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Lessons from polls: Focus on progress, ignore rivalry

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Last Updated: December 08, 2008, 21:08 IST

Lessons from polls: Focus on progress, ignore rivalry

Political parties find out the antidote to "anti-incumbency."

New Delhi: It may be common wisdom but political parties may have only now discovered the antidote to the problem of "anti-incumbency" with the results to elections in four states Monday — focus on development as the main poll plank and manage your intra-party rivalries.

These are the lessons poll strategists have learnt in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and Chhattisgarh cutting across party lines.

In Delhi, the Congress led by Sheila Dikshit pulled off an unprecedented third poll victory countering the high-pitched emotive campaign of rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). While Dikshit's agenda focused on development, the BJP, led by veteran Vijay Kumar Malhotra, harped on terrorism and inflation.

Dikshit, after her party's victory, said clearly: "We went to the polls with development as our main agenda."

Commenting on the party's debacle in Delhi, BJP president Rajnath Singh was candid enough to admit: "Local issues played a more important role here."

In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP's low-profile Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan retained power by pushing the same buttons. After his party's victory, he too said: "Our main poll plank was development of the state."

The other lesson learnt was how important it was to control dissent.

"In Chhattisgarh, the Congress almost snatched power from the BJP but bitter intra-party rivalry played the spoil sport. Congress leader Ajit Jogi had sent several feelers to the Congress top brass to neutralise factions within the party working against him," a senior Congress leader said.

"We lost Chattisgarh because of bitter intra-party rivalry," he added.

BJP Chief Minister Raman Singh, on the other hand, carefully managed feuds within the party, accepted a BJP leader.

"He was given a free hand from distribution of party tickets to devising poll strategy. His main poll plank was development," the BJP leader added. He also used "development" as the main poll plank.

"The development issue helped BJP perform quite well in the tribal areas which hold kepy to power in Chattisgarh," said another senior BJP leader.

In Rajasthan, the Congress scored a victory by carefully crafting strategy to maximise on the large number of BJP rebels.

"We focused on BJP rebels right from the beginning, many of them were accomodated in Congress and the influence of rest of them were used to upset BJP's apple cart in the state," a senior Congress leader from Rajasthan said.

BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley echoed a similar view when he told reporters that "BJP rebels" were one of the reasons that affected party's performance in Rajasthan.

Surprisingly, BJP's outgoing Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje had also projected "development" as the party's main poll plank.

"It paid dividend in the urban areas where BJP won more than 80 per cent of the seats, but in the rural areas more than 50 rebel candidates marred its chances," said a senior BJP leader.

As leaders of the two parties went into a huddle, they reached the same conclusion.

"We realise that the days of high pitched emotive campaigns are over and people are bothered about issues which affect their day-to-day lives," a BJP leader said.

"We are relooking at our election strategy for the coming general elections in wake of these results," he added.

"The Congress party has realised that we are on a strong wicket as far as the issue of development is concerned as our government at the centre has been moving in the right direction in this regard. But we will have to manage intra-party feuds and factionalism to reap the maximum gains in coming general elections (which are due next year)," said a Congress leader.
first published:December 08, 2008, 21:08 IST
last updated:December 08, 2008, 21:08 IST