Monday, 30th October 2017

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What the election 'semi-finals' mean for Mayavati

The recent assembly elections are as important for the BSP leader as they are for Narendra Modi and Amit Shah

  • Published 9.12.18, 3:52 PM
  • Updated 9.12.18, 4:23 PM
  • 4 mins read
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If Mayavati's Bahujan Samaj Party fails to make an impact, the Congress will be free to attack her bargaining power in Uttar Pradesh and perhaps even force her to align with it in states like Maharashtra and Gujarat The Telegraph file picture

Many a political future hangs on the outcome of the recently-concluded assembly elections in five states. The polls were seen as the semi-finals before the final knock of the general elections slated for 2019. While elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh are said to be critical for the future of the Grand Old Party under the brand new leadership of Rahul Gandhi, one politician who will be affected even more than the Gandhi scion is the Bahujan Samaj Party chief, Mayavati. Congress leaders are itching to teach her a lesson in case they manage to win all the three states without her help. It is often said that Mayavati is a hidden collaborator in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s sinister designs. Unsurprisingly, the Congress is desperately praying that it will not have to seek her support in any of these states.

If the BSP fails to make an impact, the Congress will be free to attack Mayavati’s bargaining power in Uttar Pradesh and perhaps even force her to align with it in states like Maharashtra and Gujarat. But if the Congress fails to pull off at least two of these states, Mayavati will feel empowered to convince the Opposition parties that the Congress cannot defeat the BJP without her and extract her pound of flesh in the Lok Sabha elections. This is why December 11 — the day that results of the assembly elections are to be announced — is as important for Mayavati as it is for Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.

Play it cool

While some wait for the results on December 11, others are already making preparations for what will follow. In Madhya Pradesh, the exit polls predict a close contest between the incumbent BJP and the Congress. The corridors of power seem to agree. The bureaucrats in Madhya Pradesh’s capital, Bhopal, are apparently already lobbying for the change in fortunes that is bound to follow a change of guard. So sure are the babus that the results will bring in a new government that they have gone into overdrive speculating about the ‘new team’ that a new chief minister in the state would usher in. The Vallabh, Satpura and Vindhyachal Bhavans and the state police headquarters are abuzz with anticipation.

Kamal Nath is a front runner and largely considered to be the chief minister-in-waiting. But the veteran politician who has seen several assembly polls in his career is playing it cool. He is requesting officials to be neutral and objective during the counting of the votes. “Please remember there will be December 12 after December 11,” he said recently on a sobering note. Nath seems to be a believer in the adage "Better safe than sorry".

Kamal Nath seems to be a believer in the adage
Kamal Nath seems to be a believer in the adage "Better safe than sorry" The Telegraph file picture

Temple run

Kamal Nath is not the only one unwilling to take chances. As soon as the campaigning for the Rajasthan assembly elections closed last Wednesday, the BJP chief, Amit Shah, rushed back from Ajmer, where he held a road show on the last day of campaign, to his home state, Gujarat. Shah was apparently in a hurry to visit the Somnath temple in Saurashtra. Sure enough, he was spotted in the Somnath temple along with his family members the day after he reached Gujarat.

The visit to the temple is apparently customary. The party chief is said to go to the Somnath temple after the end of every campaign that he spearheads. But sources say that this time Shah’s rush to the temple told its own story. After this round of state elections, Shah, who wants the BJP to rule from “panchayat to Parliament”, needs blessings more than ever before, many feel. Although Shah has claimed the victory run of the party will continue, internally party leaders fear losses. The exit polls, in spite of throwing up a mixed bag, have shown a tilt in favour of the Congress. Only the day of the results will confirm whether or not Shah’s temple run has helped his party this time.

Master planner

The prime mover and shaker behind Indian politicians, Prashant Kishor, seems to have some competition. The Rajasthan assembly polls saw the emergence of a new poll strategist. The Delhi-based BJP functionary, K.K. Sharma, reportedly helped an otherwise beleaguered Vasundhara Raje Scindia recover some lost ground in her state. Sharma, sources says, was instrumental in getting one or the other Union minister to every district of erstwhile Rajputana. He also played a key role in linking Rajasthan’s fortunes with the prime minister, Narendra Modi, in the minds of the people. At the end of polling, Sharma’s hard work ensured that the BJP at least had the satisfaction of putting in a spirited battle. Sharma is said to be hopeful of joining the league of sought-after strategists like Kishor. He must be looking forward to December 11 as eagerly as many politicians.

Street flavours

Delicious food can provide some respite from the stress of contemplating electoral fates. And food from Chandni Chowk is the flavour of the season. At least two Union ministers dished out food from the streets of old Delhi for journalists. Vijay Goel, being from the area, is a regular in serving Chandni Chowk food. Maneka Gandhi is the neo-convert, making it a point to draw attention to the special cuisine from Delhi’s older and historic quarters.

Sushma Swaraj: unwilling to contest?
Sushma Swaraj: unwilling to contest? The Telegraph file picture

Footnote

The 2019 Lok Sabha polls will dazzle with the participation of tinseltown stars. The BJP has reportedly convinced the dhak dhak girl, Madhuri Dixit, to contest from Pune. Other names on the radar of the Congress and the BJP are Mohammed Azharuddin, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn. Meanwhile seasoned politicians like Prithviraj Chavan have apparently lost their political appetite given the star presence. The list of those unwilling to contest includes heavyweights like Sushma Swaraj and Uma Bharti. Is this a case of netas bowing out to the abhinetas?