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Third Option

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Independents have always won a significant number of seats in local bodies, but witnessing the developing carnage in the counting of votes on Tuesday, it seems they are set to reach an unprecedented level. This would indicate that those dissatisfied with the BJP’s performance as the ruling party have chosen to vote for others, but not preferred the main opposition party, the Congress. Quite obviously this sends a message to the two national parties that they are not quite in sync with the mood of the people at the grassroots.

A significant number of the independents also constitute rebels from the two parties, which indicates the selection process was faulty. This gives the parties the opportunity to review the support base and the processes that go into selecting candidates. The Congress must examine why it was not chosen as the alternative and individuals preferred instead. Does it indicate unhappiness with the BJP’s governance in the state, but an equal disregard for the Congress? How would this pan out in the all important 2019 elections? Was the widespread demolition drive ordered by the High Court a factor in the people’s unhappiness with the system? Should the Congress have focused more on local issues than on PM Modi and national affairs?

Had the EVMs been used in the election, the general picture would have been clear by mid-afternoon. Due to the ballot papers, it is expected that the final result in the major contests would become known late in the night. Going by the slender margins by which many victories have taken place, projecting the ultimate scenario would not be viable.

It would, of course, have been unrealistic to expect a repeat of the BJP’s sweeping victory in the 2017 assembly elections, but it was expected to have an upper hand, being in power and all that. However, it seems the situation has reverted to normal in the state where even a swing of one or two percent leads to transfer of power – this time to the independents – a missed opportunity for the Congress that it will rue.

The direct consequence of the result will be a question mark on the Trivendra Singh Rawat Government and the existing BJP leadership. It is imperative that the policies and style of functioning is reviewed in the context of 2019. Is power being exercised democratically, or is it in the hands of a small coterie that is blind to public opinion and arrogant in its approach to differing opinions? The Chief Minister is known to be socially awkward, but thought to be down to earth and practical, but does he lack the charisma needed for public leadership? How does this impact on electoral politics? These are the obvious questions needing to be answered.