BJP & Allies Poised for a Sweep in assembly election in 5 States

The main issues in the elections are likely to be demonetisation, Modi government’s offensive against black money and corruption, daring surgical strike against Pakistan, India’s rising stock in the world, major advances recorded in the field of development and strengthening India’s defences.

Amba Charan

he five States of Punjab, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Goa and Manipur are already in election mode.
By-elections to various vacant assembly seats in other States are also being held. But the by-election to Amritsar Lok Sabha seat is attracting great interest. It has been caused by the drama of the sitting Congress MP Amarinder Singh by resigning in protest against the Supreme Court judgement upholding the right of Haryana to its share of water in the composite Punjab before its bifurcation in 1966. Lok Sabha membership had become a hindrance in his claim to the post of chief minister in the eventuality of Congress being voted to power. This resignation has made him a ‘martyr’ giving strength to his wish to reclaim this post.
The main issues in the elections are likely to be demonetisation, Modi government’s offensive against black money and corruption, daring surgical strike against Pakistan, India’s rising stock in the world, major advances recorded in the field of development and strengthening India’s defences.
Opposition-for-opposition-sake attitude adopted by the opposition boomeranged on the opposition. First, it raised doubts on surgical strikes against Pakistan. Many of the opposition leaders appeared to be speaking the language of Pakistan which had been denying it initially. Their statements came handy for Pakistan to buttress its denial of the strikes. They figured prominently on Pakistan media. Ultimately, Pakistan had to concede the fact and our opposition had to acquiesce into silence.
On demonetisation too, opposition outcry failed to cut ice with the people at large. People bore with the government. They appreciated PM Modi’s bold step curb corruption and black money. Opposition failed to incite the people against government. The protests remained confined to political rallies of party workers to the exclusion of general masses.
In by-elections to Parliament and various State assemblies and urban local body and panchayat elections poll for which was held after November 8 demonetisation decision, people have given a big hand to BJP by putting their stamp of approval for the historic decision of PM Modi.
The election is crucial both for Congress and BJP. In Goa BJP is in power and in Punjab it is sharing power with its age-old ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). Congress too is in power in two States of Uttarakhand and Manipur. Mulayam Singh’s —now his son Akhilesh Yadav’s —Samajwadi Party (SP) is ruling the country’s largest State of Uttar Pradesh .
The most interesting is the State of Punjab where both Congress and Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are dreaming to be voted to power dethroning SAD-BJP alliance in power for the consecutive second term for the last ten years. On the other hand, the ruling alliance is leaving no stone unturned to hit a hat trick on the strength of its achievement in ushering in fast development of the State. PM Modi’s plank of good governance and development is likely to stand in good stead to the ruling alliance. The present NDA government at the Centre is also a source of great hope to the people of Punjab.
Like the 2012 elections, there is great media hype this time too. Majority of the media and opinion polls had to cut a sorry figure when the final results were out. It was then projected that no political party will be able to get absolute majority and Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal’s estranged nephew Manpreet Badal’s People’s Party of Punjab will hold the balance of power making to make any political party or alliance form a government. But results reversed the predictions. Manpreet is out of the media glare this time.
The media hype this time is divided between cricketer-turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu. While resigning from BJP he declared: You will find Sidhu where Punjab’s interest is. It looks as if Punjab’s interest lay hidden in his pocket. First he took it to BJP which he joined and won Amritsar Lok Sabha seat. He fell out with Akalis with whose support he had won all the three elections. He wanted his party to ditch SAD. When it didn’t, he cut his umbilical cord with BJP which he once called his mother. Then he found Punjab’s interest lay in forming a new outfit led Awaz-e-Punjab (Voice of Punjab) which died in its infancy because of lack of public life support and political malnutrition. Then he wanted to take Punjab’s interest to AAP’s doors. He waited upon party supremo and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal. When he found jilted and dejected, he was left with no other option but to take ‘Punjab’s interests’ with him to Congress. Sidhu called it ‘homecoming’ and Capt. Amrinder Singh welcomed him saying his DNA lay in Congress as Sidhu’s father had unsuccessfully contested two assembly elections on Congress ticket. The question remains why did Sidhu betray his DNA.
The opposition is trying to encash on the charges of corruption and increasing drug-addiction in Punjab. So far, no concrete charge of corruption has been made out by opposition. There is no denying the fact that drug addiction in the state has increased. But which state is free from this curse? Punjab stands at 5th place in the quantum of drug abuse. According to official figures, 29,247 cases under the Drugs Act were registered in 2012 against 29,048 in previous year. “The trend analysis showed 0.7 percent marginal increase from the average of last five years (2007-2012)” .
Kejriwal has declared he would make Punjab free of drugs in two months after coming to power. But his record in Delhi remains dismal. In two years he has not achieved the target in Delhi where he is chief minister but boasts to do so in Punjab in two months.
Amarinder Singh has tried to raise a great hype by daring to contest against SAD stalwart and chief minister Parkash Singh Badal from latter’s home constituency Lambi. It is only a half-hearted token fight. It would have made sense had he not contested from his safe own home constituency of Patiala.
Interestingly, so far Congress has also not declared Amarinder as party’s chief ministerial candidate.
The other main challenger is AAP. Delhi CM Kejriwal is staying put in the State. But the party’s chances have been marred by splits and dissensions. The splinter groups of AAP are putting hurdles in its ambitions. AAP has still not been able to announce its chief ministerial candidate although it effuses more confidence than others in forming a government.
Two important trends cannot be easily gloated over because these are a barometer of the voter’s mind in Punjab. Last year in February Akali Dal candidate wrested Khadoor Sahib seat from Congress in a by-election caused by the resignation of sitting Congress MLA in protest against “sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib”.

