Upcoming Assembly Elections Signal an End to ‘Brag’ and ‘Bark’ Politics of Congress
Elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Punjab and Goa are of significant political import, for they will shape the trajectory of national politics, and reveal the current strength of national and regional forces given the fact that Elections are held every year in some parts of India, the upcoming polls can be seen as yet another component of India’s dynamic democratic cycle.
The polls are happening in the backdrop of national politics when the long awaited structural changes are underway; the poll trajectory will determine the trajectory of India’s national and regional parties; they will, therefore, also have an impact on the nature of the federal structure that underpins the constitutional order in India; the country has passed through a challenging time, in terms of both politics and governance, and the outcome will reflect how voters perceive the performance of State Governments in dealing with these challenges.
The evidence resonate that State elections are fought and Won on State-specific leadership and issues, and they cannot be divorced from the larger national backdrop. There are at least there major specific national-level changes, which will have an impact on the upcoming polls. The first among them is COVID-19. The Pandemic disrupted lives and livelihoods changed the nature of political communication, and highlighted issues which so far, had not been at the heart of the electoral discourse-including health care. The election will show if COVID-19 has forced a change in the way Parties reach out to voters and the way in which voters decide on their choices, or whether the Pandemic has, actually not changed older political patterns. The ruling BJP’s healthcare management and almost the cent percent vaccination will certainly have an upper thumb. It shall put a full stop to the ‘brag’ and ‘bark’ politics of the Congress Party and expose the non-working regional parties. The second is the direction of economic reforms the government has undertaken. The government has pushed through liberal economic measures, which cater to the long pending needs of the market and also the public and private sectors. The political passions around reforms due to the protests of the farm laws has almost subsided for BJP has succeeded in winning commonman’s confidence by bringing in open the traitor political hideouts. Withdrawal of the farm laws by the ruling party has sent a message that BJP believes in sensitizing people towards the issues facing the country. Thus, the ruling BJP’s emergence as heroic leadership is certain. Thirdly, the domestic politics of the States undergoing polls has a strong external dimension. The outcome of the polls will have an impact on all their dimensions-how India’s political structures will adapt to a Post-covid-19 world; how India’s economic reform trajectory will proceed; and how India will navigate ties with the neighbourhood when the lines between the external and the internal get blurred.
The election outcome will then have an impact on the federal structure in the form of the emergence of a stronger and more United India. In the last few years under Modi’s leadership India has become known to the world that our country is a strong and unified nation. BJP’s win shall make India stronger both constitutionally and financially.Finally, though the election will reflect voter satisfaction or dissatisfaction, with their respective governments at a time of unprecedented sufferings due to the pandemic and associated economic costs.
Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Punjab and Goa will litigate some key political questions that will have resonance across the country. The opposition space is in a flux in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. The BJP’s minority problem is that it is not trusted by them; the Congress’s is that its base is largely confined to minority regions. However, the BJP has initiated commendable endeavours to win Sikhs in Punjab through measures such as making visits to their sacred sites in Pakistan easier; it has also signalled friendship to Catholics in Goa, who constitute one third population of the State, when Prime Minister Modi met the Pontiff last year. Thus, the BJP has certainly strengthened its foothold in Punjab and Goa by winning Minority confidence.
Another significant issue is that the two models of regional parties are at test. The SP in Uttar Pradesh represents backward politics led by a dominant caste; the Shiromani Akali Dal in Punjab helms a minority religious politics. There are two district models in the spectrum of regional political formulations in India. Both are facing a crisis, as their traditional mobilization strategies are now weak, and their corruption-ridden dynastic politics is increasingly unacceptable to the electorate.
Politics in the heartland, dominated by the BSP until some years ago, is at the crossroads. The BSP, which has been in power in Uttar Pradesh several times in the past, appears to be on terminal decline. The BJP has made significant in-roads among the Dalits at the cost of the BSP in Uttar Pradesh. In Punjab, the Dalits have largely voted for the Congress in the Past, and the party is trying to consolidate them following the appointment of Charanjit Singh Channi, a Dalit as Chief Minister.
Further, theissues confronting national safety and security have been taken care of by the BJP. The BJP’s recognition to the low profiles by conferring upon them the prestigious national awards have also been closely viewed by the electorate. Resolution of prominent national issues such as the abolition of Article 370 and the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhyaya have enabled the BJP, a party that favours majoritarianism away from sectoral and sectional politics. As a result, the goondaismspread by the so-called minority doyens has almost ended. The peaceful riot-free, seam-free government of Yogi Adityanath has given an unprecedented transparent governance which shall certainly receive favour from the upcoming plebiscite.
By Dr Suresh Kumar Agrawal
(The writer is Professor & Head, Department of English, Maharaja Ganga Singh University, Bikaner.)