#Elections2019: Priyanka Gandhi Effect: Mahagathbandhan ‘Cholbe Na’ for Congress

The Congress has announced that it will adopt a policy of Ekla Chalo Re in the key states of Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal for the Lok Sabha polls scheduled in April-May 2019. This comes days after the party appointed Priyanka Gandhi as General Secretary and in-charge of Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

This has punctured the hopes of a nationwide mahagathbandhan to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. After months of parley, no concrete movement has taken place regarding the grand alliance and the one-to-one-contest concept.

The last nail in the coffin was hammered by Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati. The day the mahagathbandhan for Uttar Pradesh was announced, she attacked the Congress with the same intensity with which she attacked the BJP.

The Congress had no choice but to dump these efforts and focus on doing well on a standalone basis. With less than a 100 days left for voting, the party chose to stick to the partners who are already a part of the UPA, rather than look for new partnerships now. This is a big setback for anti-Modi forces in the country. Many people are already blaming the Congress for its failure to bring the whole Opposition under one roof, suggesting that this will help the BJP.

The Grand Old’s Party victory in the three Hindi-heartland states has boosted the morale of the party workers. The formal entry of Priyanka Gandhi, party strategists feel, will improve the party’s prospects among the youth and women. It will also provide a fillip to its UP prospects where, with just two seats, the Congress has nothing to lose.

The party is likely to damage the prospects of both the BJP and the SP-BSP alliance by attracting votes from the core constituencies of Brahmins (BJP) and Dalits-Muslims (SP-BSP).

Congress strategists feel it is in a better position to defeat the BJP nationally. Regional parties can tame the BJP in some states, but it is up to the Congress to defeat the saffron party on a pan-India basis.

Reasons Why Congress Has Decided to Fight Alone

1. Complementary Vote Blocks

Many regional parties have been formed out of anti-Congressism.

Trinamool Congress is a splinter group of the Grand Old Party, though it is now the bigger brother in Bengal. The Telugu Desam Party has always been opposing the Congress tooth and nail in Andhra. Parties like the TMC and Aam Aadmi Party, even SP-BSP, have complementary vote blocks as the Congress – Dalits, minorities, the poor and downtrodden. Allying with regional parties disturbs the Congress’ long-term strategy of growing and becoming strong in these states.

This means that in 11 states, accounting for half of the Lok Sabha strength, the contest is likely to be triangular or multi-cornered.

(Source: http://www.politicalbaba.com)
(Source: http://www.politicalbaba.com)

2. No Guarantee That Regional Parties Will Support Congress After Results

Two opinion polls aired recently, one of C-Voter and another of Karvy, predicted a hung Parliament. In this scenario, the Congress doesn’t want a situation where the parties it forms mahagathbandhan with, go on and support the BJP after the polls. Many regional parties have been with the NDA in the past or have formed governments with the BJP’s help – Trinamool, TRS, JMM, TDP, PDP, INLD, RLD, BSP, JDS, HAM, RLSP, BJD etc.

3. Regional Parties Gaining Strength Reduces Prospect of Rahul Becoming PM

The opinion polls show that regional parties are likely to play a key role in government formation at the Centre. If they gain strength at the expense of the Congress, then it even dilutes the prospects of Rahul Gandhi to emerge as the PM candidate.

The objective is to keep the BJP out of power and at the same time not let regional parties get the entire benefit of reversals, which the BJP is likely to face.

4. Regional Parties Don’t Help Congress in Key Battle States vs BJP

Many think that the Congress is not able to transfer votes to partners it forms alliances with, and that’s why the party was left out by SP-BSP in UP.

While it is not completely wrong, the Congress thinks these parties do not bring any additional votes to any party outside their home turf. Neither Mamata, Naidu nor Akhilesh can get the Congress votes in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh, etc.

Being a national party, the Congress cannot accept paltry seats in states where it is not that strong, as it will not send a good message. It alone cannot be expected to follow coalition dharma, for a larger cause. And such states account for one-fourth of the Lok Sabha’s strength.

(Source: http://www.politicalbaba.com)

Decision to Have a Likely Impact on Bihar?

The Congress has an alliance in place in four states, accounting for one-fourth of the House’s strength. The seat-sharing discussions in Bihar have become complex with seven-eight parties entering the fray for 40 seats. The Congress is also unhappy with Tejashwi for meeting Mayawati after her scathing attack on the party, and promising her one seat from Bihar.

The two main parties are also divided over the 10 percent reservations issue, as Congress aspirants are mostly from the forward castes, while the RJD has been championing for the rights of backward classes.

(Source: http://www.politicalbaba.com)

To sum up, one-to-one contest has gone for a toss, and the mahagathbandhan has died even before it was born.

This article was first published on thequint.com on 29 Jan, 2019.


#Elections2019: Priyanka Gandhi joins active politics: Congress has thrown its hat in UP, made contest tougher for SP-BSP and BJP

Congress has appointed Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as party’s general secretary for Uttar Pradesh (East). She will take charge in the first week of February 2019 and is likely to contest from Raebareli, the traditional seat of Gandhi family, currently represented by Sonia Gandhi.

Congress leader Motilal Vohra commented on the development and said, “The responsibility given to Priyankaji is very important. This will not only have an effect on eastern Uttar Pradesh but also other regions.” Jyotiraditya Scindia will handle Uttar Pradesh West as the party’s general secretary.

Benefits of Priyanka campaigning

This move is likely to motivate the cadre of Congress, which was feeling low after Bua and Bhatija jodi announced a mahagathbandhan excluding Congress. Congress recorded 7.5 percent vote share in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, retaining only the two family stronghold seats. In the 2017 Assembly elections, the party’s performance declined further, with its vote share reduced to 6.3 percent.

Priyanka bears resemblance to Indira and is likely to attract the female voters who would connect with her far more easily. The turnout of women voters has been increasing over the years. Women are also making independent decisions on voting due to increase in literacy and awareness levels. Congress generally has received higher support from women compared to men in Lok Sabha elections.

Source: CSDS NES 2014

Priyanka in the past has canvassed for party only in Amethi and Raebareli. Her campaign across the state is likely to provide a fillip to fortunes of the party when it is attempting to revive its traditional vote bank of the upper caste (mainly Brahmins and Thakurs), Dalits and Muslims. A section of upper caste, disenchanted with BJP due to its flip-flop on the Ram Mandir issue and not so gung-ho about the 10 percent reservation for economically weaker sections for general class, will be targeted by the party.

The party is likely to attract better candidates for seats as they could now see a higher probability of winning elections on Congress ticket. Even BSP-SP candidates who are likely to be denied tickets due to the mahagathbandhan may flock to Congress for accommodating them.

Big blow to mahagathbandhan

The move is a big setback for the mahagathbandhan, which — despite keeping Congress out — had hoped the party would eventually have a tacit understanding of working with them for the larger cause of defeating BJP. Congress appointing Priyanka and Scindia as general secretaries in-charge of Uttar Pradesh is a clear signal that it will put up a spirited fight and make the contest truly triangular.

