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A mid-term referendum

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MEANINGS are given in BOLD and ITALIC

Coming as it does barely (hardly)  a few months beyond the halfway mark of the BJP-led government at the Centre, the importance of the round of Assembly elections notified this week cannot be overstated (abnormally increased : enlarged). With votes scheduled to be cast in phases starting February 4 in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur, Goa and Uttarakhand, counting will take place on March 11. Since the process of federalisation (the assumption of control by the federal government)  and regionalisation of the polity deepened in the 1990s, Assembly election results have been determined more often by regional issues than by national political variables.

But with Prime Minister Narendra Modi having emerged as the BJP’s principal vote-bagger (one who bags(cup of tea)), and with subjects such as demonetisation on the election agenda, this round will be influenced by national issues. A sidelight of the election schedule is the Union budget, advanced to February 1 from the traditional February 28 presentation. The Election Commission is still to rule on the Opposition demand that the Budget be unveiled (not wearing ; not covered by) after the polling.

Early indications from U.P. point to a tripartite done by three parties)  contest among the Samajwadi Party, the BJP and the Bahujan Samaj Party. Both Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and BSP chief Mayawati are bracing (to encourage) themselves to check the Modi wave of the 2014 parliamentary elections. By leading an internal revolt (a challenge) against the old guard associated with the politics of identity and muscle power in the SP, Akhilesh Yadav has sought to project himself as being committed to development above all, thereby seeking to counter the BJP’s rise since 2014 on the same appeal.

Ms. Mayawati had lost a considerable chunk (a part of something that has been separated) of her Dalit support base in 2014, but has since re-framed her outreach by attempting to forge (to form with concerted effort)  a Dalit-Muslim alliance. Her strategy will face a test, as the earlier phases of the State elections are in western U.P. that saw stark (hard : strong) communal (public)  polarisation(the grouping of opinion into two extremes )  in 2014 in the wake of the Muzaffarnagar violence. In Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine will be in a keen fight in another tripartite contest, against the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party.

The latter had thrown down the gauntlet (simultaneous attack from three or more side)  in 2014 by clinching (that settles something (such as an argument) definitely and conclusively) four Lok Sabha seats out of the 13. In Uttarakhand, the Congress will be tested by the BJP after its State government was restored to power by the courts in 2016 following a spell of President’s Rule. In Manipur, its government has staked its chances on the decision to create new districts that precipitated a renewed ethnic crisis. Goa, in the recent past, has had a volatile  (explosive ; quick to become angry) Assembly, and the AAP’s focus on the State has ignited the fray (to frighten). Together, the results will have strong reverberations (a violent oscillation or vibration)  at the national level.


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