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Game On

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With the release of its first list of 195 candidates for the coming Lok Sabha polls, the BJP has shown how well-greased is its organisational structure. The choice of candidates indicates that much homework has gone into preparing for the contest and it is not just PM Modi’s popularity they are banking on. The axing of four sitting Delhi MPs and the ‘retirement’ by a fifth, is the result of being clued into the opinions of the party’s local members, as well as the constituents, who are reportedly miffed at the performance of these leaders. The ‘caste’ mix is also very representative.

In all, thirty-three sitting MPs have been removed, and there is more in the offing. While Uttarakhand’s strong contenders have been repeated on three seats, the jury is still out on the remaining two and the prospects are not good for the incumbents. This more or less reflects public opinion. In all of this, it must be noted that the changes are being made despite the belief that the BJP is on a strong wicket. This shows how the party functions as an ‘organisation’ with ‘karykartas’ having a say, rather than merely kowtowing to directions from above. It may also be noted that, while there are a good number of ‘aspiring’ young leaders, seasoned stalwarts have been added to the mix, who have significant followings of their own. The early announcement of the first list will also ensure there will be time to see how those who have been sacked respond, making it possible to prepare strategies on managing dissent. It will be interesting to note what approach is adopted regarding MPs like Varun Gandhi and Maneka Gandhi, who have not exactly been towing the party line.

This jumpstart by the BJP now poses an even bigger challenge for the opposition, which is struggling to unite and carve out some kind of a counter-strategy. The only other parties that are keeping up are the AAP in Delhi and Punjab, the DMK in Tamil Nadu and BJD in Odisha. The Congress is in considerable disarray, with leaders unwilling to lose money and face in a one-sided contest. This is particularly so in Uttarakhand, where the only way there can be a win is due to severe anti-incumbency against the incumbent. The BJP will be testing the mood carefully in the Pauri and Haridwar constituencies to prevent any such outcome. The BJP’s next list will also be influenced by public reaction to the first. Whatever the case, the game is certainly on!