The party has not taken well the way Mayawati criticised Congress sharply in the press conference on the day of seat-finalisation of the mahagathbandhan. This is likely to split the anti-BJP vote and help BJP in the state. Congress and the mahagathbandhan share complimentary vote block of Dalits and Muslims and Congress strengthening is likely to be at the expense of the mahagathbandhan.

Over the years, Uttar Pradesh has been witnessing either a regional or national contest. Whenever people have voted on regional considerations, SP and BSP have done well, like in 2004 and 2009 when regional parties won more than half of the seats. Priyanka’s entry will make the contest national as she will be pitched against Modi.

Strategy of BJP disrupted

Priyanka’s entry also complicates matters for BJP as party will try to woo the Brahmin voters of the saffron party. The party will need to come up with a renewed strategy to figure out not only how to tackle the mahagathbandhan but also Congress, which has made Priyanka in-charge of Purvanchal which has 30 seats. BJP swept the region in 2014, bagging 29 seats. Modi contested from Varanasi, which created a wave in favour of the party in 2014.

Source: CSDS NES 2014

Congress hopes to repeat its 2009 performance

Congress finished runner-up in six seats in 2014, despite Modi wave scoring higher than SP and BSP. It finished second runner-up in five seats, getting more votes than either SP or BSP. Its vote share in 12 urban seats of the state is over 12 percent, 5 percent higher than state average.

In 2009, in a surprise result, the party won 21 seats, bagging 18.3 percent vote share. The party’s decision is keeping in mind short-term gains with long-term expansion strategy. It realises that since negotiations with mahagathbandhan was based on past performance, it could never get a good deal.

To sum up, Congress has thrown its hat in Uttar Pradesh by making Priyanka the general secretary. Now, it is all set to give the regional parties a run for their money. The impact of this could also be felt in seat discussions in Bihar.

This post was first published on firstpost.com on Jan 23rd, 2019.

#Elections2019: Third Front talks are fine, but it’s Congress which must beat BJP in its den to oust Narendra Modi in 2019


Mamata Banerjee rounded up her three-day visit to New Delhi by meeting Arvind Kejriwal and Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday, in efforts to put up a ‘Grand Alliance’ against the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. She has given the formula of ‘one-to-one’, implying there should be one united Opposition candidate against the BJP in each seat to put up a tough fight.


Mamata has been leading the talks with regional parties – including NCP, SP, BSP, TRS, RJD etc – to try and repeat a 1977-like experiment, where a majority Opposition contested under one common banner of the Janata Party to oust Indira Gandhi from power.

But the ‘Federal Front’ may not be able to unseat Narendra Modi from the throne in 2019, as some parties may keep out of it, like the Biju Janata Dal. Also because both YSRCP and TDP cannot join the front at the same time and some parties may still stick with the NDA, like the Akali Dal, Lok Janshakti Party and even Shiv Sena. It is the, thus, the Congress which needs to beat the BJP in its own backyard to achieve this ambitious goal.

Historically, BJP plus Congress have received 51 percent and regional parties 49 percent vote share in the Lok Sabha elections from 1951-2014, as shown in the graph below. Regional parties recorded their best performance in 2004, with a 52.6 percent vote share.


Regional parties came into prominence in the 1989 elections, which gave rise to the coalition era from 1989-2014. The tally of BJP plus Congress has been in the range of 280-320 and the tally of the regional parties in the range of 220-260.

Party-wise seat tally.

BJP and Congress have been eating into each other’s vote share and seat tally and the performance of regional parties has remained largely consistent. For example, Congress (206) and BJP (116) together won 322 seats in 2009. In 2014, they together won 326 but switched roles, with BJP on 282 and Congress on 44.

The majority of seats (147/282) which BJP won were in a direct contest with the Congress – in states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Assam, Karnataka, Goa, Arunachal Pradesh and the Union Territories. These accounted for 52 percent of BJP’s total tally.

State-wise seat tally.

Additionally, in Maharashtra, where it was predominantly a BJP+ versus Congress+ contest, BJP won another 23 seats, taking its tally to 60 percent in direct contests. Congress finished runner-up in 224 seats in 2014, approximately two-thirds of these losses were against BJP candidates.

While there is a lot of talk about how BJP has reached its peak in many states, regional parties, not part of the BJP-led NDA, also have already maxed out in their respective states, namely, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala etc, as shown in table below.


Only in two states, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, can regional parties gain through this proposed unity efforts. Regional parties won 217 seats in 2014. They can gain at best 50-60 seats, in these two states, if all goes in their favour, taking their tally to 270-280 odd seats, close to their peak of 260 in 1989. Regional parties could also lose a few seats in Odisha, Bengal and Kerala.

This could reduce BJP’s tally to 230, with Congress at 50 and regional parties at 260 (historical best performance). Note of caution, the tally of regional parties will also include NDA partners and parties which may not join the Federal Front in the range of 40-60 seats.

This will not be enough, as BJP plus regional parties in the NDA fold could just fall short of the majority (a 20-30 seat shortfall) and gain first mover advantage. There is a risk of parties from the Federal Front jumping ship in that scenario.

Congress needs to ensure that BJP’s tally falls to around 150 seats to prevent it from having a shot at government formation and be on the safe side. The proposed Grand Alliance of Congress plus Federal Front cannot form a government at the Centre unless the Congress itself touches 130-150 seats.

In 2004, Congress won 145 seats and went on to lead a government with regional parties. So, essentially, Congress needs another 80-100 seats and all of them it needs to snatch from BJP in direct contest states like Chattisgarh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka etc, which have close to 180 seats. The proposed Federal Front partners have almost nil presence in these seats, except for BSP in a couple of states. The Congress needs to achieve this on a standalone basis.

BJP recorded big wins in 2014, its average margin being 1.83 lakh votes or 18 percent in terms of vote share. BJP enjoys a huge lead over Congress in each of these seats and such big swings are seldom witnessed, except in 1977 and in 1980. While it is difficult, it’s not impossible as we have witnessed in the recent bypolls in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Congress and Rahul Gandhi need to perform exceptionally well, beating BJP in its own den to oust Modi in 2019.

This article was first published on firstpost.com on March 29th 2018.

#Elections2019: Rahul Gandhi and Congress apart, triple anti-incumbency looms as major threat to Narendra Modi’s return in 2019

BJP is hopeful of bettering its 2014 Lok Sabha performance in 2019. It has formed governments in 13 states which have held elections after May 2014 and retained two states. Along with its allies, the party now rules 20 states which send 63 percent of total MPs to the Lower House. Narendra Modi’s approval ratings remain high and he enjoys a lead of over 30 percent versus Rahul Gandhi in India Today Mood of the Nation Survey.

