The New Year begins reminiscing about the memories of bygone year especially the embarrassment of the ruling dispensation at Centre in the wake of Lokpal fiasco in Rajya Sabha. Now, the spotlight is on the assembly elections in five states. The poll results of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa, and Manipur could be decisive for future politics of the country. Politically, UP is billed to be the most crucial state, where the prestige of two regional parties, SP-BSP, alongwith the national parties, Congress and BJP is at stake. In the previous elections, the Congress and the BJP could not perform well. There was a time when the UP was being considered bastion of the Congress. But later, the BJP had a stronghold on the state; however its base started getting weak as the saffron party deviated from its key issues especially backing out from its promise of constructing the temple in Ayodhya. Besides, too much ambitions of BJP leaders and their hunger for power made the situation worse. As shifting of political leaders from a party has become a customary before every election, this time also turncoats have had a field day, particularly in Uttar Pradesh. Every party has rolled out red carpet for the leaders of other political outfits, but the BJP has done colossal damage by inducting ex-BSP minister which hit the headlines for being involved with the NRHM scam. Fair enough, the BJP has put his membership on hold after getting deluge of acerbic comments from all quarters, but the damage caused done is an irreparable loss for the party.

The BJP’s decision is startling because Lal Krishna Advani kicked off a nationwide rath yatra against corruption. Moreover, the BJP vociferously supported Lokpal Bill in the Parliament. It is intriguing what message did the BJP, that laid siege on the Centre in the face of corruption, want to spell out by inducting tainted BSP minister Kushwaha. The BJP and the Congress are trying to strengthen their base in UP, but the SP and the BSP have posed a good fight to them. In the last assembly election, the BSP succeeded in forming the government on its strength by evolving new formula of social engineering. In order to connect with upper caste especially Brahmin, she held Dalit-Brahmin conference and floated slogan— ‘Pandit shankh bajayega, hathi aage badhata jayega’ — (Brahmin will blow conch, elephant will march ahead). This slogan gave impact on voters, but it could not be ignored that the BSP got only 30.45 percent vote in 2007, which was 4 percent more than its rival SP with 26.14 percent. It is also worth mentioning that the SP stood second with bagging 172 seats and it got defeated only by less than five thousand votes on 52 seats. It is obvious, this time the BSP will face stiff challenge as anti-incumbency factor will also play a crucial role.

There has been poor development in UP for the last five years. Although the BSP has tried to consolidate its vote bank by setting up Dalit memorials in Lucknow and Noida consecutively, only time will speak if it brings electoral gains for the party. Besieged with charges of corruption, the Mayawati government expelled many ministers at the end of her term or decided not to give them tickets by spelling out message that the ruling dispensation in the state is against graft, though this happened off late. It is well known that without the Chief Minister’s consent, nothing takes place in the Maya regime. It is not surprising that the Opposition pooh-poohed Mayawati’s decision of discarding tainted ministers saying that the move is a bid to cover up corruption. However, the SP is projecting itself as an alternate of the BSP, but it is not an easy task. It is a common perception, if the SP emerges as a largest party, it could form government with the help of the Congress and RLD. Infact, the Opposition terms the blame-game between the SP and Congress as a fake fight. Though Rahul Gandhi has been working hard to boost the position of the party, but the Congress and BJP will face a crisis on selection of chief ministerial candidate from their respective parties?  Because, this has become a precedent that in the run up for assembly elections political parties generally announce their candidate for the chief ministerial post

In Punjab assembly election, there would be a fierce fight between two factions—Congress and Akali-BJP coalition. Deputy Chief Minister Sukhabir Singh Badal is trying to regain the power with the help of his ally BJP, which had performed well in the previous election. The electoral history of Punjab says that voters do not allow a party to remain in power for two consecutive terms. As Punjab being prosperous state of the country, the people of the state have high expectations from the ruling dispensation in the state, but going by performances of three consecutive governments it seems that they were not much keen on tackling problems related with common people. Neither the Akali-BJP government nor the Congress could solve out three basic problems of Punjab—shifting of industries, agriculture in distress, rising cases of liquor consumption. It is to be seen, whom do the people of Punjab entrust the responsibility of sorting out these issues?

The electoral scenario of Uttarakhand strikes similarity with that of Punjab. But there is a stiff fight between the Congress and BJP and people elected them to power alternately. The BJP has changed its Chief Minister in Uttarakhand two months back. Ramesh Chandra Pokhriyal, tainted with corruption cases, has been replaced with Bhuwan Chandra Khanduri. It is to be seen, if Khanduri could redeem the losses BJP incurred 4 in the last years. The assembly elections are considered to be significant for all the parties, but it is the most important for the Congress, if it performs well, the position of the party in Rajya Sabha could be strengthened. When it happens, the Congress will rule the country well and push all important legislations which have remained stuck owing to less number of the party in the Upper House.   

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on January 8, 2012 translated by the English Editorial. The author is Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)