The Congress has virtually swept the civic polls in BJP ruled Rajasthan. This despite the intense communalisation taking place in the state, that has been home to some of the worst cow mob lynchings of Muslims. And while Congress leader Sachin Pilot can take solace from the interpretation that the “countdown for the BJP in Rajasthan has begun”, there is no doubt that the RSS/BJP that are working in close tandem in this state will not allow that to happen easily. And the card will be, as it was in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, that of communalisation and polarisation with the stage having been set with the cow mob lynchings over the past years.

The Congress has an organisation that is more robust, and in a healthier state, than Gujarat as it was in power not so long ago. Both Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot are good administrators, active and responsive as compared to many others in the party. Their stress has been on development, with the livelihood woes of the people of Rajasthan accumulating under the widely recognised inefficent and corrupt rule of BJPs Vasudhrara Raje Scindia. The alienation as the results of the local body elections show is sufficient to overcome the communal card that is being played with some vengeance in this state.

The farmers agitation that swept across parts of Rajasthan just weeks ago is a case in point. It was a highly successful protest, with the farmer volunteers, stopping traffic and movement on the roads and sitting in what became a massive demonstration for their rights and against the government. Although the mainstream media, driven by the BJP, ignored this it was clear that the farmers had come together as a force, cutting across caste and religious lines. This the Left that is operating in small pockets in Rajasthan and the Congress count as a strategic victory.

However, reports from Rajasthan make it clear that the BJP/RSS will work for the Assembly elections next year by parading their trump card Narendra Modi who still holds sway amongst the voters, and seeking votes in his name rather than that of the highly unpopular Chief Minister of the state. The communalisation that is ongoing, and has led to violence as well as dastardly lynchings in different parts of the state will be stepped up rapidly as the elections approach. More so, as in the absence of development this is the card that the RSS/BJP is using to one, win elections, and two, move forward towards the realisation of their agenda for a majoritarian state.

It might be recalled here that there was no a word from the top leadership of the Congress party when Mohammad Afrazul was recently killed in Rajasthan, hacked to death and burnt by a man who is being lauded now by the right wing groups. Except for a brief statement by Gehlot, President Rahul Gandhi did not refer to the incident at all during his hectic election campaign in Gujarat. It remains to be seen whether the Congress evolves a strategy to grab this bull by the horns now, and use a language and agenda of secular polity to counter blatant communalism.

The Congress campaign, unlike Gujarat that has seen high levels of polarisation over the decades, will have to counter the efforts to sabotage and over turn the secular Preamble of the Indian Constitution.for it to have resonance amongst all sections of the people in India. And thereby help to erase the damage done by hate and divisiveness. Whether the Congress party that tends to become the ostrich when it comes to hard communalism is able to stitch together an agenda and a campaign to effectively counter this in Karnataka and Rajasthan next year, will determine its success---or failure--- in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Winning local elections can be a countdown only if there is a larger strategy, otherwise the victory can be little more than a flash in the pan in the long run.