More State Elections

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ELECTIONS in four states – West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry – will be held from March 27 and the results will be announced on May 2. The outcome of these elections will be crucial to the future direction of India’s politics. The elections in West Bengal and Assam would be even more significant. In former, the BJP is going all out to replace the Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool Congress Party and in the latter, the BJP is campaigning aggressively to retain power. In Assam, the BJP had won for the first time in 2016, beating the Congress. In Puducherry the BJP is a favourite to win the election. The saffron party recently formed the government after the Congress government in the union territory suffered defections in its ranks reducing it to a minority. And as for Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the BJP has yet to make sufficient inroads in the states to be considered a force to reckon with.

However, the significance of the Bengal election is beyond the BJP-TMC rivalry. Its outcome will be a profoundly important development. If the TMC wins, it will arrest the disarray among the secular forces and give them confidence to stand up to Modi in the upcoming state elections. As the result in recent Bihar polls has once again highlighted, only a broad secular front against the BJP could confront the party with a credible challenge. As things stand, there is no dislodging the Prime Minister Narendra Modi yet. That is, if no credible political rival emerges from the shadows in the near future, a prospect which looks bleak.

The BJP is certain to try every trick in its playbook to retain its political dominance. Having largely failed on economic front, The party is likely to return to its time-tested Hindutva agenda to fire up its support base. The saffron party offers a deft blend of ideology and a development rhetoric. It has Modi as an overarching leader. If the opposition fails to gets its act together, the BJP looks set to emerge even stronger.

True, Rahul Gandhi looks a better bet than he did previously but he has still to go a long way to match Modi’s profile. The goodwill in sections of the society for him will not be sufficient to dislodge Modi from his pre-eminent position. That seems still very unlikely. The fact is that India’s larger secular opposition is still in tatters and fighting over scraps. Gandhi may be a better challenger now, but there is still no major pan-India leader in sight to take on the PM Modi.

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