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With the Election Commission sounding the assembly poll bugle for five states, the dress-rehearsal for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls has just about started. Intricately tied to this set of polls is the political future of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP on the one side, and the Congress hoping for a revival of its fortunes on the other.

The BJP being the ruling party in three out of the five states, there’s a likelihood of it facing the anti-incumbency factor. By-elections in Rajasthan in recent months have been a washout for the BJP, while a rare sense of unity in the Congress camp in Madhya Pradesh, of late, might work more to the disadvantage of the ruling party there. What the BJP might bank on to craft an electoral success in these two states would be the pro-poor image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is despite the groundswell of disenchantment in urban areas over issues like the rise in fuel prices, the problems caused by the demonetisation, and the hitches in the GST roll-out to the large numbers of the trading community. The attacks on Dalits by cow vigilantes too could work to the disadvantage of the BJP, if the Gujarat assembly poll results are any hint. Farmers are a distressed lot, too.

What however might have come as a blessing for the BJP could be the failure on the part of the Congress party to keep the BSP of Mayawati to its side. The BSP did not have substantial strength in Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan – the two key states in the present fight. Yet, to dare a strong entity like the BJP, the Congress needed even a fig-leaf by way of consolidation of the Opposition votes. Electoral arithmetic dictates as much. For now, polls are too close that a rethinking by Mayawati is unlikely.

In Mizoram, it’s worth a watch as to whether the Congress can retain power. Given the fluid nature of politics in some of the north-eastern states, nothing could be taken for granted before the polls. In Chhattisgarh, the BJP looks more confident about retaining power as compared to MP and Rajasthan. In Telangana, chief minister Chandrasekhar Rao seems to be calling all the shots by himself and is sure of victory – reason why he sought to advance the polls there and favoured dissolution of the assembly before the end of its term. The political scene indeed is hotting up.

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