Last year’s Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan set the stage for the impending Lok Sabha polls in these two States: the Bharatiya Janata Party’s third straight victory in M.P., even as it unseated the Congress in Rajasthan, pushing the latter to its lowest-ever tally of 21 in a House of 200, bodes ill for the Grand Old Party. The latter’s attempt to engineer a generational shift, by appointing 40-year-old Arun Yadav and 36-year-old Sachin Pilot as the chiefs of the Congress’ M.P. and Rajasthan units respectively, appears to have come too late and has met with marginal success. Reports, however, suggest that Mr. Arun Yadav is in slightly better fettle than Mr. Pilot. In the highly-factionalised M.P. unit, Mr. Yadav has succeeded in aligning himself with Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, a Gen Next leader who, in turn, has secured the support of Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath and party senior Suresh Pachauri, isolating party general secretary Digvijaya Singh and former Congress Legislature Party leader Ajay Singh. But in Rajasthan, Mr. Pilot is ploughing a lonely furrow, with former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and party general secretary C.P. Joshi providing little encouragement to his energetic efforts to pump life into a moribund State unit.
The BJP story could not be more different: class and style may separate the plebeian Shivraj Singh Chauhan from the patrician Vasundhara Raje, the party’s Chief Ministers in M.P. and Rajasthan, but both have leveraged their contrasting personalities to emerge above the fray. If Mr. Chauhan has taken 10 years to gain absolute control over M.P., sidelining all rivals within the party, Ms. Raje has effortlessly slid into her old role, despite being out of power for five years. Both, by all accounts, have had a major say in the selection of Lok Sabha candidates. Traditionally, the results of the Assembly polls in these two States have been reflected in the Lok Sabha polls, given their geographical proximity. There is nothing to suggest otherwise this time, and with a discernible Modi wave to boot, it looks unlikely that the Congress can repeat its 2009 tally of 12 Lok Sabha seats in M.P. and 20 in Rajasthan; with luck, it will get less than half, with even senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh’s unhappiness unlikely to change the tide. If there is something to look out for in M.P. and Rajasthan, two States in which the Congress and the BJP are in direct contest, it is whether the Bahujan Samaj Party, which fared badly in the Assembly polls, recovers ground. For reports now suggest that the country’s newest political formation, the Aam Aadmi Party, that ate substantially into the BSP in Delhi, could be in the reckoning in a few seats in these States.