POLLS BEGINNING TODAY WILL WRITE SCRIPT FOR 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS (II) – UNDERDOGS

If the Left Front led by CPI(M) has the potential to emerge as the underdogs in West Bengal, the state they ruled for 35 years till 2011, it is because AITC has come to be known as a party that is becoming just like the Left Front of the erstwhile years – a party synonymous with political goondaism. West Bengal has only extended the culture of political violence under the Mamata Banarjee government.

And coupled with Mamata’s autocratic ways, her intolerance for criticism and huge allegations of corruption on senior leaders of her party, the rational minds would certainly like to experiment with the Left Front block again in absence of any other political alternative – to see if the Left Front has learnt some lessons.

Mamata would sail smoothly this time because of her focus on rural voters but she needs to keep in mind that their patience, too, runs out, and it is just a matter of time – if West Bengal gets any political alternative like AAP.

While West Bengal still has the organized cadre and popular leaders from the Left Front, Congress in Uttar Pradesh cannot claim anything. It has no cadre, no organizational structure and no leaders. Yes, Sonia Gandhi is elected to the Parliament from Raebareli and Rahul Gandhi from Amethi, but that is just symbolic. Sonia and Rahul were never Uttar Pradesh leaders and they have no political currency to affect the electoral mindset for any significant change.

But if the Congress candidates can still emerge as the underdogs, it is because of the frustration creeping in the minds of Uttar Pradesh voters.

The politics in Uttar Pradesh has just two poles for over two decades now – SP and BSP. BJP has failed to capitalize on the biggest chance it had to recover in Uttar Pradesh with the impressive performance in 2014 general elections. The party should have realized by now that raking up the Ram Temple issue in every electoral battle in Uttar Pradesh has become a futile exercise. It doesn’t pull votes anymore. Other parties like JD(U), RJD, AD, AIMIM, AAP, CPI(M), CPI and everyone else are there just to populate the numbers.

And by all measures, from all projections and reports, and by the electorate’s response of changing the government every next time, even if the state’s politics is riddled with caste and community polarizations, we can say both, the SP and the BSP governments, leave a huge trail of anti-incumbency during their respective terms.

The Uttar Pradesh voters need a government of efficient governance which proves effective not only on ensuring strict law and order measures but also on bringing and distributing development to the India’s most populous state with the maximum number of the Lok Sabha seats, i.e., 80.

Every government in the state has failed on it. Power shortage is a decades old issue. Deteriorating law and order situation makes for news headlines. Many politicians have coupled up as criminals and vice versa. Many are in jail and many are facing serious court cases. And all these problems have persisted for years.

And that frustrates voters – at least the rationally thinking ones – and Congress has chance here. The party may not pull a miracle but if it emerges as the third largest party with some significant numerical strength in the next Uttar Pradesh state assembly, it would surprise everyone.

Yes, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are not Uttar Pradesh leaders but they are symbolically potent enough to lead some of the rational thinking voters to their camps in the upcoming assembly polls – to experiment with the alternatives available in absence of any other political alternative available in the state – and the factors that would additionally help the party – are – the sympathy undercurrent that might be there after its two elected state governments were sabotaged – in Arunchal Pradesh and Uttarakhand – in two months, anti-incumbency against the BJP government in the centre and the status of the Congress party as the only other national political party – in spite of its reduced Lok Sabha count of 44 in a house of 543 elected members.

In Punjab, AAP is not an underdog but a major player now and the battle is out in the open.

In Assam, we know the known underdog, Badruddin Ajmal led AIUDF. Badruddin Ajmal is a perfume businessman worth Rs. 2000 crore and is now a successful politician it seems. Assam has over 34% Muslim population and some 40 of the 126 assembly constituencies are minority concentration ones, i.e., where consolidations of Muslim votes can tilt the results.

Since its inaugural in 2005, AIUDF has made rapid strides in Assam politics. It won 10 seats in 2006 assembly polls that rose to 18 in 2011 and it led in 24 assembly segments in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. It tied with Congress in winning three Lok Sabha seats in 2014, raising its tally from one in 2009. The remarkable aspect is its increase in vote share – from scratch in 2005 to 15% in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. In 2011 assembly polls, the party had cornered 12.6% votes.

