Amit Shah is often credited as the BJP president who has converted Indian elections from routine local fights into an all-out life and death ‘war’. Little surprise then when Mr Shah was quoted as having told a gathering of BJP social media activists in Pune that they must see themselves as ‘soldiers going into battle who take no prisoners’. Mr Shah may have been only trying to motivate his flock but the sharp rhetoric reflects a new election dynamic where a tweet, a Facebook post or a WhatsApp forward are the modern-day arrows and bullets aimed at bruising political opponents.
A simple photo-op can sometimes reveal the entire political picture. Last month, as Rahul Gandhi hosted an iftaar party, his high table did not include a single opposition party chieftain: most of them chose to send their representatives instead while the Samajawadi party gave the event a miss altogether. The message was clear: most opposition parties do not see the Congress as a first among equals, even less so Mr Gandhi as an unquestioned magnet for opposition unity.
In the mid-1990s, as VP Singh was scrambling to help form a non-BJP, non-Cong ‘Third Front’ government, we asked the former prime minister if such a ‘khichdi’ government was good for the country. “I don’t know about being desirable, but it is inevitable,” was his sharp response. Singh was seen as the original mascot of third front politics: in 1989, he became prime minister by forging a coalition with, quite miraculously, the outside support of the BJP and the left. The single point agenda then was to remove the Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress government.
The defining image of the 1989 Lok Sabha elections was VP Singh campaigning across the country and claiming that he had in his pocket the Swiss bank account number where the Bofors payoff money had been deposited. Singh won the election and became prime minister but never revealed the account number. Nearly 30 years later, Rahul Gandhi is hoping to do to Narendra Modi what Singh did to his father Rajiv
If there is any city that is seen to represent the public anger over demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax, it is Surat. Textile traders had shut shop for a fortnight, the diamond market was losing its shine and there was a mood of despondency in Gujarat’s business capital. And yet, the election results show that the BJP has swept all 12 seats in the port city, including the Patel-dominated Varacha Road constituency. In the electoral trajectory of Surat lies perhaps the key to the BJP’s sixth consecutive win in Gujarat.
As the seasons change, there is a spring in the step of the Congress which suggests that a long and harsh summer in the political wilderness maybe ending. Rahul Gandhi is finally set to take over the party leadership, there is a buzz around the Congress’ aggressive social media strategy, new anti-BJP alliances are being cemented in poll-bound Gujarat, demonetisation and GST have become useful weapons to attack the government and open rebellion by senior BJP leaders like Yashwant Sinha has given further ammunition to the Opposition.
To understand vox populi on the Uttar Pradesh assembly election, India Today's Rajdeep Sardesai takes you through the 'Land of Awadh'.
We meet voters to understand will the alliance between Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party and Congress replicate the success of 2012? Or will Narendra Modi and the BJP will be able to build up on the momentum of the spectactular 2014 Lok Sabha elections? Or will Mayawati remain as the x-factor?