Politics is often thought to be only about winning elections. However, its more about what happens between elections that result in those electoral sweeps or washouts. India is now gearing up for assembly elections in 5 states – Bengal, Kerela, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Assam. The ruling party at the Centre has always been the focus and under scrutiny when states go to polls and the same question is always asked. Is this a referendum on the Centre or the PM? From that point of view, Modi is not breaking sweat over 2016 assembly polls. After all what does BJP or he have to lose in Bengal, Kerela, Tamil Nadu or Pondicherry. Whatever they win will be a gain. Assam is an expected win for the BJP and they have got their alliances right. That can be and will be used to gain mileage by the Modi government. But not for long. As come 2017, the real electoral challenge will commence. The year starts with elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarkhand, Goa and ends with elections in Gujarat.
Uttar Pradesh is the adopted home state of the Prime Minister. He became PM because BJP won 71 seats from the state. Getting 41% votes from this complex state is no joke. However, the trend we have seen since 2014 has been downward for the BJP across India. Neither could they retain their 40% voteshare in Delhi nor the 36% voteshare in Bihar. And this was hardly a year after the historic mandate. The reasons were multiple but the prime one being that assembly elections are to choose Chief Minister and Lok Sabha elections for Prime Minister. If you don’t have a strong state leadership, your voteshare will shift to the face voters as the ‘real’ contender. So in both states the BJP voteshare fell in the range of 7-9%. The by-elections in UP have also indicated that if UP were to go to polls today the BJP would probably get around 34% votes. However since both SP and BSP got about 20% votes in general elections, the gap to cover is huge in these states. However, what is happening in 2016 is having a domino effect in UP already. Rohit Vemula’s suicide, Modi government’s arrogance to accept the fault of the HRD minister and Labour minister in this case and then the JNU fiasco will all boomerang in UP. In 2014, Modi got 41% votes in UP because a large section of Dalits entrusted him with their hopes of development and justice. They didn’t expect that he will protect his ministers in a silent manner when they are in the wrong. The dramatic soap opera style defence of Smriti Irani in Parliament definitely pleased the some of the middle class from upper castes but it reaffirmed the fear among backward castes that Mayawati has been reiterating for decades….that BJP and RSS are party of Brahmins and they only know destructive domination, thats their ultimate goal. BJP has gifted UP to Mayawati and Smriti Irani has stuck the red ribbon on that gift. With 20% Dalits and 16% Muslims in UP, Mayawati will be close to achieving 30% voteshare and if she strikes an alliance with Congress like Nitish did in Bihar, the additional 10-12% will mean a clean sweep of UP and huge loss of face for Modi. Kanhaiyaa episode has only complicated things further. The Hindi belt youth can easily identify with this boy because of his background and mannerisms. If Left joins Maya, it will be a disaster in UP for the BJP.
However Modi’s bigger fear is Punjab. BSP or Congress winning a state is acceptable for BJP as they can always target Congress with corruption track record, dynasty politics, poor oratory skills, etc etc. That keeps their middle class upper caste vote bank intact. However, the real threat to their core vote bank is AAP. Kjriwal has shown that in Delhi and if AAP repeats Delhi in Punjab, Modi’s insecurities will know no bounds. The C Voter survery in Punjab has already shown the trend of AAP being in the lead and Congress being the second party in race. Modi will be secretely hope that Congress defeats AAP in Punjab so that Kejriwal cant grow further in stature. However Punjab is tge state with highest percentage of Dalits in Inidia – 32%. If SCs/STs decide to do tactical voting against RSS like the Muslims have done in UP in the past, AAP could surpass even the most favourable opinion poll predictions.
If you thought UP and Punjab were the only challenges for 2017, hold on, theres more. The real home state of Modiji – Gujarat. Caste agitation, corruption of the state government and dwindling economic scenario is what the BJP faces in Gujarat. If they lose Gujarat to the Congress, then Modi will end 2017 as a much weaker Prime Minister than he was at the start of 2017. However, a year is an era in politics. Modi has a chance to rectify his mistakes and change course. Unfortunately for his sake, there are no indications that he will. So Mr. Modi, enjoy the spring of 2016 as spring of 2017 will bring less roses and more thornes.