Read Editorial with D2G – Ep 518
High stakes: On the upcoming Assembly elections
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Meanings are given in BOLD
Assembly elections in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and the Union Territory of Puducherry will be taking place in changed circumstances ( the facts and events that affect what happens in a particular situation ). Polls will begin on March 27, with the results on May 2. Politics in these regions is not the same as it was five years ago.
The BJP’s unrelenting ( continuously strong, not becoming weaker or stopping ) pursuit ( the action of trying to achieve or get something ) of influence has unsettled conventional calculations in all these areas that are outside the core of the party’s traditional catchment area.
In 2016, of the 824 seats in the fray ( a usually disorderly or protracted fight, struggle ), the BJP had won only 64 but it emerged as the ruling party in Assam. It hopes to retain power in Assam and win West Bengal, besides expanding its influence in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In 2016, the BJP had won only three seats in West Bengal, but its rise was dramatic in the 2019 Lok Sabha election when it won 18 of the 42 seats and 40.64% of votes.
The BJP’s performance in West Bengal will be the most eagerly watched aspect ( one of the qualities or parts of a situation, idea, problem, etc ) in these elections. The significant strength of Muslim voters in West Bengal is often cited as a demographic barrier for the Hindu nationalist party, but communal politics works best in areas where minorities mobilise ( to organize people or things to do something ) in significant proportions.
Assam and Kerala too have minority populations that are formidable ( difficult to deal with; needing a lot of effort ) in elections, and there are plausible ( that you can believe; reasonable ) combinations that could work to the BJP’s advantage. In Assam, the BJP’s twin agenda of the CAA and the NRC is a double-edged sword, and their electoral potency will be on test.
What will matter most is the level of disenchantment ( a feeling of disappointment about someone or something you previously respected or admired; disillusionment ) with the ruling parties, and the alternative governance platform on offer.
The underperformance of the Congress in the DMK-led alliance contributed to a consecutive victory for the AIADMK in 2016, a rarity ( a rare thing, especially one having particular value ) in Tamil Nadu. With the passing of Jayalalithaa and M. Karunanidhi, Dravidian politics is at the crossroads and the BJP is looking for an opening.
In Kerala, the LDF is hoping to retain ( continue to have (something); keep possession of ) power for a second consecutive term, contingent ( occurring or existing only if (certain circumstances) are the case; dependent on ) on a slide of the Congress.
Such a scenario would also mean significant gains for the BJP. Across these places, regional parties are in general on the back foot. In Assam, the AGP is reduced to irrelevance and new outfits with a narrow focus have emerged. As the BJP raises its stakes, concerns that the Centre might play a partisan ( a strong supporter of a party, cause, or person ) role in these elections are already high.
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee has termed the phasing out of polls in the State into eight segments a conspiracy ( a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful ) to unseat her. The Election Commission must scrupulously ( in a very careful and thorough way ) play its role as an impartial ( treating all rivals or disputants equally ) umpire.
There are also disturbing signs that communal polarisation ( the action of causing something to acquire polarity ) could be higher, particularly in Assam and West Bengal. There could be some defining trends emerging from this round of elections, with long-term implications ( a likely consequence of something ) for politics in the country.