Strong local stories are unleashed. The national parties of the BJP and the Congress are informed
BJP chairman JP Nadda urged party workers to help people suffering from the pandemic and share their grief instead of getting drawn into political slugfests. For a party that is not pulling punches against its rivals, that would require a marked change of approach. Seven states are heading for assembly elections next year and the BJP is governing six. If the anti-fanout does develop, the goodwill that grassroots cadres can generate will prove essential. Going into damage control mode without wasting time is also a measure of party vitality. In contrast, Congress, the main opponent of the BJP in six of those states, has no regular president and is organizationally dispersed.
Since Lok Sabha’s victory in 2019, strong regional undercurrents have undermined the BJP’s attempts to prevent more state governments. Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala reiterated the electorate’s preference for strong regional parties. Hastily paved Maha Vikas Aghadi has consistently resisted the long-standing Maharashtra pandemic. Amid this resurgence of regional formations, UP panchayat polls highlighting the resilience of the Samajwadi party will worry the BJP. Negotiating the rallying of the local political headwinds will be the main challenge for the BJP.
Many Indian families were affected by the loss of life or livelihood during this second wave. Social protection programs and cash distributions will not adequately replace lost income. The disappointment of voters and the powerful collective experiential memory will eat away at the governments of the day unless the opposition betrays phenomenal incompetence. The BJP has reduced its room for maneuver, but the constant flow of Congressional deserters in Gujarat, ruled by the BJP for 23 years, Goa and Manipur, hardly reassures voters about the political viability of Congress and the clarity of the agenda. Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand change every five years, but Congress needs credible replacements for faded satraps Virbhadra Singh and Harish Rawat as the elections become increasingly presidential.
Punjab, where BJP is a minor player, remains in Congress to lose. Even here, Congress is its worst enemy, as dissent resurfaces. For a change, the toolbox controversy saw Congress firmly defend its narrative. Yet he must recognize how the BJP is reacting quickly to a rapidly changing political scenario. As the political ballast of the BJP ascendant after 2014, UP will monopolize much of the Modi-Shah-Nadda triumvirate and the attention of RSS. By asking local leaders and executives to mobilize, the BJP is already on the move. The pandemic can act as a force of decentralization in Indian politics. Will Congress wake up to what the BJP may have already felt?
This article appeared as an editorial notice in the print edition of The Times of India.
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