As the national politics goes through a turmoil, the Election Commission has announced that the Assembly elections in five states, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab and Manipur, to be held between February 4 and March 8.
Around 16 crore people will cast their votes in the elections. While polling in Goa and Punjab will take place on February 4, Uttarakhand will vote on February 15. The voting that will take place in two phases in Manipur on March 4 and 8 might be due to security reasons. Uttar Pradesh, the country's most populous state, will go to the polls in seven phases, on February 11, 15, 19, 23 and 27 and March 4 and 8. This will be the single biggest electoral exercise since the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and will involve a total of 690 constituencies, 404 of them in Uttar Pradesh alone. Goa has 40 seats, Punjab 117, Manipur 60 and Uttarakhand has 70 seats. Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi has announced that the poll results from all five states will be known on March 11.
The polls assumes high relevance as it is the first major elections in these five states after the BJP-led NDA government at Centre declared demonetisation of currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations. The internal feud in Samajwadi Party and vacuum of a ‘true’ leader in the Congress party add significance to the elections amidst the economic impasse post demonetisation. The issues in the Samajwadi Party will for sure play a pivotal role in deciding the fate of Uttar Pradesh. Although the announcement of elections might put an end to the ‘open war’ between SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son and UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, what matters now is who would win the fight for party symbol –the bicycle, as both of them have approached the Election Commission staking claim on it. It is doubtful if even the SP well-wishers still keep hope of the party returning to the power. For Akhilesh, it is tough to overcome the limitation that there are no notable achievements to be projected. The situation is also not favourable. The future of SP that once gave hope and a sense of security to the minorities and other backward classes will be solely dependent on the tactics Mulayam and his son would use against the BSP, BJP, and the Congress.
However, it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, the BJP that is going to face the biggest challenge. It was the voters in Uttar Pradesh that made the BJP’s successful entry to the throne smooth by choosing them in all the 71 seats out of 80. Hence, the UP elections will show the voters’ approach towards the BJP government that pushed them into the streets and made them ‘beg’ for their own hard-earned money. The victory in local body elections in Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat and other states post-demonetisation had given the saffron party some scope for hope. But, the leadership is aware that the fight will be tougher if the Opposition parties succeed in transforming the rage of lower class people into votes.
Punjab and Manipur will be witnessing tougher fights this time. What everyone looks forward to is whether the Aam Aadmi Party of Arvind Kejriwal would be able to overcome the tactics of the BJP that has joined hands with the Akali Dal. Also, the victory in the local body elections has given the BJP high hopes. The RSS that got inspired by the successful ‘hijack’ in Arunachal Pradesh had tried the same tactics in Manipur but in vain. The disappointed Sangh had also played an inside game to postpone elections in Manipur and bring presidential rule in the state. However, it has to be assumed that the Election Commission has spoiled those efforts. Rahul Gandhi can heave a sigh of relief if the Congress could repeat the success story in at least Manipur and Uttarakhand.
Although the elections are into the states’ legislature, that will be a litmus test to the economic policies of Prime Minister Modi. This is a situation to examine the political consequences of the demonetisation policy of the BJP government. However, the results of the elections are unpredictable as the factors that decide success in the present world are not facts and indisputable truths, but manipulative media campaigns and individual-centred emotional propaganda.