However, all is not hunky dory for the party. BJP has lost four Lok Sabha by-polls held in 2018, all in the Hindi heartland. The Opposition has smelled blood and Congress is leading discussions to form a grand alliance. Whereas, regional parties like TMC and TRS have initiated a discussion to form a Federal Front. Amidst this background, a number of commentators have started questioning BJP’s ability to repeat its historic performance in 2019.

These alliances, formed purely on an anti-Modi plank, may not worry the prime minister at this stage too much.

While it is no mean feat to lead a majority government at the Centre, having chief ministers in two-third states and 274 MPs in Lok Sabha — the highest tally of any party since 1984 — could act as a double-edged sword. In addition to this, BJP now has 35 percent of all India MLAs and controls many municipalities across the country. This heightens the risk of BJP facing triple anti-incumbency in 2019. It is the biggest threat to Modi making a comeback in 2019 in my opinion.

People feel Modi factor was the only reason BJP won in 2014. However, his popularity alone doesn’t explain the full story of BJP’s historic mandate. Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) carried out a National Election Study 2014 and asked respondents the following question:

“While voting some people give importance to the local candidate, others to the state level leadership of the party and some others to the prime ministerial candidate. How would you describe yourself?”

In response to the question, 28 percent voters gave importance to the prime ministerial candidate, 26 percent to the local candidate and 18 percent to the state-level leadership. And therein lies the biggest headache for BJP. A good 44 percent of people gave due consideration to the local candidate and top leadership of parties in contention in the states while casting their vote.

One of the primary reasons for UPA’s loss in 2014 was that it suffered from similar triple anti-incumbency. UPA was in power for 10 years at the Centre, UPA had chief ministers in 16 states and Congress had 206 MPs. A section of people were fed up with the corruption scandals under Manmohan Singh’s government and the falling economy, some were unhappy with the performance of the state governments of UPA and others with the non-performance of its MPs. All this led to a significant built-up of anger among public resulting in a humiliating loss for Congress, down from 206 to a historic low of 44 MPs and less than 20 percent vote share.

Politicians are adept at shifting blame. In state elections wherein Opposition rules at the Centre, ruling party pins the blame on the central government for non-cooperation and non-release of funds. This strategy has been effectively utilised by Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat BJP governments over the decades. We are now witnessing similar strategy being employed by Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh.

In state elections after 2014, BJP blamed Opposition governments for not utilising funds released by the Modi government and won many states. However, now the states where BJP is in power cannot shift the blame to the Centre for not fulfilling their manifesto promises. Similarly, during the campaign in 2019, Modi can’t shift the blame on state governments for not delivering on his pet projects. This puts BJP campaign strategists in a quandary.

BJP will likely deny tickets to many sitting MPs like in MCD polls where it replaced all corporators. As per my sources, this number could range from 50-80. This way BJP hopes to negate the local candidate level anti-incumbency. This way BJP will try to sell that it’s being proactive and will not tolerate non-performance.

BJP hopes that since many MPs are lightweights, replacing them will not give rise to any big rebellion. But as we have seen above, local candidates played almost similar role as Modi factor in 2014.

Additionally, national elections are not corporation elections. Federal Front / Third Front which may not have candidates in many seats can give tickets to some of these candidates.

BJP also may not be able to hold on to declaring the names of the candidate till the last moment, especially if a grand alliance and or a third front announces candidates early to exploit the three levels of anti-incumbency.

To conclude, BJP’s electoral success of the last four years that has seen it control almost two-thirds of India could become its own enemy, hobbling prospects of a slam dunk victory in 2019. Unlike in the past, it will not be able to assign blame for not fulfilling promises to others. Moreover, opponents’ barbs of the government failing on the jobs and agrarian front are finding their targets and Rahul Gandhi is surely albeit slowly climbing in the leadership league tables. If all these weren’t enough, there’s anti-incumbency against state governments and BJP MPs, all of which could complicate matters.

this article was first published on firstpost.com on 26th March 2018.

#Elections2019: Can The UP Mahagathbandhan Put The Brakes On Mission Modi In 2019?

The bua and babua jodi in Uttar Pradesh announced their alliance in the state on Mayawati’s birthday on Saturday. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) will contest on 38 seats each, leaving four seats for the others, not clear for whom. Mayawati thundered that this alliance will give sleepless nights to Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Anti-BJP parties and opposition are placing their hopes on this duo to defeat BJP in their stronghold. To note, BJP won one-fourth of its total tally in 2014 from Uttar Pradesh. Prime Minister Modi is a member of Parliament from Varanasi. While the mahagathbandhan hopes to defeat BJP in Uttar Pradesh and unseat Modi from Delhi, party president Amit Shah thundered at BJP national convention that National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would better its record and win 74 seats in 2019, one more than 2014 tally.

By-Poll Victories Not An Honest Measure Of Mahagathbandhan

In by-polls held last year, an informal mahagathbandhan handed defeat to BJP in three seats of Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana, giving a boost to opposition confidence and necessitating the need for them to come together. Mahagathbandhan hopes that it will be able to defeat BJP across the state like they did in by-polls. Their strategists forget that by-polls are contested on local issues.

When voters went to exercise their franchise, they didn’t have to select central government and prime minister, only their local representative. Phulpur and Kairana cannot, by any standards, be called BJP strongholds, with party winning Phulpur for the first time in electoral history in 2014. People might also have been unhappy at the chief minister and deputy chief minister leaving their Lok Sabha seats for roles in state government.

Arithmetically, Mahagathbandhan Poses A Threat But It Faces Many Challenges

The combined vote share of mahagathbandhan is almost equal to NDA based on 2014 actuals. The proportion of vote blocks of both alliances, BJP’s upper caste and non-Yadav Other Backward Classes are equal to mahagathbandhan’s Dalits, tribals, minorities and Yadavs. If the SP and BSP would have contested together in 2014, the honours would have been split with NDA at 41, mahagathbandhan at 37 and Congress at two seats.

However, even the new students of politics know that it is dangerous to assume full transfer of votes in any alliance. Even a small leakage of 5 per cent-10 per cent could change the arithmetic. While BSP has shown its ability to transfer votes in previous alliances, same cannot be said about SP votes to BSP candidates.

Source: CSDS NES 2014.Source: CSDS NES 2014.

Both SP and BSP contested on most of the seats in 2014. Now almost half of SP and BSP candidates are likely to not get a chance this time, this could lead to big rebel headache for mahagathbandhan. Some of them could be latched up by Shivpal Yadav’s party, which has announced that it will contest all seats.

Some could even be accommodated by Congress, which has been excluded from mahagathbandhan in the state. A united SP contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Chacha Shivpal has the backing of the old Samajwadis while bhatijaAkhilesh represents the new Samajwadi Party. Even if his party is able to get 2 per cent-3 per cent vote share, it will be damaging for mahagathbandhan.

SP’s vote share is concentrated in some parts of UP while BSP vote share is comparatively more spread out, that’s why BSP failed to win a single seat in 2014. This means that SP could end up winning more seats than BSP, which will increase tensions between partners post polls with Mayawati accusing Akhilesh of not reciprocating transfer of votes.

