembly segments, the party assumed that it will benefit from the flight of voters from the Congress. The vote share—BJP 47 per cent, AAP 33 and Congress 15—convinced it that it has snared almost all the Congress voters. But most of these Congress voters seem to have switched again, this time to the AAP.
Perhaps this is the first sign that Modi has lost the power to attract fence sitters and traditional supporters of other parties.
To BJP’s credit, it has retained most of the support it enjoyed in 2013; it may have even gained a few more voters. Yet it is losing out because of the consolidation of the anti-BJP votes under Kejriwal.
This is a worrying sign for the BJP, especially because this is not the first time since the Lok Sabha polls that a united opposition is threatening to beat Modi’s popularity. Recent trend shows that wherever the opposition unites, either because of an alliance or a bipolar contest, the BJP ends up losing.
In September 2014, the BJP had lost eight out of the 11 seats in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly by-elections. Later, it lost six out of ten seats in the by-elections in Bihar. Both these states had a common factor: a united opposition. While in UP the Bahujan Samajwadi Party had opted out of the race, leaving the opposition field open for the Samajwadi Party, in Bihar Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar had joined hands.
Since the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP has won in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and improved its performance in Jammu (in Kashmir it failed). In all these states, the opposition was fragmented and the anti-BJP vote was divided.
The BJP would be hoping that the Congress inadvertently helps its cause in Delhi by doing better than expected and dividing the anti-BJP votes. Modi had once dreamt of a Congress-mukt Bharat. If this happens, we will also see a BJP-mukt Delhi as collateral damage.
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Updated Date: Feb 05, 2015 17:29:52 IST