Voting for assembly elections is on in the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal. The year 2016 witnesses its first set of elections in 4 states (Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala) and 1 Union Territory (Puducherry). As major political parties play their cards by taking up issues they think are important to the people in each of their respective states, bloggers put forth their views on the what they think will be the issues that will rock the elections, which party is in the lead and how the elections will shape the future of the respective states. Read this week’s Buzzing Blogosphere and do share your opinions with us in the comments section.
BalaKumar takes us through the positions of the parties contesting the elections, including the arrangements, alliances of the different political parties and how they will impact the governance aspect. These elections will also determine the ground realities of each party and how in touch they are with the people of the states.
“Q: We will start off with the Election Commission. How good is its work in the run up to the polls?
Ans: The Chief Electoral Officer Rajesh Lakhoni has put in impressive work to ensure that all the people eligible to vote are registered and have their voter’s ID card, which as its name makes it clear, is an ID card that offers no real guarantee for casting the vote.
The point is there can be situations when you may not be able to vote even with the voter’s ID card. And there may be situations too when you can vote even without the voter’s ID card. In essence, for you to vote, the important thing is your name has to be in the electoral list of the constituency, and even more importantly, the constituency has to go to polls.
Lakhoni is also rolling out colour voter’s ID card, where for a nominal fee you can get your ID card printed with a colour photo of yours in which you actually look like you. This will be a huge improvement from the Aadhaar card in which most of us practically look like Vikram in the film I.”
The most curious thing about elections that people think about what’s in store for them at the end of them. The agenda of the parties is to hit the right note to garner the most votes possible. In a country like India, where each state has different priorities, it is extremely challenging to influence the people’s sentiment whether at the state or national level. Deepak Parvatiyar gives us a brief account on the agenda of different political parties.
“AIUDF’s Election Agenda
The AIUDF Chief Badruddin Ajmal even hinted at a post-election alliance with the Congress in the state but it’s wary of annoying indigenous voters. The Congress has refrained from making any public commitment over the issue. It may be mentioned that the AIUDF with 18 seats was the second largest party in the state assembly, and since 2005, it did consolidate its position among migrant Muslims in the state. Its agenda is clear – to keep its flock of migrant Muslims together for a better bargain post elections.”
Assam is a state that is least covered in the mainstream media when it comes to political issues. It remains a state that is well known for its culture. With the issue of undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh brimming up as a major political issue, Sourodipto Sanyal shares the history of each political party’s aims to contest elections and their plan to influence the voters.
“Congress released its election manifesto only on March 24. Better late than never, perhaps. It looks very ambitious on paper. The party has promised to classify families whose annual income is less than Rs 2.5 lakh as “poor” and give benefits accordingly. Gogoi also claimed while releasing the manifesto that if voted to power, his government would provide 10 lakh jobs in the next five years. This year, Congress leaders have emphasized that the party has worked towards developing infrastructure in the state. It has also painted itself as the party protecting Assam’s interests in the state and accused the BJP-led government at the centre of halting schemes for Assam.”
Politics is often a space where the reality of issues and personalities gets diluted to achieve temporary fame in the eyes of people or a community. This dangerous trend that has been seen for years in India has been a hindrance in projecting the idealism that is expected out of a leader. Prabhu Chawla talks about the dampening fabric of democracy, idealism and freedom.
“Last week, the BJP announced that it was fielding former cricketer S Sreesanth as its candidate for Thiruvananthapuram. Since Sreesanth has become known more for match-fixing and dancing than for his medium pace bowling, he was banned for life from playing cricket by the BCCI in 2013. But, clearly, the ruling party at the Centre believes that he is still capable of bowling out its rivals in a state where it’s struggling to open an account.
Now, Tamil Nadu has been dominated by screen stars for the past 50 years, as was undivided Andhra Pradesh (with NT Rama Rao, who was as successful in the political arena as he was in cinema, along with Jayaprada, Chiranjeevi, Mohan Babu, Kota Srinivas Rao and, more recently, Pawan Kalyan). In Tamil Nadu, the state’s biggest film stars created political parties for personal ambition rather than ideology. It was easy, as the charisma of MG Ramachandran, Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa easily moved the masses to bring them to power even as many others turned out to be also-rans. Of late, both the Congress and BJP have been struggling to persuade Tamil filmstars like Vijaykanth, who formed the DMDK in 2005, to join them as an ally to increase their political share, but with little success.”
