THE Election Commission of India on Saturday announced the dates for Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Punjab and Manipur. The polls will be scheduled over seven phases between February 10 and March 7, and will conclude with the counting of votes on March 10. The political parties and candidates have been advised to conduct their campaign as much as possible virtually to ensure strict compliance of Covid safety norms. However, the significance polls goes beyond how they are conducted. The elections are not just crucial for the ruling BJP in UP, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur but also for its challenger Samajwadi party in UP and the ruling Congress in Punjab. More so in Uttar Pradesh where polls are of profound significance not only for the future of the state but also for India as a whole.
The polls in the country’s most populous state are a high-stakes contest between an invincible BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the opposition comprising Samajwadi Party, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress. At stake is not only the mundane question of who rules UP over the next five years but where India is headed as a country. A win for a party other than BJP will go some way to arrest the disarray among secular forces and give them confidence to stand up to Modi. But a victory for BJP will yet again reinforce the political dominance of Modi and further power his political cult. A Modi victory will be an emphatic endorsement of his seven years of rule.
After winning India in a landslide victory in 2019 general election, the BJP’s battle to recast the idea of India has now come down to state after state. BJP as a party has now got complete sway over India. True, the spectacular loss in Bengal went a long way to hold back the rampaging march of the saffron across the country. But a UP victory could change that. And also the victory in Punjab and the three other states Manipur, Goa and Uttarakhand. State victories will give the Hindutva party the necessary political to further remould India in its own image.
So UP elections matter a lot. So do the Punjab polls. An unlikely loss in the UP on the pattern of that in New Delhi, and Bengal could be a big setback for the BJP in the run up to 2024 national polls. But as things stand, the odds seem to be stacked in favour of the BJP.
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