Source: CSDS NES 2014.Source: CSDS NES 2014.

Mayawati is well past her prime. While she did manage to retain the Jatav voters (12 per cent-14 per cent of population), she has lost her grip over non-Jatav voters (7 per cent-9 per cent of population), who have shifted to BJP.

Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal was missing from the alliance, which has a sizeable presence among Jats in western Uttar Pradesh. While Mayawati was very critical of BJP as well as Congress at press conference, Akhikesh ducked the question on Congress, already showing signs of perhaps a disagreement on the issue.

The fact that they have criticised Congress will push the grand old party to contest fiercely in UP. Congress bagged 7.5 per cent vote share in UP in 2014, winning two and finishing runner-up on six seats. It has an influence on eight to 10-odd seats, which could spoil the arithmetic of mahagathbandhan.

…And Provides Narrative To BJP For 2019

SP and BSP, which last formed an alliance in 1993, were at loggerheads for past two-and-half decades with each other with Maywati accusing Mulayam Singh Yadav and company of trying to assassinate her (infamous guesthouse case). They have been top contenders and hence opponents competing fiercely for many years.

BJP will drive home the opportunistic alliance point to stop Modi and attempt to dent the credibility/reliability of mahagathbandhan. The party will try to wean away the young Dalits and Yadavs from mahagathbandhan. The minority vote was split between BSP (18 per cent), SP (58 per cent) and Congress (11 per cent) in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Mahagathbandhan hopes minority votes (20 per cent) would consolidate behind them. This provides an opportunity for BJP to allege that mahagathbandhan is engaging in minority appeasement politics. This could well consolidate Hindu votes in favour of BJP and hand a similar result as in 2014.

Mayawati Waiting For Her Development Gowda Moment?

Mayawati, who hopes of winning sizeable seats from UP, could propel her to become the prime minister of India, in case of a hung Parliament situation, like Deve Gowda in 1996. That is a tough task for the leader of a party, which has currently not a single MP in Lok Sabha.

For Mayawati, these elections are very important for BSP’s survival. If it is routed once again, party could face extinction. So, for that she has held the hand of bete noire Mulayam’s son Akhilesh.

To sum up, the coming together of SP-BSP does pose a challenge to BJP and it will have to slog to retain its tally.

However, alliances are not all about arithmetic but also chemistry. A fascinating contest is on in UP, both sides have respective strengths and weaknesses. It could well boil down to each seat.

This article was published on swarajyamag.com on 13 Jan, 2019.

#Elections2019: 10 Per Cent Reservation For General Category: Four Reasons Why This May Be A Political Game-Changer

The demand for reservations based on economic status has been long standing, and the BJP has attempted to fulfil it through this move.

There are four reasons why this move is a masterstroke, and will help the BJP in the upcoming elections:

1. It caught the opposition unawares, making it difficult for them to oppose it

The opposition and the media did not have a clue about this mega move. There was some speculation that the BJP could announce some sops for farmers, but the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo managed to surprise everyone with this move. Though the Congress is calling it a jumla, it will be very difficult for them to oppose it in Parliament. It’s a catch-22 situation for the opposition.

If they vote against the amendment, they could face the wrath of upper caste groups. Congress received 2.5 per cent of its total 19.5 per cent vote share in the 2014 elections from the upper caste. If they vote for the amendment, the ultimate credit will be taken by the BJP.

2. It soothes the nerves of the upper caste anchor voting segment of the BJP

The upper castes account for approximately 20 per cent-25 per cent of the country’s population. In the Hindi heartland states, where the BJP won maximum seats in 2014, their proportion is even higher.

In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, 47 per cent of the upper caste voted for the BJP as per CSDS. The BJP received 8.9 per cent of its total 31.3 per cent vote share in the 2014 elections from the upper caste.

According to a Dainik Bhaskar report, the upper castes account for 31 per cent of the Hindu population and enjoy influence in 125 Lok Sabha seats. Over the past few years, a section of the upper caste was unhappy with the excessive appeasement of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) community by the party.

The amendment to the SC-ST Act nullifying the Supreme Court order served as the last nail in the coffin. There were upper caste protests in the three Hindi heartland states, especially Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. In fact, one of the upper caste groups deserted the party in both the states, leading to the loss in the recent state elections.

In MP, specifically, a section of the upper castes was angry about the following issues:

  • SC-ST amendment
  • Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s controversial ‘mai ka lal’ statement. (Shivraj Singh Chauhan during the campaigning phase had said that no one can end reservations for the backward communities in the country)
  • Both key positions of CM and state BJP president post occupied by OBC members

The dissent even led to the formation of the Samanya Pichhda evam Alpsankhyak Samaj (SAPAKS), which was an anti-reservation front. Posters were put up in many villages warning BJP leaders from entering and seeking votes by declaring that ‘yahan forward caste rehte hain’ (forward castes stay here).

Though the party bagged only 0.4 per cent vote share, it scored more votes than the margin of victory in two seats leading to the BJP’s defeat. These seats played a crucial role in a hung assembly, where the difference between Congress and the BJP in the end was as narrow as only five seats.

In the Gwalior Chambal region, which has huge population of upper castes (roughly 30 per cent), BJP suffered a massive hit. Realising their folly and making amends, the party appointed prominent Brahmin face Gopal Bhargav as leader of opposition in the assembly. This coincided with the declaration of the reservation, making the message adequately clear.

3. It will be difficult for courts to interfere in a constitutional amendment

Many commentators as well as the opposition have been claiming that this move will not stand judicial scrutiny and will be challenged as the Supreme Court has in many judgements capped the quota at 50 per cent. What they fail to realise is that BJP is talking about a constitutional amendment.

If the amendment passes through both houses of Parliament, then though it can be challenged, it will not be easy for courts to strike it down unless they feel it is against the spirit of the Constitution.

Further, these issues are fought in the people’s court. Even if it is struck down, the BJP can go to the voters and say it had good intentions but courts are not allowing, and it will try through other means.

4. It does not touch the quota of existing beneficiaries, so there remains nothing to be opposed

The quota proposed is over and above the 50 per cent for SC-ST and OBCs provided in the Constitution. Since this doesn’t disturb their existing benefits in admissions and jobs, they are not likely to oppose the move by the BJP government.

In Bihar, Mohan Bhagwat’s economics-based reservation statement was tweaked by the opposition to portray that the BJP wants to remove reservations, and the party had to pay a heavy price in elections. It has to guard itself against such rumour-mongering this time as well.

Politics Is The Art Of Managing Contradictions

The SC-ST Amendment Act proved to be a double whammy for the BJP. It failed to elicit support from the Dalit community in the three state elections but it also alienated the core supporter of BJP, the forward caste. Congress and other opposition parties have succeeded in painting the BJP as anti-Dalit.

This strategy of bringing in reservations for the upper caste communities will help the BJP consolidate its anchor vote segments of upper caste and OBCs, which account for 60 per cent of the population.

