Will 2018 Politics be the Game Changer?

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Our Associate Editor, Navodita, analyses the political scenario in the eight states that are slated to go to the hustings in 2018. Here’s her overview, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.

With the forthcoming in eight states this year, all eyes are set on the leadership within the two main coalitions. Before we debate about the leadership of Rahul Gandhi and Narendra , let us first take a quick look at the various governments in these states.

First of these states to go to polls will be the northeastern states of Meghalaya, Tripura, and Nagaland. In Nagaland, the indigenous Naga People’s Front has the largest number of seats in this 60-member legislative assembly with BJP, INC, JD (U) and NCP also making their presence felt with a few seats. After a major political crisis last year where Zeliang was expelled by his party NPF, he still managed to take oath as chief minister of Nagaland but the crisis will continue as MLAs supporting him may face legal action.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) is ruling Tripura for generations now with Manik Sarkar as the current chief minister. However, recently, the saffron forces led by the BJP have been hijacking not only the opposition place from the Indian National Congress but is also making inroads to capture power in the forthcoming polls. The government here may fall prey to anti-incumbency as government employees are a disgruntled lot. While the tribals which long remained their voter base are a threatened lot, Trinamool Congress, too, is seen as a strongly emerging ‘third force’ with veteran leaders of the Congress party in it. However, Indigenous Tripura People’s Front (ITPF) and their demand around Tripuri nationalism and Tripuraland may colour the forthcoming elections in different hues. They have long been supporting the NDA.

In Meghalaya, although Indian National Congress is at the helm, TMC has been making inroads, but the local Meghalaya people still remain unhappy with their problems revolving largely around basic necessities like drinking water, roads, health centres, playground and the like.

While in Karnataka the Rajnikanth factor may be played up by the BJP who are planning to include him in their campaigning this year. The Karnataka unit of the Congress, however, believes that even if the BJP is successful in getting Rajnikanth to play an active role in the campaign, he won’t pull in too much crowd as his effect is no longer significant and he plays a limited role. Moreover, the Modi-Shah duo which has proved to be successful so far in other states may find the tough going as the party is undergoing intra-party factions in the state. Post-Gujarat it seems the Congress party has already got in action with Shashi Tharoor and some senior Congress leaders getting lakhs of booth-level workers into action in the state capital. As the BJP is planning to saffronise the agendas in the state, chief minister Siddaramaiah has warned of stringent action against those who instigate ‘communal sentiments’ in Karnataka. The state home minister Ramalinga Reddy said that 19 people associated with the BJP, RSS or Bajrang Dal have been killed in the state over a period of time but in most cases, the reasons were personal.

As Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Karnataka will go to polls in the first half of the year, Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan will go to polls in the latter half of 2018 – in November and December.

In Mizoram, politics is dominated by two main political fronts – Mizo National Front (MNF) and Indian National Congress. This 40-member state legislative assembly has Lal Thanhawla as its chief minister. As the chief minister is busy implementing the new economic development policy in the state to retain voters and to empower rural economy and make it more market-driven, MNF is an NDA ally and works to promote their own development agendas. However, a group of says that development really takes the backburner in the wake of elections. This is a tough state for the BJP as card cannot be played here at all and only development can. The Katakhal-Bairabi broad-gauge railway line and upcoming Bairabi-Sairang railway line have been positive in the PM’s kitty.

In Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the big challenge for the BJP is to fight anti-incumbency. The new entry to Chhattisgarh politics will be the new party floated by former Congress leader Ajit Jogi. Jogi has considerable influence over the Satnami SC community and tribals who comprise nearly 50 percent of the state, and he may damage prospects of both the BJP and the Congress in the state. The BJP seems to be in top form in MP as last year, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and other senior leaders inaugurated the war room for the party with the slogan ‘Abki Baar- 200 Paar’. It would be the main channel for disseminating and audio and video messages to party workers working on the ground during elections.

Like in other two states, in Rajasthan, too, the BJP will be working to hold the fort as its focus will remain fighting corruption charges being leveled against its leaders in all three states. The leaders, however, strongly believe their welfare schemes will help them win yet another election here. Party workers are optimistic in the state as 75% of the panchayat elections held last year were in their favour. This showed that BJP was no longer just an urban base party but had its wings spread out in rural areas, too. BJP is hoping factionalism in the opposition (led by Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot) will lead to their win again this year.

Well then, as both parties gear up for the polls in various states, leaders heading both the parties have a daunting task ahead where each one’s main task will be uniting the party and focusing on the agendas of development and trust-building with the voters.

©Navodita Pande

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Navodita Pande

Navodita Pande

Navodita Pande has been practicing yoga since she was 9 years old in Iyengar Yoga. In April 1995, she performed at the International Yoga Seminar. In January 2003, Navodita taught at Hare Rama Hare Krishna Mandir in New York. Navodita had a Yoga show on NDTV 24x7 and was also the official yoga trainer for Miss Delhi contestants in 2007. She currently teaches Yoga and Reiki to
people in Kanpur.
Navodita Pande