The 2019 general elections are crucial in so far as they are going to decide the direction of Indian politics for a long time to come. Apart from a referendum on the socialist politics of a capitalist regime, that of the BJP led by Narendra Modi, it is also a vote on the Congress-style of politics.

The central question is whether the party will breach the 44-mark of 2014 or slip even further.

As the Congress remains a national party — people are least interested in the technicality that it failed to qualify as the principle opposition party as did not get seats enough — its voice is heard, widely circulated by the media.

But, the Congress’s opposition to the BJP, more specifically PM Narendra Modi, seems to be only helping the smaller regional parties when it comes to gathering the anti-BJP votes.

The more vitriolic the message of Rahul Gandhi, the more the anti-BJP votes are falling into the kitty of the regional parties. The Congress narrative doesn’t seem to be attracting votes for itself.

The singular example is that of Uttar Pradesh. Barring the caste equations which are stacked, at least on paper, against the BJP, the entry of Priyanka Vadra and the venomous attack on PM Modi, art times bordering on defamation, seem to be helping the mahagathbandhan of the SP and the BSP in terms of votes. It is not even helping its cause where it is cornering anti-BJP anti-Modi votes. In that case, it is helping the BJP in a triangular fight.

In the bigger states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, anti-incumbency seems to be catching up with the Congress regimes rather too soon. The saffron party is confident of not getting hit bigtime in these states. A swing down of two to three seats is what it is looking at. Therefore, not much of a gain for the Congress, primarily as regional players don’t have any consequential presence.

In Tamil Nadu, the politics seem to be defined by the duality between the AIAKMK and the DMK. Patriarchs of both the parties have been dead very recently, and given the electoral behaviour of the state’s electorate, the two regional behemoths will in all likelihood divide the votes. While the Congress had no seats from here in 2014, it is also not expected to gain any.

In Odisha, the scenario is the same. The two parties vying for votes is BJP and the regional dynasty led by Naveen Patnaik. The BJP is only poised to gain in this contest this time. Just as the last time, the Congress would in all likelihood draw a blank here, simply for the fact that it is not a factor in the politics of the state, all the more after cyclone ‘Fani’ and the performance of the Centre-state tandem therein.

Punjab with its 13 seats is not going to make much of difference in the Congress performance even as Congress’s Captain Amarinder Singh regime remains popular with the people unless all the 13 are bagged by the Congress, which is highly unlikely. The situation here is further problematised by the AAP, which has four sitting MPs already.

The North-east is lost to the Congress for a very long time to come.

K Chandrasekhar Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) came out of its opposition to the Congress and its popularity owing to the creator of the new state which was beset with problems created by the then Congress regime at the Centre remains top notch with the people. Both the BJP and the Congress will only get disappointment from Telangana.

The same goes for Andhra Pradesh. The fight is between Chandrababu Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and YSR Congress’s challenger Jagan Mohan Reddy. There is no space for the Congress to expand the envelope of seats here.

Come to Kerala where the politics swing between the Left and the Congress. Going by the fact that the Left has emerged powerful and has installed the Pinrayi Vijayan government, drubbing the Congress in assembly elections, there is little hope that the Grand Old party will get more than eight seats it got in 2014. Even then it was a climbdown of five seats.

The last-minute patch-up between the BJP and its crucial ally the Shiv Sena has rained on the parade of the Congress in Maharashtra. It is again illogical to think that the Congress shall spring up a damaging surprise. If at all the Nationalist Congress Party of Sharad Pawar, which is already witnessing a family feud, is the gainer of the votes that will be lost to the BJP or Shiv Sena.

Karnataka, where the Congress is in power in association with the Gowdas, is expected to give the BJP healthy numbers this time. It is expected to better its tally than last time. While it is a truly bipolar contest here between the Congress and the BJP, it is the ally Janata Dal (Secular) that is expected to gain and not the Congress. After initial heartburn and wrangling over seat-sharing formula, the Gowdas were able to wrest eight seats from the Congress, including the Tumakuru seat which the Congress holds currently. Of the 20 the Congress is contesting, a spectacular performance will be to retain the none that it won last time. So, no new gains here too for Rahul Gandhi.

While it may get a few seats here and there in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Delhi, the numbers are not going to make Rahul Gandhi any more a significant player in a non-BJP formation as he is now.

Gujarat seems to be under the political chokehold of the BJP so not much hope for the Congress there too.

In all, it is not clear where the Congress is gaining significantly, and conversely, wherever Rahul Gandhi is denting the BJP and the PM, the regional parties are gaining at the expense of the Congress.