- Strong pro-Vajpayee undercurrent means advantage BJP..
- Congress campaign yet to take off. But party will win a few seats thanks to self-goals by the BJP.
- Poor ticket distribution and infighting in the BJP could impact it in about five seats.
- Gondwana Gantantra Party could play spoilsport for both the BJP and the Congress in a few seats.
In the heart of India, the Congress is clearly not in battle mode for Lok Sabha 2004. Party morale is at an all-time low, local leaders have either absented themselves or are engaged in fighting each other. The high command in Delhi appears to have virtually thrown in the towel. Fortunately for the Congress, the BJP appears determined to score a few self-goals, thus allowing the former to at least save face.
At the Congress HQ in Bhopal’s Jawahar Bhawan, there’s little sign of the usual frenetic election activity. And party office-bearers and workers are only too willing to share their angst against the high command—for treating MP as a lost cause—and their local leaders, for having run away from the electoral battle. Even ex-CM Digvijay Singh is focusing on Orissa, which he is in charge of, rather than on home turf.
One of the last men standing is Kamal Nath, whose reputed invulnerability in Chhindwara is now under siege from a young BJP firebrand. Prahlad Singh Patel, Union MoS for coal and literally and figuratively the BJP's tallest leader in Mahakaushal, has seriously rattled Nath. Patel’s focus on development and his strongman image are both working for the BJP. The contrasting campaign styles makes for a colourful battle. Patel thunders around the countryside on a motorcycle while Nath wings it overhead in his helicopter. But the balance of power is with neither—it lies with a marginal player, the Gondwana Gantantra Party or the...