Saturday, May 18, 2024

Poll bugle sounded | Mint

India’s electoral battle of 2024 has got an early start after a proverbial long week in politics. The Narendra Modi-led ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accused Rahul Gandhi of bias against Other Backward Classes (OBCs), who make up the bulk of our electorate, for the same ill-judged 2019 remark on alleged “thieves” who had Modi as a surname that got the Congress leader convicted for defamation and disqualified him from the Lok Sabha. Given the general nastiness of campaign trails, Gandhi has reason to feel singled out. Unless relieved by a higher court, he may not be able to contest polls for eight years. While the BJP’s game of identity appeal gets clearer, the Congress might hope to gain from the spotlight Gandhi is in. From his long unity march to his articulations on Indian democracy and the Adani affair, he has been making people sit up, willy nilly, and pay attention—a scarce commodity. As earlier, the BJP will rely on Modi’s popularity, OBC votes and Hindu motifs to shape ballot outcomes in key states. Yet, although the ruling party was seen till recently as a shoo-in for power retention, 2024 now looks like less of a done deal. And that’s something.

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