Coming on the heels of demonetisation, elections to assemblies in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa will not only test the success or otherwise of the move against counterfeit currency, terror funding and black money, but would also be a sort of referendum on the NDA government at the Centre. The assembly elections will also show how well the latest Supreme Court (SC) ruling on secularising elections is implemented. Little doubt that the importance of the round of assembly polls cannot be overstated. Our electoral exercise at the central and state levels after every five years is well managed and is the envy of other countries.
Like the Shakespearean drama within drama and plot within plot, UP has seen several twists in the ruling Samajwadi Party’s internecine war between party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. At present, the most populous state of the country points to a tripartite contest between the SP, the BJP and the BSP. Congress may end up supporting SP to get a foothold in the state.
Both Akhilesh and BSP supremo Mayawati are desperately trying to check the Modi juggernaut and to raise the issue of harassment caused to common people post demonetisation. Akhilesh is being projected as one committed to development and as a harbinger of change in Uttar Pradesh. Mayawati who had lost her solid Dalit support base in 2014, is working on a new strategy to woo Dalit and Muslim votes. Akhilesh is banking on his clean image and developmental agenda to counter that.
In Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine will be trying to market its developmental agenda “9 years of progress in Punjab”. The Congress, led by Capt Amarinder Singh, is making a strong bid to wrest power in a bid to check the party’s losing stream after the 2014 Modi tsunami. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which had done fairly well in 2014 general elections, seems to have lost plot midway. In Uttarakhand, the Congress will be tested by the BJP after its state government was restored to power by the courts in 2016 after President’s rule was imposed in the hill state. In Manipur, the government has staked its chances on the decision to create new districts that precipitated a renewed ethnic crisis. Goa had witnessed fast development in the Assembly and now the AAP with its renewed focus on the State has queered the pitch for political parties. Together, the results will have strong reverberations at the national level and will be a referendum on the BJP Government led by Narendera Modi.