Shifting our focus to the state of West Bengal, the state has its own issues that need urgent attention from its leaders be it female foeticide, caste politics, state dynamics and the Maoist issue. Afroz Alam talks briefly about the issues and the approach of the current political parties and what kind of challenges lie in front of them.
“The early trends reflect that West Bengal is certainly going to be another state after Delhi and Bihar which will successfully contain the rise of right wing BJP and its ‘wild rhetoric’ to appeal the communal sense of low caste groups. An attempt has been made by the BJP to change the nature of campaign environment not by urging “TMC-free Bengal” but the sizable presence of SCs, STs and OBCs among the 245 candidates announced so far. In first glance, this may sound party’s effort to shed its bhadralok (upper caste) image by means of appropriating Chotoloks (lower castes) agenda. Given the pattern of ‘conspiricism’ as a core component of right wing populism, it can be argued that the present strategy of BJP is merely to use the lower caste as scapegoat to turn the electoral climate of the state inflammatory so that an easy violence could be scripted.”
Sandip Ghose talks about Mamata Banerjee, her history as a political leader in the state, the issues that need attention and the ones that she has been looking after. He also takes us through the years of experience that she brings along with her, be it in dealing with relationships, issues and her opponents.
“A very well connected top Bengali political journalist had narrated this to me. He went to see Pranab Mukherjee – then a full-time politician – before the 2011 West Bengal elections. As he is close to both Pranab-babu and Mamata Banerjee – the journalist took the liberty of asking Pranab Mukherjee if he thought Mamata will be able to make the transition from a mercurial fire-brand opposition leader to Chief Minister easily. It seems – Pranab-da had told him then, “why not – people grow and mature on the job and Mamata is a quick learner”.
This short conversation reveals as much about Pranab Mukherjee’s astute political instincts as Mamata Banerjee’s native political intelligence. It is this street-smartness that has brought her to a position – when she is looking almost invincible as she is seeking mandate for a second term.?
The most important thing about the ongoing assembly elections is that they are more likely to determine the fate of the political parties for the general elections coming in the year 2019. It would not be wrong to say that the issues that each political party favours with this agenda in this mind. Santosh Chaubey tells us some very important details from the far future.
“If the Left Front led by CPI(M) has the potential to emerge as the underdogs in West Bengal, the state they ruled for 35 years till 2011, it is because AITC has come to be known as a party that is becoming just like the Left Front of the erstwhile years – a party synonymous with political goondaism. West Bengal has only extended the culture of political violence under the Mamata Banarjee government.
And coupled with Mamata’s autocratic ways, her intolerance for criticism and huge allegations of corruption on senior leaders of her party, the rational minds would certainly like to experiment with the Left Front block again in absence of any other political alternative – to see if the Left Front has learnt some lessons.
Mamata would sail smoothly this time because of her focus on rural voters but she needs to keep in mind that their patience, too, runs out, and it is just a matter of time – if West Bengal gets any political alternative like AAP.”
Political parties start brandishing the work that they’ve done over the years when elections come near. They are proudly published publicly, followed by poll promises that give people the much needed hope. Flying Table Fan shares with us some realities.
“We asked one of the officials whether the promises would be restricted to just one day or would they be allowed to spread the happiness on other days as well and he said, “We celebrate Parents’ Day on 1st June but that doesn’t mean we abandon them the next day. Similarly, they will be able to exercise freedom of speech till the elections happen. It’s just our way to pay tribute to these brave politicians for showing the courage of making promises that no other human being can think of. Yes, some of the promises, such as achhe din by Narendra Modi, or transparent governance by Arvind Kejriwal, or 100 rupees for attending Rahul Gandhi’s rally are acceptable on 1st of April and should have been uttered on that day but that’s ok, they deserve a bit of leeway.”
The contesting political parties have done the talking and now it’s time for the people to make their voice heard through their votes. The results will give a clear picture of who got it right and who missed the mark in the political game. What do you think – who will come out on top in these assembly elections?