As much as the media hypes the Karnataka tryst at the hustings as a major indicator for what will happen in 2019, the fact remains that both events are mutually exclusive. The general elections are a year away and no one will care or remember what happened in Karnataka in May 2018.
This emphasis on these state elections being crucial indicators sounds impressive but really does not hold much water. No voter across the country stands in line to cast his ballot thinking: Oh my goodness, I must vote for this party because it won an election a year ago in one of the states. By next week, it will be history and of no relevance to anyone but the editorial brigade. The winners will crow, the losers will lick their wounds and that is it.
It is a largely fanciful projection that we are hearing and whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi will win another five years in office will largely depend on the gaffes that occur between now and election date, the state of the economy, the level of disaffection in the unemployed, the degree of satisfaction in the rural enclaves and the credibility of the Opposition parties to provide a valid challenge as a combined entity.
The maturing of Congress president Rahul Gandhi is a work in slow progress and a nationwide mandate still looks a bit outside his ambit. Does he have any rabbits in his hat to underscore his spoken intent to wear the prime minister's mantle? It is still a matter of conjecture. By default, the BJP leadership continues to give him artificial respiration by acknowledging his every word and making him larger an entity than he is. One wonders: What is the strategy in this approach? Even Modi finds it necessary to equate himself with Rahul, a fact that must make the younger adversary happy as a bunny in clover.
It would be safe to say the BJP is probably Rahul’s best petrol station: They constantly tank him up and keep him running.
While the achhe din slogan is not going to fly very high in 2019, the BJP will need to see beyond its Hindutva priorities and chisel out a new image: Whether from within or through professional spin doctors and PR machines, that's still an open question. The BJP used an ad agency in 2014 and may wish to repeat that experiment in packaging and marketing.
The BJP might be tempted to run the Ayodhya issue up its flagpole. It might create some chest-thumping flurries but whether it will become a central rallying point for votes is doubtful. It is as nebulous as the label ‘corruption’ and the mudslinging that we can expect over the next year is more likely to put off a jaded public than make it believe the muck is being cleaned up.
Crime and security are usually mentioned as adjuncts but they may well play an increasingly important role. Everything on the ground could change dramatically if the ties with Pakistan enter a rougher patch this winter and Kashmir continues to fester. Any act of mindless terrorism and how it is handled could change the dynamics totally.
What we can be sure of is the divide in the nation over pro and anti Modi elements will intensify and with the Congress fueling itself largely by underscoring the broken promises of 2014, the country need not look forward to these fractious elections with much anticipation because they are going to be cruel and crude.
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Updated Date: May 15, 2018 08:30:50 IST