Campaigning for the round of assembly elections in the Hindi heartland is reaching a crescendo, with both the BJP and the Congress battling each other. The fight here is between these two national parties with regional parties coming into play mostly as a spoiler for the Congress vote. In Telangana and Mizoram it is the regional parties that hold sway though the Congress seems to have a fighting chance in the former.
However with the Prime Minister entering the poll fray with his trademark blitzkrieg of rallies and even the odd road show, the focus is very much on the Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and the Rajasthan campaign.
Most psephologists have given Chhatisgarh to the Congress and Rajasthan to the BJP. It is Madhya Pradesh that has kept everyone guessing, though the Congress does seem to have the edge. But this is the last leg of the campaign and much can change within a week, especially with the PM’s rallies.
But the battle on the ground is interesting as it is mostly about local issues. and the credit for this should go to the Congress which has refused to be distracted by the BJP’s attempts to polarize the narrative. Kamal Nath, Bhupesh Baghel and Ashok Gehlot have very smartly refused to be drawn into the debate about the Hindu Rashtra or the Ram Mandir narrative by supporting the cause instead of questioning it or balancing it with the secular card.
They have asserted their own Hindu identity and moved on to welfare schemes and other promises. Rahul Gandhi is also upping the mandal narrative versus the BJP’s kamandal card. Instead of attacking the RSS as he usually does, the Congress leader is now talking about the Caste survey and championing the cause of the OBCs. While he may or may not succeed, the one noteworthy thing that he has been able to achieve is that the campaign is no longer focusing solely on who is a better Hindu.
To answer a larger question, will these elections impact the general election ? There is no clear cut answer here for states have been known to poll differently during the assembly polls and differently during a general election. But having said this, the optics of a Congress win, even if it wrests 2 of the three states in the Hindi heartland while the BRS gets Telangena and the BJP only Rajasthan, will have a huge impact on the morale of the opposition and will give BJP some food for thought while crafting the 2024 campaign.