A veteran BJP leader once said during the run up to 2004 elections that ‘all political parties will be in a state of flux’. He should be happy that his prediction may come true, only a little late. Like the traffic stops during a VIP visit, governance comes to a grinding halt the moment elections are announced. With elections in five States from February 5 and results on March 11, the next 70 days promise to be eventful, keeping poll pundits to voters busy.
Akhilesh Yadav, the Chief Minister of the largest State, Uttar Pradesh, is facing two fights, one in the family and the other in the political arena. If he manages to win both, he is sure to emerge as a national figure obliterating the Congress vice-president who is struggling to remain above water. The Congress, which has been out of power in UP for the last 35 years, seems to be looking for nothing beyond a runner-up status to the third largest party. No party wants a poll tie up with the Congress as the risk factor seems to be high with no tangible benefit in vote transfer. BSP leader Mayawati is entering the poll arena with the albatross of her brother depositing crores of alleged black money in party account. Devoid of money power and depleting worker base, she has to heavily depend on her dalit vote bank. But, given the recent observation by the Supreme Court on the use or rather misuse of religion, caste, creed and other parochial issues, her campaign could face the ire of the Election Commission (EC). This, coupled with denial of free access to unrestricted black money, is likely to affect her fortunes. The BJP can draw immense comfort from the predicament of Mayawati and the internecine yaadavi (the Yadav clan in the epic Mahabharata fought among themselves and became extinct, hence the term yaadavi) in SP. Besides, the BJP is the only party with the Prime Minister as crowd puller to campaign, without a local leader to be projected as prospective Chief Minister. Going to polls without declaring a CM candidate has given BJP mixed results. There is also a soft undercurrent of ego clash among caste-based leaders threatening to percolate to the faithful. Among all these election calculus, the effect of cash crunch and demonitisation is likely to have an adverse effect on the traditional vote base of the BJP, notwithstanding the brave face put up by party minions at all levels. While SP, BSP and Congress approach this election with a view to increase their power base, the stakes are much higher for the BJP which has degenerated into a single-leader party with no definite local agenda. The forthcoming elections in all five States, and especially in UP, may turn out to be a referendum on Modi’s notebandi. The BJP-Akali Dal tie up in Punjab has more than one weak link and can snap anytime, vesting huge benefits to the Congress. In Manipur and Uttarakhand, the BJP is divided and will have to fight the Congress with more vigour. In Goa, the BJP is as divided a house as the SP is in UP. Ironically, given the shortcomings of all the parties, including the upbeat BJP, if the Congress fails to manage at least one State, it better apply for a winding up process.
One of the former Prime Ministers from UP, Chaudhary Charan Singh, coined a new caste-religion equation, MY-AJGUR (Muslim, Yadav, Ahir, Jat, Gujjar and Rajput) to break the hegemony of the Congress in the 70s. Mulyam Singh followed and Kanshiram and Mayawati extended the division of casts to include Dalit votebank. Whichever party wins, the Supreme Court, democracy, governance and secularism will be put to test. They have one saviour, the EC. Let us pray for the victory of Nasim Zaidi, the Chief Election Commissioner of India.