Millennium Post

After May 19, all eyes on 2017 polls

After the excitement of the five state Assembly elections this year, the focus is already shifting towards the 2017 Assembly polls. Next year Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur, and Goa will be going for polls. Stakes are high for all the players including the BJP, Congress, SP, BSP, AAP, and Akali Dal.  There is bound to be some political realignment before these polls.

Of the five states, the Akali -BJP coalition is ruling Punjab and the BJP in Goa.  Uttarakhand and Manipur are the Congress-ruled states. UP is dominated by the two regional chieftains – the BSP chief Mayawati and the ruling SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. The Congress, SP, and the BJP face 
anti-incumbency in their respective states.

The fight will be intense in Uttar Pradesh and more so for the BJP, which won 72 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state. If Modi wants to bid for power in 2019, winning  Uttar Pradesh will be key. It is a question mark because local issues dominate the Assembly polls. Secondly, the fight is between the SP and the BSP as the BJP and the Congress come third and fourth.

UP is clearly the top priority for Modi. To repeat the Lok Sabha 2014 performance, he needs luck .The BJP’s Assembly track record had been dismal in the past two decades. For the party, the number of seats had plummeted from 174 in 1996 to 47 in 2012. There are close to 200 Assembly seats, which the party has not won in the last 15 years and 60 seats, which it has not won till now.

Enthused by the Assam win, the BJP is now considering a local face as its Chief Ministerial candidate, besides concentrating more on local issues. Keshav Prasad Maurya, a Dalit has been made its state president to woo his community. The social engineering ploy is also on. The Ram temple is certainly in the pipeline. The BJP is trying to ensure better coordination with the RSS. However, the Congress bashing will not help as the challenge comes from the SP and the BSP.

The Congress, which has seen ups and downs, is fighting for survival, facing a leadership crisis and low morale. The party has lost its core voters including Muslims and Dalits. The organisation is practically non- existent in UP which the Congress ruled for decades. It has no second-rung leaders while imported senior leaders like Beni Prasad Verma had quit the party to go back to SP. The party has appointed Prashant Kishor who was in the Modi team in 2014 as its poll strategist but he does not have a magic wand. 

The SP is depending on its development work done in five years as well as the Muslim plus Yadav votes.  Its biggest threat comes from the anti-incumbency and its failure on the law and order front. SP is now on weaker ground than earlier in launching attacks against BSP and also in attracting Muslim votes. SP has to answer for its failure to fulfill commitments.

BSP supremo Mayawati is quietly working hard to come back after getting no seat in 2014 Lok Sabha polls.  She has some tricks up her sleeve and plans to go solo counting on the return of Muslims to the BSP fold and a Dalit-Muslim consolidation that might influence anti-BJP voters to look up to her.  Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) might test their political strength in UP in alliance with Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal. Clearly, following the great success of their grand alliance in Bihar Assembly polls, they are optimistic.

In Punjab the Akali-BJP combine has been in power for two terms and anti-incumbency is staring in its place. The entry of a new player AAP is threatening both the main opposition Congress and the ruling coalition amidst reports that AAP might do well. Kejriwal will play a role in both Punjab and Goa and later in Gujarat. He has already launched his Goa campaign with a big rally in Panaji. Kejriwal’s strategy is to expand to the states where the BJP and the Congress are in a direct fight and project AAP as an alternative as he successfully did in Delhi.

It is not sure which way Uttarakhand will go after the courts restored the rule of the Congress after a floor test last month. The fight is between the Congress and the BJP. Manipur is not looking good for the Congress with dissidence and indiscipline dogging the party.

The 2017 Assembly polls are much more important for the BJP as they move towards the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The Congress is facing a serious crisis. The party’s political threat comes not only from the BJP but also from the regional satraps. If the Congress loses Manipur and Uttarakhand, the party will be left with just Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, and Mizoram. The BJP is eyeing Meghalaya and Mizoram after its triumph in Assam.

Above all, to push its luck in the 2017 Presidential contest, the BJP needs to fare well in the next year’s Assembly polls. The party falls short of 1.85 lakh votes required to win the prestigious battle that involves an electoral college of 10.98 lakh votes. A strong show in Uttar Pradesh where MLAs’ votes have a total value of 83,824 may provide the party the leeway needed to push its own nominee. In all respects, 2017 will be a make or mar year for all the players. 

(The author is a political analyst. Views expressed are strictly personal.)
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