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Assembly elections 2018: Is the rebel a vote swinger or thorn in the side?

While he can cut some votes of the new nominee and boost the chances of a win by an opposition candidate, he could also ruffle the feathers of colleagues in his new party

Aditi Phadnis  |  New Delhi 

Harish Chandra Meena, Rajasthan Harish Chandra,
File photo of Harish Chandra Meena, former BJP parliamentarian from Rajasthan who joined the Congress weeks before assembly polls in the state

About a year ago, in a chance encounter, former top police official from Rajasthan and MP from the for the Dausa constituency, Harish Chandra Meena, said he had been offered the membership of a standing committee by his party but he did not accept it because he didn’t see any point.

He was summoned by Prime Minister and asked the reason. He told the PM he hadn't come to Parliament to accept memberships of committees, but to do something meaningful.

Now, a year later, Meena has quit the and joined the Congress, bringing the saffron party's tally below 272. Admittedly with less than six months to go for the current Lok Sabha, this doesn’t matter much any more, although in the six assembly constituencies in Dausa, Meena’s action might create problems for the party. And, despite the BJP's vice-like grip on its members, that one should have got away suggests a weakness.

How much does rebellion matter in an election? In Rajasthan, in the list of candidates announced so far, the has dropped six ministers, of which two have crossed over to join the In Madhya Pradesh, several sitting ministers have been dropped, but their close relatives have been nominated by the party. In Chhattisgarh too, one minister has been dropped and several MLAs denied nomination by the ruling BJP.

The problem of rebellion is much more in the BJP in the Congress, simply because the party is in power in three of the five states going to polls. What is the worst that a rebel can do? He can cut some votes of the new nominee and add to the chances of victory of an opposition candidate. But the opposite is also true -– the candidate from the party that the rebel has joined can begin to feel threatened by a new colleague and resentful that the same set of loaves and fishes will now have to be shared by a bigger subset of followers.

But sometimes rebels can have unintended consequences. In the Karnataka election that has just gone by, a top BJP leader explained that the logic of leaping to accept former Foreign Minister into the BJP from the ahead of the May 2018 election was that while he himself might not have swung too many votes in the BJP’s favour, his supporters, especially in the old Mysore region, his area of strength, would have damaged the Little wonder then, that the BJP’s tally rose from 40 in 2013 to 104 in 2018.

Until every party in the current round of assembly elections declares the full list of its candidates, it is hard to assess how much damage rebels represent. But it is safe to say that in an election where there is no discernible wave in favour of anyone, rebels could represent upset victories and defeats.

First Published: Sat, November 17 2018. 12:49 IST
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