Congress Pulls A Fast One, Catches BJP on the Wrong Foot

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The surprise air-lifting of the Grand Alliance (Mahajot) candidates from Assam might have been undertaken to flummox the Chanakyas of the Bharatiya Janata Party. As the election result is heading for a dead heat, post-poll poaching cannot be ruled out.

Those candidates who have better chance of winning the election have been moved out of Assam and put up at a resort in Jaipur as the Congress-led Mahajot feared that they are more prone to be poached than those who have contested but are not very sure of their victory.

Curiously, a sizeable number of those moved out of Assam are the candidates of Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front. As throughout the campaign the BJP bigwigs had been primarily targeting AIUDF and blaming it for the infiltration, it is strange that the saffron party was really eyeing on them for any post-poll deal.

Besides, as most of the AIUDF candidates have fought from Muslim-dominated Lower Assam Assembly constituencies the chances of their winning election are better than other nominees of the different Mahajot constituents. Even in 2016 Assembly poll the AIUDF won most of the 13 seats it had then bagged from here, though it contested separately and not in alliance with the Congress.

As the BJP managed to get its own chief minister installed within hours of the March 11, 2017 election results in Goa even though the Congress emerged as the largest single party, the Grand Old Party might have taken extra precaution to prevent horse-trading this time.

Even in Manipur the Congress, which won 28 seats in the House of 60 in the election held in the same March 2017, it is the NDA which formed the government though it got only 21 seats.

The extra-ordinary manner in which the BJP central leadership managed to poach MLAs in Goa was in total contrast to the development in Uttar Pradesh, where too the results came exactly on the same date. Here though the saffron party and its allies won around 325 seats in the 403-member House, it took one full week to elect a chief minister. After the result there were speculations in the media that the then minister of state for railways, Manoj Sinha, would take oath as the chief minister. But after seven days of uncertainty the name of Yogi Adityanath suddenly emerged and he was sworn in as the CM.

Thus, it is easy for the BJP to get installed a chief minister in the state where the party had failed to secure majority than in those where it wins by over three-fourths margin.

In Uttarakhand which too went to poll in March 2017 the BJP won 57 out of 70 seats. Here again it took ten days for the new chief minister to take office. But the demand to change the chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat started emerging within months of the latter taking oath. Before the 2019 Lok Sabha election the demand became much stronger, but the party managed to overcome the crisis.

However, last month the central leadership had to buckle under the pressure and get rid of him. But this time the party came up with a surprise name, Tirath Singh Rawat, though he was nowhere in the race till the last moment.

In Karnataka, the Congress tried to beat the BJP in its own turf by immediately announcing the decision to back H D Kumaraswamy of Janata Dal-Secular as the chief minister though it had won 80 seats against 37 by the latter in the election held in May 2018.  In the House of 224 the BJP could win 104 seats. But months later the saffron party adopted a strange method of getting a sizeable number of the Congress and JD-S legislators resign and thus secure majority in the House whose strength had come down.

Money power played a significant role in the whole game. The BJP ensured the victories in the by-poll to the MLAs who quit their respective parties as well as seats to cross over.

Similar play was re-enacted in March 2020 in Madhya Pradesh when several Congress legislators under the leadership of Jyotiraditya Scindia was made to quit. The 15-month long Kamal Nath government fell and on March 23, that is just a day before the March 24 lockdown, Shivraj Singh Chauhan once again took oath as the chief minister of the state.

As the Congress had been unable to keep its flock together in Goa, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, it is much more vigilant this time, when the candidates having fair chance of winning have been moved out. Reports also said that they have been given new phones so that they could not be contacted by anyone.

Incidentally, the candidates of Assam have been shifted to the same Jaipur hotel, when Rajasthan too witnessed a similar drama at the height of corona virus last July.

However, the Ashok Gehlot government managed to overcome the crisis. The stature of Rajasthan chief minister within the party had increased. So, he has been trusted with the responsibility of keeping the House in order and out-manoeuvre the BJP.

After all, in November 2019 the BJP lost in its own game in Maharashtra where it was deprived of the opportunity to return to power even after winning the largest number of seats. In the process it also lost one of the oldest allies, Shiv Sena. The saffron party is still trying to take revenge.

If the BJP has mastered the art of overcoming the barriers created by the Anti-Defection Laws, the Congress has come up with a new idea of shifting out the candidates (even of alliance partners) from the scene.

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