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More Elections Lined Up: This Time It’s Uttar Pradesh

Everything else, be it the law-and-order situation, or the farmers agitation or their distress, or the Covid pandemic’s mayhem, all will pale in comparison to the gains accrued on completion of Ram mandir under their tenure.

Photo Credit : Pic Courtesy: Pixabay

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Democracies thrive because of people. Elections to choose representatives to govern is an important tool. However, If the representatives turn to undemocratic means to win elections and govern democracies, then the people will feal cheated and slighted. The vitriolic campaigns we have seen in the past are all pointers to what can be expected in future. Be that as it may, the election festival continues in the country with several lined up for the next year. Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, are all due for elections in February/March 2022. Himachal Pradesh is due in October and Gujarat is due in December 2022. If 2022 is termed an election year it may not be out of context. How will the story pan out in time? Will BJP win? Will it make a remarkable dent in the opposition’s fortunes? Can BJP win all these states? Equally interesting to see will be the strategies adopted by the parties. Nationalism, Religion, people connect, temple politics, development work will undoubtedly occupy centre stage. These in themselves may not win elections but an innovative strategy may.

Every political party has important stakes in each one of those States. In a way they will all be trailers for the major elections that will follow in 2024. Huge expenditure, besides people involvement and man hours, general vitriol will be seen all around. Add to this, the Covid 19 pandemic that has disrupted economy and rendered small businesses redundant with several families living hand to mouth existence. Can we now afford a ten-month election jamboree with a two-month prep time then? Since they are all set to be conducted between March and December, can we not tweak the constitution a little to hold all the elections around July 2022? It is not as if no changes can be made or were ever made to the constitution. This is a just cause. If Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh lose a few months of their scheduled time, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab will gain a few months. Can BJP set the ball rolling, since six out of seven of those States are also ruled by them and also because it is a strong proponent of One Nation, One Election theory.

BJP holds the fort today in all States going to polls except Punjab. It will try holding on to all of them and try and win over Punjab. For congress, this probably will be the last time they either swim ashore or drown for a long time to come. That said, there are several regional outfits that will vie for a place under the sun and if they find one, can cause misery to both BJP and INC and also great uncertainty in 2024.

Goa, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh with 40, 60, 70 and 68 seats respectively may be small individually but collectively make a major difference to BJP winning over Rajya Sabha. Uttar Pradesh with 403 seats can set the tone for future of Indian politics. Punjab with 117 seats and Gujarat with 182 seats will moderate the entire political space because of their strategic importance.

BJP has some cause for concern for, in the recently concluded Gram Panchayat elections in UP, massive by any standards, with around 13 lakh candidates vying for 8 lakh posts, that include 3,050 zila panchayat wards, over 75,000 kshetra panchayat wards and over 7 lakh gram panchayat wards, it could win only 900 out of the 3050 candidates it backed. SP claimed another 1000. The BSP with 300 seats, and Congress and AAP close to 70 each shared rest of the spoils. Though they may not accurately indicate the story that will unfold in the next few months, they certainly indicate a few trends. The stakes for BJP are massive. Even higher than they had in West Bengal. Ram Mandir not only has a sentimental value for 80% Hindus of the Nation, it has huge political implications and ramifications for BJP. If they do not win the UP elections in 2022, they stand to miss out on the completion and inauguration of the temple which may then see delays beyond the general elections scheduled in 2024.

Everything else, be it the law-and-order situation, or the farmers agitation or their distress, or the Covid pandemic’s mayhem, all will pale in comparison to the gains accrued on completion of Ram mandir under their tenure. This sets the stage for a no holds barred fight in the next few months. ‘Abba jaan’ was only too mild and too soft a posturing. Its message though cannot be missed. A strong factor however in BJP’s favour is the almost 80% Hindu population in UP. The remaining 20% is predominantly Muslim. Sikhs and Christians are insignificant in numbers. The flip side could be the deep divisions in the Hindu numbers based on caste arithmetic. Be it SP, BSP or the BJP, fortunes for all of them depend on the OBC voting patterns. The Muslim numbers can tweak the results in several constituencies. The AIMIM (Owaisi factor) contesting elections in UP can actually mar chances of both SP, BSP and the Congress. What could optimise the game for each of these contesting parties? Or will the opposition parties continue on a self-destruction mode? When it is needed that they come together, they seem to be going apart in multiple directions. Ideologically similar parties, if fight as separate entities, will only end up splitting the vote. Parties like AIMIM can cause division as they did in Bihar elections. The bruising election in West Bengal too is there for drawing lessons.

Collectively we win and divided we fall is an old adage. It works well in UP. SP aligning with Congress, AAP and the Owaisi faction should generate interest. BJP aligning with BSP could be a master stroke. Other smaller parties are individual driven and do not necessarily skew the matrix. This scenario will ensure a grand one-on-one fight. However, several egos would be bruised, though their coming together will make the right noises for 2024.

In the days ahead, we could see extreme polarisation that has come to define all democratic nations resulting in vitriolic campaigns. The rhetoric from all concerned will be anything but polite. In fact, it will be acerbic and provocative at most times. We will see the social media and the electronic media used by the political parties in convincing an uncommitted voter to vote against the "other guy", by tearing down the opponent's position. They will use anxiety as a political tool.

Anxiety is an affective intelligence theory. It increases political attentiveness while decreasing reliance on party identification when deciding on issues. It clogs the decision-making capabilities, when influenced by ideologies. Voters who report anxiety regarding an election are more likely to vote for candidates whose policies they prefer. Whereas issues like price rise, or safety of the womenfolk will be raised by the opposition, the thought of being hauled up by the authorities for believing in seemingly diverse views will drive fear in people.

Political discourses by all concerned may become abusive, slanderous and utterly disgusting, Every Political Party may do one better than the other in being amoral and unethical. Great statesmanship will be needed by the leaders if we have to have peaceful elections this time. For that to happen, every party and every leader will have to disprove the adage that “Beyond shame there is politics.”.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Dr S S Mantha

Former Chairman of AICTE, Dr. Mantha is an eminent academician. At present he is Chancellor KL University and Adjunct Professor, NIAS, Bangalore.

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