The elections could well turn out to be upper caste (UC) + non-Yadav-OBCs + ST as one voting block versus Yadavs + Dalits + Muslims as the other. The BJP did manage to get the highest support of Dalits in 2014 (24 per cent) but this is likely to move back to Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress in 2019.

To sum up, the BJP has taken a bold step of moving towards eliminating caste-based reservations. It helps politically as well after suffering setbacks in three states as it assuages its core vote bank.

This article was first published on swarajyamag.com on 8th Jan. 2019.

Jogi Wanted to Play Kingmaker But Dented BJP & Helped Congress Win

If there’s one state that has truly surprised pollsters, it is Chhattisgarh. The Congress has swept the state, leading in 67 seats, at the time of authoring the piece.

The exit polls were in fact, divided on Chhattisgarh. Three different opinion polls showed a BJP victory, a Congress victory, as well as a tight contest. Chhattisgarh has witnessed bi-polar contests since its inception.

But it is for the first time in its history that Chhattisgarh has witnessed a three-cornered fight, with Ajit Jogi’s Janata Chhattisgarh Congress and the Mayawati-alliance showing their might to both national parties. Jogi contested on 55 and Mayawati on 35 seats.

Jogi’s Inroads Into BJP and Congress

The Jogi element made the contest interesting, after all he is the tallest tribal leader of the Congress, and the first and only CM from Congress in the state. He left the Congress in June 2016 and formed the Janata Congress Chhattisgarh.

Since Jogi had been with the party for many years, many felt that he would damage the Congress and it would be a cakewalk for the BJP this time. However, it was a very simplistic assumption to have made.

Jogi and Mayawati enjoy the support of much of the SC/ST community which account for 44 percent of the population. Jogi also enjoyed good support among the Satnami community in the state. While BJP had won 9 of the 10 SC seats in 2013, INC had won 18 out of 29 ST seats in 2013. So, from the start it was clear that he would damage both.

In an interview to Bloomberg Quint, Jogi claimed he’s making inroads into both BJP and Congress vote banks. When Jogi formed his own party, Congress alleged that he was the B-team of BJP.

Jogi Hands a Shocker to BJP

At the time of publishing, the tally was: Congress: 67, BJP 17, Jogi-Mayawati alliance 7 seats. The BJP tally is down by two-thirds. A massive blow. Leads for 5 seats are not available. With this, the Congress has taken a significant lead in Chhattisgarh. A lead so comfortable that it seems almost certain that they will form the next government in the state.

(Source: Election Commission of India)

The vote shares of parties explain the severe blow which Jogi has dealt to BJP, the opposite of what was expected. BJP’s vote share has declined by 9 percent. At the same time, Jogi’s party (which was not in the fray the last time) along with Mayawati, has gained a 6 percent vote share, mostly at the expense of the BJP. On the other hand, the Congress has gained 1.4 percent vote share. Jogi’s dream of playing the kingmaker has been shattered.

(Source: Election Commission)

A look at the SC-ST reserved seats, 39 in total, also makes the picture clearer. While the SC seats have remained with the BJP over the years, ST seats have changed hands many times.

  • BJP, which won the majority of SC seats in 2008 and 2013, lost in a big way in these elections
  • Due to the Jogi impact, ST seats which were expected to come to BJP (as per the trend of the last 2 elections), actually stayed with the Congress. They in fact improved their tally by 4 seats
(Source: Election Commission)
(Source: Election Commission)

What Didn’t Work for Jogi?

Jogi’s party failed to make its symbol reach every village and taluka of the state. Due to Jogi’s association with the Congress over many years, much of the rural populace still felt he was with the Congress. So, while they wanted to vote for Jogi-Congress, they ended up voting for the Congress’s ‘hand’ symbol. Also, the fact that the Congress managed to create a perception of him being hand-in-glove with the BJP, helped the Congress.

To sum up, Ajit Jogi did play the role of a game-changer, but helped his parent party in turn, albeit inadvertently. He seems to have dented BJP and helped Congress win. Congress is all smiles, while Jogi must be ruing his decision. Jogi is like a Diwali rocket; nobody knows where it will go and whom it will hit.

This article was first published on ‘thequint.com‘ on 11 Dec. 2018.

Why Do More Muslims Vote For BJP In Madhya Pradesh Than In Any Other State?

Shivraj Singh Chouhan is the longest serving Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. He has exceeded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat. He is, today, one of the tallest mass leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He remains the most preferred CM candidate of voters in Madhya Pradesh across polls, even in polls which project a Congress win. Chouhan is credited with bringing the state out of BIMARU and making it one of the fastest growing states of the country today. Chouhan belongs to the backward Kirar community (Other Backward Class) and has successfully connected with the electorate in the state. He is soft-spoken, humble and approachable unlike many other politicians.

This article was First Published on swarajyamag.com, on 15th nov 2018.

Daily News Tadka – 30.04.2016

PBs twisty take on the top five headlines of the day.

1. 23% rise in pollution seen during the second phase of odd-even

The study by IndiaSpend, a portal that runs a network of ‘low cost sensors’ across the national capital.
Instead of going for some ad hoc/populist steps let the situation be properly studied by experts and get scientific solutions to get rid of pollution problems. Hopefully, Kejriwal’s idea of self advertisement through this also reduces.

2. BCCI can be reformed through judicial orders: SC

Path breaking outstanding judgement! So in future any public service will be reformed through judicial orders unless reform themselves as per needs of changing times within lawful limits. Monopolisation of cricket in India by the BCCI might be curbed by the strong decision of the Supreme Court for implementing Lodha Committee Report.

3. Agusta Westland Scam has Become a Noose for Congress: Smriti Irani

If they are really serious against corruption then speed up the investigations and put these bribe takers in Jail. Yesterday, a minister informed in Parliament that Investigation agencies has not yet demanded for Lalit Modi Extradition and deportation. Don’t know on what basis we should trust this government?

4. Chandy Files Defamation Suit Against Achuthanandan, Complains to EC

He had sought an apology from 93-year-old Achuthanandan for levelling ‘blatant and false’ charges against him and some of his cabinet colleagues during campaigning or face legal proceedings.

5. Fifth Phase of Polling to Decide Mamata’s Fate in West Bengal

TMC will come back with 2/3 majority. People of West Bengal will reject criminal CPM and corrupt Congress alliance. Also TMC already got majority in 1st 4 phase. People are with Mamata.

Daily News Tadka – 15.04.2016

PBs twisty take on the top five headlines of the day.

1. Finally, A Deal. India To Buy 36 Rafale Jets For $8.8 Billion

So from 11 billion it is 8 billion. If Congress was in power it would be 11 billion to 15 billion via panama.
Jokes aside,  the original plan was to procure 126 planes at $10 billion. In April 2015, India agreed to pay $8 billion for 36 jets. Now we are paying $800 million more? 50% offset clause means, France will have to invest 4.5 billion USD in India. It means, India will sell out USD 4.5 billion only.

