Opinion polls, particularly those conducted well in advance of elections are notoriously inaccurate, critics even wonder if some are deliberately slanted. Despite those realities the Congress party like the proverbial drowning man and a straw, will desperately clutch on to the poll which suggests that the party will regain Rajasthan, and despite the Prime Minister’s recent campaigning, Vasundhara Raje will make way for Sachin Pilot in Jaipur.

Whether that is the incumbency factor at work, or evidence of Raje’s increasing unpopularity within the BJP ranks is a question yet to be answered. However, a couple of by-elections have suggested that Pilot does have an advantage.

Which is not the case in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh: the same polls suggest the Congress does have a slim chance of success there too, but the sitting BJP chief ministers retain their personal popularity ~ confusion over who the Congress will project for the top job could negate the anti-incumbency factor. Of course Pilot could have internal rivals too: hopefully the High Command will desist from meddling. Best to wait and watch: a couple of polls do not an election determine.

Yet those surveys, even if subsequently proved off-target, should serve to boost the sagging morale in the Congress’ ranks. Rahul Gandhi’s hopes of leading a grand alliance next summer have taken a hit ~ the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi party’s refusal to join forces in the upcoming curtain- raisers are a serious setback, unlikely to be rectified before the big one. That both Ms Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav have accused the Congress (read Rahul Gandhi) to be too arrogant to enter into an alliance rooted in equality in seat-sharing says a lot.

The skewed sense of entitlement persists despite a series of electoral reverses and points to Rahul’s inability to lead others: the manner in which he talks of becoming prime minister if other parties so desire indicates he believes he would be doing them a favour if he accepts the leadership role.

Sonia Gandhi does try hard to keep intact what remains of the UPA: Rahul is a stumbling block she dare not try to dislodge; family and dynasty remain top priority. The Lok Dal has called upon Mayawati to lead the fight against the BJP, Mamata Banerjee believes she is better placed, and though Chandrababu Naidu might deny it he would not be averse to responding to the “nation’s call”. More so since Sharad Pawar is thinking aloud about calling it a day.

The sinister assertion that Rahul Gandhi remains Narendra Modi’s most potent electoral weapon will be tested on December 11/12 ~ there are few signs of the theory being reversed. Many hope that Rahul will spring a surprise a couple of months hence. If he does not, well-wishers of the Congress will hope that the worms eventually turn.