August 29, 2014

RIOTS IN UP: ADVANTAGE BJP?

AFTER THE BIHAR SET BACK, CAN THE BJP MAKE A COMEBACK

Courtesy: In.Com
The euphoria over PM Narendra Modi's victory came crashing down after the saffron outfit was beaten 4-6 by the 'Mahaghatbandan' or the Grand Alliance comprising of the RJD, the JD-U and the Congress in Bihar. In spite of sweeping the state in the last Lok Sabha polls, the BJP was humbled in the by-polls with the entire opposition in the state joining hands to successfully stall the Modi juggernaut. With the state going to elections next year, the mega coalition does hold the edge. In Karnataka, where too the party had far exceeded all expectations by winning 17 parliamentary seats in May earlier this year, the saffronists were embarrassed by the INC in its stronghold of Bellary. Besides, the loss of one seat to the Congress in MP also was unexpected. Of course, I will write a more elaborate article on the by-poll results after September 13 when the outcome of the second round of by-elections will be declared.

One of the highlights of the 2014 General Elections was BJP's emphatic win in the mega state of Uttar Pradesh. Having been appointed as the in-charge of UP, former Gujarat Home Minister and Modi's Man Friday Amit Shah got down to task, working out the caste equations, stitching together agreement with smaller parties and organizations and selecting winnable candidates besides giving communal speeches. While the party did extremely well in all the parts of the country, its performance in UP was spectacular; the 71 seats that the BJP won here catapulted it past the 272 mark on its own. Buoyed by the party's fabulous showing in the Lok Sabha 2014 pols, the BJP gone on the offensive, hitting out at the Akhilesh Yadav led government for the deteriorating law and order situation in the state. Amit Shah, now elevated to the position of the BJP president (Link) has his eyes set on the 2017 state assembly polls where the saffronists are hoping to form the next regime in Lucknow after a span of 12 years. The rise in communal tensions following last year's Muzzaffarnagar riots (Link) has only helped their cause. Remember, when the clashes had first broken out, BJP MLAs - Sangeet Som, Suresh Rana and Bharatendu Singh were accused of stoking communal flares. The EC had even rapped Shah for his inflammatory speech at a rally in western UP. A sharp rise in incidents of communal riots over the past few months has put a question mark on the 'secular' credentials of the NDA regime. What has shocked many is the fact that Yogi Adityanath has been put in charge of the by-polls for the 11 assembly segments, scheduled next month. The controversial Gorakhpur MP had earlier in a video, called on the people from the majority community to avenge 'Love Jihad'. With four of these constituencies - Saharanpur Nagar, Bijnor, Thakurwada and Noida situated in Western UP, it remains to be seen if the BJP's attempt at polarization can help it do well.

The other constituencies in UP that will go the by-polls on 13th September include Sirathu, Balha and Rohaniya in Purvanchal, Hamirpur and Charkhari in Bundelkhand as well as Nighasen and Lucknow - East in Awadh. All the 11 seats fell vacant since the incumbent BJP MLAs were elected to the Lower House of the Parliament. The Samajwadi Party (SP) that swept the polls in 2012 assembly polls is clearly on the back foot. The complete failure of the Akhilesh administration in keeping the law and order situation under control over the last two years has led to an anti-incumbency wave that led to the rout of the Mulayum Singh led outfit in the General Polls. Ahead of the by-polls, the SP chief who has based most of their policies on 'minority appeasement' under the garb of 'Secularism' seems to have become desperate. Nearly three years after he was shown the door, the Yadav strongman was seen sharing the stage with his friend turned foe Amar Singh. This was seen as a move to cut the party's Muslim face Azam Khan to size. In fact, he was even ready to join hands with his bĂȘte noire BSP leader Mayawati if Lalu Prasad was ready to mediate terms between the two political rivals. However, the latter turned down the offer since her party never contests by-polls. On the other hand, with the fight expected to be primarily between the BJP and the SP, the Congress is not expected to be a serious contender. Meanwhile, with Mulayum retaining the Azamgarh parliamentary seat, the elections to the seat he vacated - Mainpuri will also be held together with the state by-polls. Retaining his home turf will be a matter of prestige for the former wrestler whereas the BJP would want to pack a powerful punch by causing an upset.

Nine constituencies in PM Narendra Modi's home state of Gujarat will also go to by-elections in the next two weeks. These include Tankara, Khambhalia, Mangrol, Talaja (Saurashtra), Matar, Limkheda, ManinagarAnand (Central Gujarat) and Deesa (North Gujarat). Having being sworn in as the Chief Minister of the state three months ago, the elections will be a test for Anandiben Patel too. It remains to be seen if she can win the kind of trust that her illustrious predecessor enjoyed amongst the people of the state. The saffron outfit seems to be confident and has put up as many as eight fresh faces. Like in UP, the elections to Vadodara parliamentary seat which was won by Modi will be also be conducted next month. In May, the PM had won this seat with a record of over 3 lakh votes. Up north in Rajasthan, again a state ruled by the BJP, it is another straight fight between the two major national parties. Like in Gujarat, the seats fell vacant after sitting BJP MLAs from Surajgarh, Weir, Nasirabad and Kota - South made the cut to the Lok Sabha. Having painted the state orange twice within a span of six months, CM Vasundhara Raje and her party are expected to sail though easily despite of the INC trying hard to rediscover its winning streak here. In Chhattisgarh though, the fight for Antagarh constituency in the Bastar region may be neck and neck since the grand old party did better than the ruling BJP in this part of the state last year.

In the east, as many as four different states will witness by-elections. Assam which has been hit by communal and racial clashes in the last few months will see polls being conducted in Silchar (Barak Valley), Jamnunamukh and Lakhimpur (Upper Assam). For the saffron camp which bagged 7 of the 14 parliamentary seats from the state this year, it is a good opportunity to perform well and portray itself as a strong contender in 2016. On the other hand, Congress CM Tarun Gogoi needs to first put his own house in order and placate the section of the party unhappy with him so that he could face off the tough challenge posed by the opposition. In the Rangang-Yangang seat in Sikkim, incumbent CM Pawan Kumar Chamling's brother Rup Narayan is in the fray as an independent. The serving CM had won two seats and had vacated this constituency. This has become a major embarrassment for the SDF. In Tripura, the only state where the Communist continue to do well, the CPI(M) is most likely to retain the Manu seat. In Bengal, the TMC is engaged in a four cornered fight with the Lefts, the Congress and the BJP over Basirhat - South and Chowringhee. Though Didi holds the edge, it will be interesting to see if any of the three opposition parties can beat the Trinamool. Moving into the peninsular region, with KCR taking oath as the first CM of Telangana, his parliamentary seat of Medak will see by-polls. While the TRS is expected to win the seat with a huge margin, the INC is looking for revenge for Rao's renegade on his promise of merging his outfit into the Congress. The TDP-BJP alliance too is in the fray. For Nandigama by-elections in Andhra, the contest is between the TDP and the INC after the YSRCP refused to field any candidate. Meanwhile, the date of counting is on 16th September, three days after the voters cast their votes.

For more on the August-September 2014 By-polls, click here (Link)


IMAGES

(1) Courtesy: In.Com (Link)