AIUDF is contesting these elections alone – as Ajmal said no acceptable solution on alliance with other parties could be reached. And with the second largest shares of Muslim voters in any Indian state, he is hoping to play kingmaker, expecting to win around 40 seats. Analysts question about his prospects as Assamese Muslims in Upper Assam oppose him and as Upper Assam has the maximum number of constituencies.

The elections have begun. Let’s see if Ajmal can travel the distance from Lower Assam and Barak Valley, his traditional stronghold, to other parts of the state. And to widen his canvas, he has chosen his party candidates accordingly, including other communities than Muslims.

To continue..

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

POLLS BEGINNING TOMORROW WILL WRITE SCRIPT FOR 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS (I)

Tomorrow, the Indian electorate is going to unveil the next chapter – the anti-penultimate round of the upcoming big finale – the chapter that will write and rewrite the political script for the next general elections (parliamentary elections) in 2019.

Anti-penultimate because the way wind blows now – in these five state elections – in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala (and Puducherry with its symbolic, numerical advantage for political morale) – will decide how volatile the tide would be – in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur elections the next year – especially for BJP, Congress, SP, BSP, SAD, AAP, AIADMK, DMK, Left Front – and all others in anti-Congress, anti-BJP or anti-Congress/BJP camps.

The outcome of these state elections will tell if BJP will be able to fill the void that owes its genesis to the glaring mistake the party has committed in Uttar Pradesh by neglecting the state electorally after winning the absolute numbers in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls – 73 out of 80 (2 with its ally Apna Dal).

BJP had the golden opportunity to regain strength and revitalize cadre in Uttar Pradesh, the base from where the party began painting its wider canvas, but the party has wasted it – and is wasting it. It has no leader from Uttar Pradesh today who can mobilize party workers and masses for a positive outcome in the assembly elections next year.

So, from a sure-looking chance, Uttar Pradesh looks now a lost opportunity for BJP.

A loss in these polls would certainly bring the morale of party workers down and coupled with the ‘law of average factor and anti-incumbency against the BJP led NDA government at the centre’ that have diminished the ‘Narendra Modi wave’, if the party doesn’t score big even in Assam, because it has virtually no chance in other states going to polls this year, the humiliation will render any comeback possibility effectively worthless.

And if it is the scenario in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab is going to be lot worse – because the projections are already being made that it would be an AAP Vs Congress fight there – and the BJP-SAD government would crumble under the burden of sky-high anti-incumbency, mammoth levels of corruption and miserably failed governance that left state’s finances high and dry.

For now, BSP is slated to win Uttar Pradesh next year and that is natural given the wave of anti-incumbency against the Akhilesh Yadav government. The BSP chances are further enhanced by absence of any political alternative – like AAP became in the Delhi assembly polls and is now threatening established political players in Punjab. And whatever be the outcome in other states, it is not going to affect the Uttar Pradesh equation, at least in 2017.

For Tamil Nadu, it is all about AIADMK. DMK is not in the race. Projections say. Pollsters vouch for. Ground reports confirm. And other parties including BJP there, at best, could only act as vote-cutters – that is the best case scenario for them. It seems J Jayalalithaa (nicknamed Amma)’s ‘Baahubali’ avatar has a different feeler for voters in Tamil Nadu and, at the moment, it seems it is going to dominate every other factor including the widespread criticism that the Amma government faced in handling the devastating Tamil Nadu floods last year.

Kerala would be interesting to watch for a Congress Vs Left Front battle with Congress facing heaps of problems after chief minister Oomen Chandy’s name emerged in the Solar Scam. A good show here by the Left Front, coupled with a strong performance in West Bengal, even if the Left block fails to form the government there, would revitalize the dying Left Front politics in the country, a must for healthy political discourse.

West Bengal looks a clear chess board for Mamata Banarjee and her party AITC though BJP is trying hard to register impressive footfalls here in its camps, like it is trying in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, but the chances are, if West Bengal would throw any underdog, it would be the Left Front block only.