2. Vijay Mallya’s Diplomatic Passport Suspended For 4 Weeks

Revoking passport is a step is issuing a Interpol warrant. It’s better to get this rat out of the hole and fry it up with the heat. Too much of crony capitalism going around in the country with these billionaires looting the public of its money.

3. Gorkhaland Demand Remains Top Priority as Darjeeling Goes to Polls

During GLF, no power or water and chopping of heads! Does anyone want to go back to that?
People are aware of the critical appraisals of GLF and hopefully make the correct choice.

4. Siddaramaiah Misused His Power as CM, Says BJP

Good that he became party chief to remove previous government. Nothing is happening in KA except Annabhagya schemes keeping everyone under free ration for 5 years without giving earning opportunity. A Legislator should not only be honest but appear to be honest. If we take into this factor then the contract should be cancelled. If the Shri Siddharamiah does not do so, then the next government will do so. Having a government contract means a continued source of earning.

5. One killed, 3 injured in firing by security forces in Kashmir

The situation in the north Kashmir district has worsened following fresh casualties as more people are taking to streets against the killings.
The incident is being seen as an embarrassment for Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who directed security agencies a day ago to not harm civilians during protests.

Daily News Tadka -14.04.2016

PBs twisty take on the top five headlines of the day.

1. People Will ‘Showcause’ Election Commission On May 19: Mamata Banerjee

In this case she is correct.EC is now joining the gang of opposition. Asansole district declaration is in public domain since Dec 15. How come EC show cause here with out verifying the fact. Just opposition complained and EC serve a notice mean Mr Zaidi is securing his RS seat post retirement.EC is no longer neutral any more. Once Jyoti Basu said EC is like a mad dog and that time communist were clapping on this comments. Now this opportunist party are crying foul.

2. Congress Undermining Legacy Of BR Ambedkar, Says PM Modi

If he is the PM because of Babasaheb he should show courage to publicly burn the ‘Manu Smruti’. Otherwise it will only be a ‘jumla’ for political mileage.
However, the idea of unity is important for this country. Dividing Hindus along the lines of caste severely affects the community. In the short term, the Dalits need extra support to rise to the same level as others. However, in the longer term, they would not want any alms from anyone. They want to be treated the same as anyone.

3. Rs 1 lakh cr for ports: PM | ‘Ports can boost GDP 1.4%’

Developing ports will definitely reduce the shipping costs. Mechanizing ports will reduce cost further , as the loading and unloading time will reduce.
But why can’t India take soft term loans and developers some key ports keeping in mind the future needs and security aspects?

4. Digvijaya’s Talk of Working With Nitish ‘Too Premature’: Congress

During the 2004 elections as also in 2009 and 2014 polls, Congress had gone for alliances at the state level with different partners but there was no national-level alliance. In the last Lok Sabha elections, Congress not only lost power but its tally plunged to an all-time low of 44 in the 543-member House as it was swept off by the Narendra Modi wave.
They seem to have lost the support.

5. With Maurya Helming BJP in UP, Congress May Revive Old Caste Combo

For congress ,manuwadis are enemies because of their association with the Periyar devotees for some MLA and MP seats.But they depend on maniwadi votes for survival in UP. That is why congress party will be celebrating the golden jubilee year of their defeat in Tamilnadu in 2017.

Daily News Tadka – 06.04.2016

PBs twisty take on the top five headlines of the day.

1. NIT Srinagar Unrest: Will Ensure No Student Deals With Injustice, Says Smriti Irani

This is round 2 of Secularism in Kashmir, First was beating up of Kashmiri pandits now it will be of anyone who supports India. No one from RG or KJ gang is going to come here because dividing hindus and keeping caste system alive fetches them votes. If people get united under India or Hinduism, they will loose all elections. But, how can a party supporting Tricolor be blamed for people getting beaten up for raising tricolor?

2. Gandhi Vs Gandhi: Now Starring In Jewellers’ Protest

Nobody understands the real issue. The jewellers are not against paying one percent duty to the govt. as revenue which anyway they will collect from their customers. They are worried about the harassment meted out by dept. officials particularly the inspectors and jthe resultant corruption.

3. GDP calculation method imprecise, India to grow at 8%: CII

Looks like CII is smarter than RBI. They are optimistic on low interest, good monsoon, GDP calculation, ease of doing business, govt spending, etc. but in the one area they can influence i.e. capital investment, they are totally lacking.

4. Shah harps on nationalist identity as BJP completes 36 years

He noted that the BJP-led central government is moving forward while keeping the principle of ‘Ekatm Manav vad’ (Integral Humanism) as its central point and believed in ‘Sabka saath, Sabka vikas’. Along with praising Modi to attract as many votes possible.

5. Uttarakhand HC rejects Centre’s plea to adjourn hearing on a plea challenging President’s rule

Running in circle, no one knows where it started, where it will end.What happens to state expenses till the decision on ‘whether Budget has been legally passed or not’.
High Court decision on March 30 staying the floor test seems now seem as an error of Judgment.

Daily News Tadka – 04.04.2016

PBs twisty take on the top five headlines of the day.

1. Assam Assembly Election 2016: Phase 1 sees 70 percent voter turnout

Not sure why CPIM is contesting when they have no moral right to speak or fight election after continuously betraying people of lone ruled Tripura. How ? With a record (highest in India) 25.2% of unemployment Left ruled Tripura continues to bite dust of under-development and non-performance due to state’s outdated policies of being anti development and industry.

2. Solar scam: Kerala CM Chandy denies sexual harassment charges against him

Biju Radhakrishnan’s allegations about Oommen Chandi may very well be true. It is another matter whether the truth will actually come out or not. What benefit will Biju have if he had made the allegation without having the recorded tapes with himself or at least without knowing for sure whether Chandi had illicit relation with saritha? The answer is absolutely none.

3. West Bengal sees 80% turnout in phase 1, TMC hails Mamata’s ‘silent revolution’

CPIM will be wiped out from WB this time. They made a mistake by siding with Congress. Traditional CPIM votes will go to NOTA or MAMTA.

4. Jaya, Karuna decide candidates & alliances, get ready for Tamil Nadu polls

GK Vasan of the Tamil Maanila Congress is now left in the lurch as he’s not part of both the Dravidian parties. His contribution to the Congress’s overall vote base was over 2.5% in the past.

5. Panama Papers: Govt sets up multi-agency team | SIT to probe names 

Government appointed SIT for investigation. The team tenure for submitting report is not in few days. May be a year? By the time, things will be adjusted and diluted, as like Black money issue crop up in 2013-2014. Now, no one is bothered about Swiss Bank Black Money. Lost faith in bringing back Black Money by Government.

Daily News Tadka – 02.04.2016

PBs twisty take on the top five headlines of the day.

1. India Hits Back At China After It Blocks Ban On Masood Azhar At UN

China sells $80 Billions in surplus in trade to India – it must place punitive trade barriers. After 67 years, now, things hopefully will change. It has now a leader, who thinks of the nation continuously and acts determinedly, taking all the people along in spite of non stop, unacceptable criticism from most MSMs and a few committed left leaning intellectuals.

