Image Credit: www.indiaelection2017.com
The poll bigule has been blown for elections to five state assemblies – Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. These states are very important in the scheme of things in 2019 central elections as they will be sending 19% of total Lok Sabha MPs to Parliament.
Unlike 2016, when elections were held for four states, having clear winners in three – Assam, W. Bengal and Kerala – this time multi-cornered contests have made it very difficult to predict winners in the five states. All of them are facing a tight contest and some of them may witness hung assemblies as well.
Let’s take a look at each state.
In Uttar Pradesh (UP), the alliance between SP-Congress means that the state will face a triangular contest. While arithmetically the alliance looks strong, BJP’s strong show in central elections and Maya’s resurgence amongst Dalits make it very difficult to predict the winner. Ultimately it will boil down to caste / religion combinations in each seat. This alliance is expected to give a signal to minority community that they are better placed to defeat BJP. However, what does the community do in seats where BSP has fielded a Muslim candidate while SP-INC have a Hindu candidate remains to be seen. SP contesting on 298 seats means that it could face rebellion in about 100 seats which could mar its prospects. Has it given too many seats to Congress? Its performance in the end will determine whether Akhilesh retains his CM chair. Will Congress repeat its performance like in Bihar and Bengal or perform poorly like in Tamil Nadu remains to be seen. UP voter have proved political pundits wrong in the last decade in 2007, 2009, 2012 and 2014. So be ready for a shocker again!
In Uttarakhand, public throws out the incumbent government every five years. This trend has been followed since the inception of the state. Further, the contests here have always been close. TV channels had predicted a BJP victory in 2012 on the day of counting, based on leads, however, Congress emerged as the ultimate winner. This time it is the turn of BJP to win. You don’t need to be a pollster or opinion polls to predict Uttarakhand result based on trends. However, two factors make the contest interesting. Firstly, Harish Rawat is leading the popularity charts. We have seen in recent polls that party whose leader is ahead in ratings ultimately wins the state. Secondly, BJP has given tickets on approximately 20% of seats to ex-Congressmen. This makes it a Congress A vs Congress B contest in many seats. Will these ‘dalbadlus’ make or mar BJP’s chances, only time will tell.
In Punjab, two opinion polls are predicting entirely different result; CSDS – Akalis and Axis – Congress. In my opinion what is clear is that NDA is going to lose the polls. Ten years of anti-incumbency is difficult to handle. AAP’s participation in the contest has made the contest triangular. Polls have generally under estimated AAP tally like in Delhi. AAP has worked very hard on the ground, having the advantage of starting campaign almost a year back. However, controversies (ticket distribution, manifesto etc.) have marred its prospects to a certain extent. People want change and a section are willing to give it a chance fed up of Congress-Akali rule over decades. Their door to door campaigning is difficult to replicate. Captain Amarinder has been able to negate some of AAP’s first mover advantage. As of now, in my opinion, it could either way. A hung assembly is not ruled out with AAP-Congress joining hands like in Delhi to form government.
In Goa, the participation of AAP has made the contest interesting. BJP’s long term partner Maharashtra Gomanthak Party has rocked the boat and formed a regional coalition of smaller parties. The BJP is also facing resistance from local RSS leadership which has split and formed a new outfit. It’s the only state where minorities support BJP but intolerance debate could see a few voters shunning BJP. Congress is depending on the Catholic vote to sail it through. The state has witnessed corruption, sex, sleaze scandals, and many other scams. A small state like Delhi with resentment against corrupt politicians and existing system, stage was set for AAP. However, the party has focused on Punjab, more than Goa and its prospects are not as bright as in Punjab. BJP has refused to announce existing CM as CM candidate showing lack of faith in his leadership and there are rumors that Parrikar may return to state if BJP wins. A quadrangular contest, ultimately regional parties, AAP, independents will determine the course of next government formation. Though small, state is of symbolic importance to BJP and a testimony of its secular credentials.
In Manipur, Congress is trying to save its 14 year old government. BJP bolstered by its victory in Assam and coup in Arunachal Pradesh, is sensing victory. It is going solo and has not formed an alliance with Naga People’s Front and National People’s Party which are part of NDA at the center. Regional party Manipur People’s Party also has a strong presence and has formed governments twice in the past. The economic blockade resulting from CM Ibobi Singh’s decision to create seven new districts by bifurcating the Naga dominated areas is the key issue in the elections. The Left parties, NCP, AAP and JDU have formed the Left Democratic Front. NCP has 10 MLAs in current house with total strength of 60. Irom Sharmila has also entered the fray with her political outfit. All these make elections quite interesting and close.
In recent times we have seen people giving a clear verdict except for in Delhi in Dec. 2015. All the five states are witnessing tough multi cornered contests. Will we see the return of hung assemblies, jod-tod and coalition governments or will people give clear mandate remains to be seen? However, one thing is for sure, it is pretty difficult to put your neck out and call out winners in each of these states….
The article was first published in MeriNews.