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The rout of Congress in three Hindi heartland states has sounded the death knell of I.N.D.I.A bloc. The possibility of this loose and amorphous grouping emerging as a battle-fit pre-poll front against the BJP was dismal right from the start, going by the ground realities in political geographies across the country.
Still, the core proponents of the axis entertained sincere hope that it would remain at least as a political show-piece till the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls.
The resounding defeat of the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh even dashed such pious hopes. The Congress, as the lead component of the ambitiously named Indian National Development and Inclusive Alliance, itself is primarily responsible for the premature crash of the project.
It is now history how the Congress leadership, driven by overconfidence, shabbily treated minor partners of the bloc in the states that went to poll.
Since politics is largely a game of perception these days, the Congress would have saved the day had it done well in the current round of elections. Now it has failed to pull off credible results, It is normal for the insulted and humiliated to hit back at the hegemon licking its wounds.
The Congress has more to worry in the coming days. Its victory against Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS) in Telangana, instead of boosting its stock among the opposition parties, could sent a wrong message to regional parties.
Now that the electoral prospects of the Congress in the Hindi heartland have dimmed, where it has to take directly on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the LS polls, it would have to primarily focus in four southern states—Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. In Tamil Nadu it is already a junior partner of the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).
Kerala stands as a peculiar case where the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF), despite its key components CPI(M) and Communist Party of India (CPI) are vocal supporters of INDIA alliance, has to fight it out with the Congress in the state.
If Congress fails to maintain the momentum it gained in Karnataka and Telangana and makes gains in Andhra Pradesh it would find hard to notch up a decent tally in the next Lok Sabha.
Maintaining lead in the south would be a tall order for the party, given the current political scenario considering the unfolding scenario.
The BJP has already struck an alliance with the Janata Dal (S) in Karnataka, making its position stronger in national elections. There is a distinct possibility that the party may working out a deal with the BRS in Telangana, on terms set by it. The ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) in Andhra Pradesh is unlikely to strike an understanding with the Congress, as it could harm it in the long run.
The situation in the eastern and western states too does not augur well for the Congress. In West Bengal and Odisha, the parties in power are unlikely to accommodate Congress. In Maharashtra, Congress will have to content with lesser number of seats than Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). In Delhi and Punjab it would have to battle it out with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
To make matters worse for the grand old party, the BJP will be skillfully calibrating events in the coming months like dedication of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya to its advantage, besides mounting a high-voltage campaign projecting high economic indicators and India’s enhanced status on global scene. Above all, the charisma of Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to be undented as the driving force for the saffron juggernaut to roll on.