2. Enforcement Directorate Now Summons Vijay Mallya On April 9

No matter how many ever summons whoever issues, he is only eating away the time. Why was the Indian law and enforcement on a long slumber when they had an opportunity to apprehend the offender, now an absconder?

3. Rahul shares stage with Left leaders, favours coalition govt

Rahul sometimes seems to be more practical than Sonia. In Bihar he extended support to Nitish and in WB to the Left. That is the way of the future. Like-minded parties should not carry egos. Politics is the art of the possible.

4. India “failed” to provide evidence to Pakistan JIT on Pathankot attack

Their response is on expected lines. It looks like they were salivating to survey the entire Air Base. It goes to the credit of the officials concerned to have restricted their access. Aam Aadmi always had the feeling that this Pakistani JIT business was an exercise in futility. In all probability they were not frisked before entering the Base in order not to offend the “friendly neighboring country”.

5. Booster shot for markets! RBI likely to cut rates by 100 bps in 2016

What’s the point when commercial banks does not pass on benefit to borrowers and rather resort to cut deposit rates.

Nice Post on Niticentral: Is Consolidation in Indian Politics on the Cards?


Nice article on HT: Is it the End of Congress?


Weekly News Chronicle: June 1-7 (Part I)

We start a new series from today wherein key news stories of last week and Politcalbaaba’s take on the same will be presented. Watch out this space……

1. Modi scraps Group of Ministers

Narendra Modi led govt. has scrapped 9 EGoMs and 21 GOMs formed under Manmohan’s UPA govt. These groups undermined the respective minister and PM’s decision making authority and led to delay on decision making. Formed to keep a check on MMS so that he can’t taken decisions on his own without consulting Sonia sycophant ministers. Good step.

2. Raj Thackeray announces his candidature as CM candidate of MNS

Raj announced in a rally that he would contest Maharashtra state elections and be the CM candidate of his party. Desperate move to stay relevant. His party received a drubbing in Lok Sabha nil seats and only 1.5% vote share, even less than AAP. Who is he allying with, even his hard core supporters don’t know. Is he with NDA or not, even he doesn’t know. Utter confusion. He didn’t put up candidates against BJP but contested against Shiv Sena. More of a posturing move to bargain hard with Congress and BJP to enter into seat sharing. Mumbai be prepared for tod phod politics till elections.

3. Fissures appear within AAP

Shazia Ilmi and Captain Gopinath resigned from Aam Aadmi Party recently. Yogendra Yadav too unhappy and wrote letter criticising personality cult of Kejriwal affecting party. Kejri chela Sisodia hit back at YY alleging he wants yo break the party. National convention going on, Kejri says he heard concerns of YY and is trying to bring back Shazia. Party in doldrums. Ghar ke na ghaat ke situation. Only 4 seats, that too in Punjab where Kejri didn’t go to campaign. Many MLAs reportedly in touch with Congress / BJP. Kejri trying hard to get mandate to govern in Delhi state polls. Do or die situation for AAP. One advice to AAP supporters / leaders. If you want to stay relevant, clip Kejri’s wings…

4. Sena pre empts BJP claim for CM position and announces Uddhav as CM candidate

Uddhav announced that he would be CM candidate of his party. He had no choice after Raj announced his candidature. Sibling rivalry. Step also an attempt to pre empt any BJP move to stake claim for CM post after strong performance in Lok Sabha. BJP leaders murmuring that Sena got seats due to BJP / Modi wave and they should get CM post if NDA wins in Maharatshtra state polls. Uddhav’s step is also a sort of warning to BJP that it could go alone if they do t agree. Last time when BJP-Sena combine won CM was from Sena. I like Uddhav, he is soft and not aggressive as Raj. Plus BJP state leadership not strong. They should not mess with a loyal old ally.

5. Telangana was formed as 29th state of India

Telangana supporters rejoiced as their dream got fulfilled. KC Rao of TRS became CM. Politicalbaaba congrats the people of the state and wishes them all the best. Also time to spare a thought for people who laid their lives for the independent state.

6. Rane revolts in Maharashtra

Narayan Rane is at it again what he is best at. He wants Congress to change CM Prithviraj Chauhan. He says Congress will lose under Chouhan. Mr. Rane don’t worry nobody can save Congress. Ever since he joined Congress from Shiv Sena he has nursed CM ambitions. Every six months he raises revolt, goes to Delhi, meets high command, comes back satisfied, no body takes him seriously now.

6. More Congressmen openly revolt against RaGa

A Rajasthan MLA this time spoke ill of RaGa. Ever since Congress lost elections badly, many dal badlus are criticising leadership. Many of them have back channel communication with BJP and want to join it. If they join BJP they might lose their MLA / MP position. So best way is to give gaali to Yuvraj. Party will be forced to suspend you. Then you can do whatever you want. 8 / 44 MPs of Congress are believed to be in touch with BJP.

7. Sonia finds another Manmohan, makes Kharge the leader of party in Lok Sabha

Congress announced Mallikarjun Kharge as Leader of Party in Lok Sabha. For those who don’t know who is he, he is a former Minister of Railways and a big leader from Karnataka. The choice surprised many. Why not Sonia or Rahul? They don’t want to take responsibility. They are the kings. Why Nit Kamalnath or Scindia or Tharoor or Capt. Amarinder Singh or Santosh Mohan Deo? Because they are leaders in their own right? Basically they wanted another Manmohan so they found one in Kharge. Rahul sant on back benches. His attendance was 47% when his govt. was in power. Any guesses for his attendance in 16th Lok Sabha. There should be some disqualification for low attendance.

8. BJP – Sena war of words over Maha CM

After Uddhav announced his candidature as Sena CM candidate, BJP clarified that he is not the NDA candidate and nothing has been frozen yet. BJP is bolstered by its performance in Lok Sabha and feels that Sena got 18 seats due to Modi wave. It wants to bargain for CM post and keep on hinting that BJP may go with MNS if Sena doesn’t fall in line. Interesting battle on cards, Modi making Munde Cabinet Minister is a hint that CM post will go yo Sena.

9. Munde dies in a tragic road accident

Gopinath Munde died in a road accident in Delhi while on way to airport. May his soul rest in peace. His death brings to light our road safety / traffic rules. Why do ministers not use helicopters for travel to airport, quick and reduces road traffic. A food of thought. Make a helipad in Parliament. PM / Cabinet Ministers need to travel from their allotted houses to Parliament and from there by helicopter to airport. Plus traffic training program’s should be held every year for drivers.

10. Jayalalitha meets Modi

Jaya met Modi this week and discussed on various state issues and national issues. She is slated to provide issue based support to NDA. Her support could be crucial in Rajya Sabha where NDA is in minority. For Jaya also it is better to be in good books of central govt. to get funds for her state. Plus NDA emerged as a strong opponent to AIADMK in Tamil Nadu. With development and good governance, it could damage her prospects in next Lok Sabha or even state polls.

