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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 21 May 2024

High five: Editorial on the upcoming Assembly elections and their impact on Lok Sabha 2024 polls

The BJP, unsurprisingly, will be relying on Narendra Modi’s popularity, the welfare initiatives of his government targeting women and the poor and — of course! — polarisation in these battles

The Editorial Board Published 11.10.23, 05:11 AM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi File Photo

India votes differently in state assemblies and in parliamentary elections. This is because the issues at the regional level are markedly different from those that decide the outcomes of national elections. Yet, over the years, there has been a tendency to view assembly elections that precede Lok Sabha polls as a cipher to gauge the national mood. Thus, the Election Commission’s announcement of election dates for five states — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram — has led to feverish descriptions of these imminent electoral contests as a ‘semi-final’ before the ‘final’. The assumption is perhaps based on two factors. First, a total of 679 assembly constituencies will go to polls; the figure, arguably, is capacious enough to test the direction of political winds. Second, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, the two principal national parties, would clash directly in at least three states — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — enabling them to test their respective political programmes. The BJP, unsurprisingly, will be relying on Narendra Modi’s popularity, the welfare initiatives of his government targeting women and the poor and — of course! — polarisation in these battles. The Congress’s stakes are higher. Victories in these assembly elections would further energise the INDIA bloc before the Lok Sabha polls. More importantly, the heartland states could indicate whether the Congress’s new thrust of reservations for other backward classes has political purchase. The scripts for Telangana and Mizoram are slightly different. Telangana would test the fortunes of a regional party with an ambitious title — the Bharat Rashtra Samithi — against, what appears to be, a resurgent Congress. Interestingly, the horrors of Manipur could have a bearing on Mizoram where the Mizo National Front, the Congress, and the Zoram People’s Movement are contenders.

Despite the differences in issues, one theme is common to all these polls: the clamour for and diverse interpretation of welfare. The prime minister has attempted — controversially — to blur the lines between doles and State assistance that is the right of the people. But the uneven spread of the fruits of development, combined with the disastrous economic performance of Mr Modi’s regime in recent years, has ensured that political fortunes continue to turn on the rhetoric of welfarism. The public demand for welfare indicates a deepening of the democratic spirit. But it also exposes the gap that exists between the politicians’ word and deed.

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