Post Poll Picture: Probables, Possibles & Ponderables
Everything that goes up must come down.
Even the rising crescendo of one of the most bitterly fought, no-holds barred poll battle of early 2017 covering the states of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.
If the loads printed, aired and ‘netted’ by the media were laid end to end one could easily walk on words from Agartala to Agra and back without setting foot on soil and still not be any the wiser but more about that some other time.
There are also lots to be said about the caustic, even corrosively communal conduct of men who mattered. An account of the disgraceful depths they plumbed for power could wait for when the passion-spent sit down to count their breath after the verdict.
For now one would like to assess the probables, possibles and ponderables that will unfold on the country’s political canvass thereafter. Most importantly, the results here will have a direct bearing on Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Modi, where elections are due in the last quarter of this year. Before the dust of UP settles, Gujarat is experiencing the first stirrings of poll harmones with the Prime Minister’s two day visit on March 7-8 and the Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) announcing its plans to contest all 182 seats in the state.
For a recap of the just completed poll proccess, which began on February 11 and ends on March 8, 2017 with counting scheduled for March 11, one-fifth of India or 16.8 crores, roughly the population of Pakistan, was given the chance to cast it’s vote for 690 seats in five state assemblies.
If Punjab, ruled by the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP coalition has a voting population of 1.98 crore electing a 117 member state assembly, Congress headed Uttarakhand with 73.81 lakh voters takes care of 70 seats followed by Congress controlled Manipur with an 18.07 lakh population distributed amongst 60 seats.BJP ruled Goa at the other end has 11 lakh voters for its 40 seat Assembly.
However, UP takes the cake through sheer population and representation. Uttar Pradesh , however is a goliath in its own right. It has a voter population of approx.13.85 crores to elect a state Assembly of 403 members. With a population equaling Brazil, it has a Qatar-size economy. It is a political heavy weight none-the-less contributing 80 representatives in a lok sabha of 543 seats of which BJP and its constituent Apna Dal bagged 73 in the 2014 general elections.
Thus it is no wonder that the ruling BJP pulled out all stops to unleash a campaign of unparalleled intensity and unrivalled resources which had national attention riveted to this one state. Almost the entire central cabinet was hurled into the campaigning in the last phases with Modi perhaps becoming the first Prime Minister to lead a road show in a state Assembly election. So did chief minister Akhilesh Yadav seeking to guard his socialist party turf joining up with Rahul Gandhi’s Congress though Mayawati helming BSP chose to furrow a lone plough .
These polls hold critical importance for all key contenders. For Modi,a victory in these elections will be a shot in the arm for the prime minister and his demonetisation measure. It will symbolize popular approval for his measures as he stands midway past the post of his five year term. One can see him galloping unbridled thereafter, riding roughshod over all opposition.
Most importantly the result of the state elections is set to alter the outcome of the Rajya Sabha arithmetic by 2018. Modi’s NDA with 74 seats in a House of 245 is heavily outnumbered due to a UPA strength of 71 and 90 seats belonging to other parties who are not part of either coalitions. There are nine nominated members and one vacancy from West Bengal. NDA needs 123 seats in the Rajya Sabha to get any legislation passed. Ten RS seats will fall vacant in 2017 and 68 in 2018.Though MLAs play an important role in electing MPs to the Rajya Sabha, the outcome of the present elections will not substantially change the complexion of the Rajya Sabha this year but it can play a very crucial role in the election of the President slated for July 2017.
After converting himself into the sole pivot on which the BJP rotates ,Modi perforce has to jump into the deep end of the campaigning pool in every election. Success brings bouquets galore but brickbats follow setbacks and therefore the need for a blame boy. Faced with such an eventuality for a third time after Delhi and Bihar , Amit Shah may well find himself back to heading his home state which goes to polls this year end. He has,in any case kept his seat in the State Assembly. Who can be more trustworthy for this job than Shah?.
Modi who metamorphosed from hindu heartthrob to development messiah through his Gujarat model to sweep India in 2014 faces serious challenges from two emerging political contenders post this poll. The military school educated Akhilesh Yadav with a BE in environmental engineering from Mysore University and an ME from Sydney University besides an MBA became the youngest chief minister of UP at 38.Akhilesh has earned the mantle of a development oriented leader and acquired the image of being very much his own man. His decision to team up with Rahul Gandhi’s Congress as a vote consolidation strategy is proof of it.
If the SP-Congress combine wins in UP, the ranks of opposition helmed states will swell joining up with the likes of Nitish Kumar(Bihar) and Mamta Banerjee(West Bengal). It has the potential of turning into a formidable opposition group that could well throw a spanner in the Modi lok sabha works for 2019. Punjab results not withstanding,the future of the Congress lies in clawing it ‘s way back into national political reckoning by hanging onto the coat tails of regional entities.
The second serious challenger that will emerge from this clutch of elections will be Arvind Kejriwal and his AAP. Kejriwal’s fledging set up has borne the brunt of a Tsunami sort, no holds barred assault from the BJP led Centre. Ironically, all that Modi claimed he had faced from the UPA led centre when chief minister of Gujarat, was unleashed by his government to virtually paralyse the AAP government in Delhi which is merely a notch above a municipal corporation. Win or lose in Punjab and Goa, AAP is expected to make it’s presence felt as a political entity of national standing in these polls. Practitioner of the same aggressive politics as Modi, Kejriwal has already announced his plans to beard the lion in it’s own den, Gujarat.
Both Arvind and Akhilesh are pillars of an emerging national coalition-forged in the Modi furnace fires –which he himself will face in 2019. Even earlier in Gujarat 2017 !