Although both Congress and AAP made a great issue of such incidents, both did not deliberately contest the by-poll. Opposition parties at the fag end of a government in power do wish to encash on the anti-incumbency and a win gives them a stick to say that the government has lost mandate. Their boycott was a drama following a writing on the wall of their sure defeat. Akali candidate won by a huge margin of more than 65 thousand votes over a Congress rebel candidate.
Another is a spectacular win of 21 seats by BJP and one by SAD in a 26-member Chandigarh municipal corporation elections held less than a month back. Congress was relegated to 4 from its earlier strength of 11. Chandigarh is not only the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana but also the nerve centre of Punjab and pulse of its people.
Like, Punjab Goa too is witnessing primarily a triangular fight between ruling BJP, Congress and AAP. Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party is also in the fray. AAP has put up candidates many of whom, including its chief ministerial candidate Elvis Gomes are facing criminal charges. The ruling BJP has no anti-incumbency and is well placed on the strength of its record of development and good governance record. The image of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar who earlier served as CM is another asset. Above all, is the popularity of PM Narindra Modi among people of Goa. The State is set to give BJP another chance to serve and accelerate the pace of development.
In Uttarakhand BJP is poised to dethrone the present government which is sitting on a heap of corruption, failure to come up to the expectations of the people, disaffection among Congressmen and ire of people. There is a great resentment in Congress factions in allotment of ticket. On the other hand, BJP is fighting the election unitedly as one man. It has been blessed by the veteran of Uttarakhand politics, Shri N. D. Tiwari, a father figure having been chief minister of undivided UP and of Uttarakhand.
The electoral scene in UP continues be hazy because of the see-saw family drama of once division and then unification of Mulayam Singh family being staged continuously. Whether the Samajwadi Party (SP) supremo father, chief minister son and party stalwart uncle are one or at loggerheads is not easy to say. Mulayam Singh and Shivpal Yadav boycotted the release of party manifesto by chief minister Akhilesh Yadav. People have started making a fun of goings-on in the family and party. Some important SP leaders have started jumping out of the sinking ship of SP. Some have joined BJP and others Mayawati’s BSP.
BJP is making a serious bid to gain power about 25 years. It already commands an army of 72 MPs out of 80 it won in 2014 polls. BJP is fighting election on the plank of good governance, promise of a fast pace of development as recorded in other BJP-ruled States. It stands by its main plank: justice to all and appeasement of none. The popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, himself an MP from the state, among the masses and standing in the world politics is another strong point of the party. From all indications, BJP is poised for a big win and form a government on its own strength in the State after a long time.
In Manipur, the contest is primarily between the ruling Congress and BJP. With the growing popularity of BJP and faith in the NDA government at the Centre to usher in justice to the north-eastern part of the country, the people are likely to vote for a BJP government to solve the burning problems of the State. A poll survey by India Today weekly some time back had predicted a BJP government by winning 31-35 seats in 60-member house for the first time in the State.
In all, BJP-led NDA is all set to emerge stronger after results of the assembly elections in five States are out on March 11.

(The writer is a Delhi based Political analyst)