Can Congress bounce back?

Author: NS

Editor: Politicalbaaba

One of the most fascinating elections in one of the largest democracies in the world are over. Narendra Modi is the new Prime minister of India. And has started on an excellent note, not putting a foot wrong till date.

Related Post: “NaMo Arrives, Democracy Wins” https://politicalbaaba.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/namo-arrives-democracy-wins/

But what now for the other political parties who have suffered a devastating defeat in the 2014 general elections. What are the lessons to be learnt from the people’s mandate and what is the way forward for them. Lets look individually at each of the opposition parties

First of all, lets start with the Congress.

There is no doubt that this is the most ‘crippling’ defeat of all times for the Congress. And I deliberately use the word crippling. Sure they have lost elections before. But never before has their vote share dropped below 20%. Throughout the hindi heartland of Rajasthan, MP, Chattisgarh, UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and even Maharashtra, the party has only managed to win family strongholds – The Gandhis, Scindia, Kamal Nath, and Pawar/Chavan.

From the 50s to the 80s, the USP of the Congress was that it is the party which won independence for India. But since the 90s, this factor has been diminishing at an increasing rate and is perhaps irrelevant today. Probably this was the first election with no voters with memories of August 15, 1947. Well we certainly now have our first Prime Minister who was born in Independent India.

The Congress needs to quickly appreciate the fact that are no major differences between the policies of the Congress and many of the regional parties, including AAP. They all indulge in the same ‘left of the centre’ politics. In such a scenario, there has been a clear division of the ‘anti-right’ vote between the Congress and the ‘other than BJP’ parties. To think of it, why would a ‘left of the centre’ vote in, lets say Delhi, opt for the Congress when it has the option of AAP – which is nothing but a corruption free Congress in terms of its policies

Thus this mean that all is lost for the Congress. Well no. Wherever the ‘anti-right’ vote weakens (JDS in Karnataka), the Congress would regain its vote share. But only if it has a strong regional leadership. There is an excellent opportunity in UP. The ratings for the Akhilesh government are at an all time low. Even in Bihar, the JDU has shot itself in the foot. A long term strategy for the Congress would have been to even kill off the RJD in these elections. But they revived it by entering into an alliance.

Or the Congress can also hope that there are more claimants to the ‘right of the centre’ votes. Most of these are today in alliance with the BJP. A Shivsena in Maharashtra or a Naidu in Andhra fighting separately can create problems for the BJP and revive the Congress in these states. But today, the state leadership in these states and in Gujarat/MP/Rajasthan/UP/Bihar have been completely destroyed by the Congress’s policy of parachuting leaders and dictating policies from 10 Janpath.

Does the Congress let go of the Gandhis. Well the current results suggest that at present, the Gandhis are more a liability than an asset. But I slightly differ. I still feel that the 19% vote the Congress has retained has a lot to do with the Gandhis. Infact, the Gandhis are the USP of the Congress on a national front. But the Gandhis need to quickly come to terms with the fact that they need to share power with the regional satraps. To think of it, how strong the Congress would have been if it would have retained Mamta, or even Pawar.

Does Rahul Gandhi go? Well this is a distinct possibility. Because he is clearly disinterested. But lets also remember, the 2004 loss of the NDA was solely blamed on Modi. He was not even allowed to campaign in UP/Bihar/MP in 2009. So the same Rahul Gandhi, who has been ridiculed today can re-invent himself. But only if he is interested. Clearly, his attitude today suggest, that is not the case. Priyanka also carries more baggage than required.

So where will the Congress find a new Gandhi after Sonia. Well, maybe a certain Gandhi who won in Sultanpur, UP. Make no mistake, the Congressis love power like a fish loves water. It is their oxygen that keeps them alive. They can go to any extent and ditch anyone to stick to power. Stranger things have happened in politics.

We shall discuss the impact of the people’s mandate on the electoral policies of AAP and other regional parties such as an increasingly jittery Raj Thackeray, or Jayalalitha and Mamata who are issuing full page ads in many of the national dailies in our next posts. Till then. Keep blogging

Controversy Erupts over Robert Vadra’s SPG cover

A controversy has erupted over Priyanka Gandhi’s husband Robert Vadra enjoying special privileges at airports in India. Robert Vadra is the only private citizen who is exempt from frisking at airports in India when travelling with SPG protectors – her wife, mother-in-law and brother-in-law. You will easily spot this list in smaller airports. In bigger airports you will struggle to find it.

Citizens, netizens and many other people have repeatedly raised questions about this and asked for stripping him of this special privilege. This has gained prominence when civil aviation minister recently hinted that Vadra may lose privileges. There is also news reports that govt. is reviewing security of politicians and VVIPs.

The SPG Act, which was enacted in 1988 and amended in 1991, 1994 and 1999, provides for ‘Proximate Security’ to the Prime Minister and the members of his immediate family.

Any former prime ministers or members of their immediate families are also entitled to SPG security for a period of 10 years from the date on which they cease to hold office.  Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka of course have been on an extended cover, Rajiv assassinated in 1991.

With an inkling that husband Robert may be ripped of special privileges, Priyanka wrote a letter urging Director SPG to not give any special treatment to Robert. She also said that she never asked for this and SPG on its own has been granting this facility to Robert. She also has said that even she should not get this special treatment at airports. She mentioned that a lot of times earlier she has asked for removal of facilities to Robert as he felt very embarrassing.

Of course this is being done to preempt any stripping of privileges to Robert. He is is our national damaad. While immediate family of former prime ministers get SPG cover he is the only damaad to get this special treatment. If she had written to SPG earlier why is the latest letter been made public. How many times travelling with Priyanka, has Robert gone for security checks? How do security personnel determine whether he is traveling with Priyanka or alone so as to determine whether he should be frisked or not? How many personnel at airports know that he has to be frisked when travelling alone? If he was embarrassed why didn’t he offer for frisking himself? You have a choice to refuse SPG cover.

While it is for Home Ministry to decide, security threat on Sonia, Rahul, Priyanka have been significantly reduced after LTTE has been decimated in Sri Lanka.

Crores of tax payers money is being spent to protect a person whose land dealings have been in question. Doesn’t presence of SPG personnel along with him instil fear in parties who are dealing with him. Doesn’t it lead to show off. Why is the law been amended to give protection to a particular family. All these questions need to be answered.

Getting free security at taxpayers cost to show off that a person is VVIP need to be stopped. Convicted people like Lalu have Z category security. Why? Govt. has to answer and do a clean up. Even BJP people getting unwarranted security will not be tolerated now.

A proper security policy for VVIPs needs to be framed. A lot of policemen are deployed to protect VVIPs. A separate force needs to be created with option of billing also needs to be examined. All these people can pay so why give them security free.

Delhi is Asking: Can AAP bounce back?

I found this interesting post on Hindustan Times.


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