Like it can happen with Congress in Uttar Pradesh!

To continue..

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

SOME STRAIGHT THOUGHTS ON ‘SPIRAL OF SILENCE’ IN ACTION IN INDIA

THE QUESTIONS

— Is the ‘Spiral of Silence’ coming into its own in India now?

— Is the 2004 General Election a beginning point to see the ‘Spiral of Silence’ in action in India?

— How is social media shaping the ‘Public Sphere’ discourse in India?

— Is India the next big leap for a socially relevant social media after the Arab Spring?

— India shows even the robust democracies can be the perfect social laboratories for the ‘Spiral of Silence’ expressions?

— Are elections the best avenues to see the ‘Spiral of Silence’ patterns in a democracy that has loads of greys?

— Is the Indian democracy caught in a dilemma between being politically correct Vs being politically relevant Vs being politically apolitical Vs being apolitically political?

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

BIHAR POLLS: THE WATCHABLE ELEMENTS

1. Everyone is saying Bihar polls are again going to be caste-based and the outcome will be caste-driven. But is the growing middle class going to play a different tune – away from the caste asthmatics – to assert a new identity that may be amorphous in nature sociologically but craves for everything that revolves around development that could better their lives?

2. Nitish Kumar promoted the concept of ‘Bihari Ashmita’ or Bihari Identity/Bihari Pride like Narendra Modi did with Gujarati Pride and Identity. But after aligning with Lalu Prasad Yadav, is Lalu’s corruption taint going to make the class, conscious about Bihari Ashmita, apathetic to Nitish Kumar?

3. Who will emerge out the real claimant of ‘Bihar Ashmita’ if it happens to be a major factor in the polls – Nitish Kumar for representing the Bihar government during last 10 years (barring Jitan Ram Manjhi), the time during which Bihar has certainly been able to come out of the administrative apathy synonymous with the Lalu-Rabri rule of 15 years – or the BJP which was an equal party with the Janata Dal (United) in governing Bihar for eight years?

4. Based on poll outcome – if the counting day falls any time around Chhath, that is on November 17, would it affect the decision of Biharis to stretch their visit a bit longer? Also, Diwali is on November 11, and if the last phase, if the Bihar polls are to be a multi-phased one, falls near Diwali, will the Bihari voters make it a point to include the last phase in their extended Diwali and Chhath holidays?

5. Regular diaspora case studies – people living outside Bihar – in different states – even outside India – how they see these polls, especially after Nitish has parted ways with the BJP and is going along with his sworn enemy Lalu Prasad Yadav, who is a convicted person now?

6. Flavour of the poll season – the familiar musclemen in the poll fray – directly or through their wives (or kin) – the possible names doing rounds – the names that could be announced to represent different political outfits – and it will be across the party lines.

7. Important to see how the Yadav votes behave after Lalu Prasad (Yadav) led RJD vehemently pushed for Anant Singh’s arrest, a muscleman and an influential Bhuimhar MLA.

8. Extending that ‘Yadav voting trend’ – it is important to be seen how the Bhumihar voters vote? Bhumihars may be less in number but they are the biggest land owners there. It is important to see if they see Anant Singh and similar episodes as humiliating enough and work to defeat Nitish Kumar, an OBC leader.

9. Emergence of Jitan Ram Manjhi and its impact on Dalit and Mahadalit votes and the pre-poll and thus post-poll political equations accordingly – Jitan Ram Manjhi’s chief-ministerial ambitions and the subsequent seat sharing talks with the National Democratic Alliance.

10. And the usual, most talked about factors – caste and religion – how would they behave – anti-BJP and NDA block would try to corner Muslim votes and a secular alliance of Congress-JD(U)-RJD expects to perform well here. The real fight would for Dalit and Mahadalit votes after Jitan Ram Manjhi has emerged as an important claimant. Also, Nitish Kumar cannot solely claim the OBC votebank constituency as Narendra Modi is also an OBC leader who exploited well this factor in the Lok Sabha election campaign.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/