Is Modi then trying to project his pro-poor and pro-farmer image ahead of the elections – this is a major question we should be asking after the union budget? Both parties, BJP and Congress, are already in full mood to take on the election campaign in the northeastern states, points out our Associate Editor, Navodita, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
In the wake of the Budget, it does seem usual to speculate that the BJP has tried to woo the farmers and the poor as an important vote bank and even taken the risk of not wooing the investor or the private sector or even the middle-class. Is Modi then trying to project his pro-poor and pro-farmer image ahead of the elections – this is a major question we should be asking?
Both parties are already in full mood to take on the election campaign in the northeastern states. On the last day of January, Rahul Gandhi kicked off his party’s Meghalaya campaign with a two-day trip to the state. He addressed a meeting of Congress workers at Jowai, about 70 km from Shillong, and later attended a music festival in there to mark the completion of five years by the Congress government. However here the Congress faces a stiff anti-incumbency and an aggressive BJP and its ally National People’s Party. Congress has already released 57 names for the 60-member Assembly. Here it is difficult to forecast which party might win the elections and form the government in case of a hung Assembly. In the last eighteen years, eight governments have been formed, with a brief period of President’s rule. While the Congress hopes to gain from the stability that Congress leader Mukul Sangma has been able to provide to state politics, it is still early to forecast what may happen here with its history of defections even on the eve of elections.
On the other hand, you have Nagaland and the long-pending Naga issue which several tribal bodies and civil society groups demanded be resolved first before elections. They cautioned against ‘vested interests’ and ‘unscrupulous persons’ and that they should be stopped from sabotaging the historical process of negotiation by filing nominations. Naga bodies, in support of the Nagas, planned a bandh on February 1 if the Election Commission goes ahead with January election-notification. However, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju, who is also the poll in-charge for Nagaland, said that peaceful elections in Nagaland would facilitate the ongoing peace process. The BJP here hopes to make inroads by weakening the ruling party, the NPF (Naga People’s Front). The party has weakened over the years with factionalism running deep. It no longer remains the dominant party in Nagaland and the BJP hopes to gain from the rifts within. The BJP is planning to contest elections alone and hopes to gain from being in power in the Centre as the state largely depends on grants from the Central government. This may give the BJP a strong edge in playing an important role in forming a coalition in case of a hung Assembly.
In Tripura, the Left has won all Assembly elections since 1993 with handsome margins but there are significant indications of a decline in the vote share of the Left due to anti-incumbency. The issue of unemployment remains a major issue and the BJP is hoping to gain from people’s unhappiness with the government. The Adivasis here constitute one-third of the total number of voters in the state. BJP’s alliance with the IPFT can help the party make inroads.
Hence we see that even though BJP may not be able to form the government in these three states, it will definitely make its presence felt, either on its own or in alliance with regional parties. The BJP is trying hard to send out a signal that its reach extends beyond the Hindi heartland. Therefore it is going to make an all-out effort to try and win these elections. It could spring a surprise by forging new alliances in these states.
However, the recent setback in the Rajasthan by-polls indicate that all is not well within the party. The victory here has sent the Congress hoping for a lot more. The Congress not only won the two Lok Sabha seats and the lone Assembly seat, but it did so with impressive margins. The Congress’ recovery of some of the lost ground reflects a general dissatisfaction among the people with the Vasundhara Raje government. In Rajasthan, as in Gujarat where the BJP scraped through in late-2017, the two national parties will be in a straight contest. A defeat can mean only one thing: the BJP is slipping in approval ratings in the run-up to 2019.
The election result also shows that people find more confidence in the new face within the Congress party – Sachin Pilot. Many in the BJP believe that this loss goes on to indicate that people want to see a more youthful face even within the BJP. It is the time that both parties encourage more youthful leadership in different regions; else these elections will also be contested mainly on their party presidents leading each pack. The BJP has, however, gained in West Bengal, as it finished second in the Uluberia Lok Sabha and Noapara Assembly constituencies. It seems to be taking over the place being vacated by the Left vote bank in quite a few places.
We can only wait and watch how the elections fare and whether BJP manages to make inroads once again, or will there be a resurgence by the Congress.
Photos from the Internet
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people in Kanpur.