With the Election Commission announcing poll schedules on Friday evening for the assembly elections in four states of Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and one Union Territory of Puducherry, an intense race for power will enter the last lap.
Five years ago, the assembly elections had thrown five different winners in Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. The Congress was in the hunt for power in all five states — in coalition of course in Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It ended up losing power in Assam and Kerala, and secured a win only in Puducherry forming government with the help of its Tamil Nadu ally, the DMK.
2016: Two women and Left-Right
The BJP wrested Assam from the Congress while it failed to make an impact in any of the other four assembly elections. The BJP’s win in Assam changed the fortunes of the party in the entire Northeast. The Left’s rout in Bengal was complete but it emerged stronger in Kerala, where the BJP made its debut in the assembly election.
Led by late J Jayalalithaa, the AIADMK broke the cycle of anti-incumbency in Tamil Nadu to retain power for the first time since 1980s. No chief minister in Tamil Nadu since Jayalalithaa’s mentor MG Ramachandran had retained power in an election in Tamil Nadu.
Another woman politician to lead from the front and emerge stronger was Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who won a bigger mandate in the assembly election defeating the alliance of Congress-TMC and blunting the BJP that had shown sudden rise in 2014 Lok Sabha election in Bengal.
In Kerala, the previous assembly election also settled a nagging internal leadership issue of the CPI-M. The political rivalry between former Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan and former state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan settled in the latter’s favour. Pinarayi Vijayan is said to have expanded the CPI-M’s cadre base in Kerala further.
How It Happened
Individually, the BJP won 60 of 126 seats in Assam Assembly. It had contested only 89. Its ally AGP won 14 (contested 30), and the BPF won 12 (of 13 contested). The Congress won just 26 of 122 seats it contested. Its ally, UPP failed to win a single seat.
In Bengal, Mamata Banerjee-led TMC romped home with 211 (27 more than the previous polls) of 294 seats in West Bengal Assembly. The Congress-Left alliance won 77 with the Congress winning 44. The BJP had contested 294 seats but won only six.
In Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK lost 14 seats compared to 2011 election, but still managed a majority with 136 in the 234-member assembly. The DMK won 89 seats, winning 66 more than it had won in 2011, and its ally the Congress won just eight.
In Kerala, the CPM-headed LDF won 91 seats while the Congress led UDF got 47. The BJP won its maiden seat Kerala Assembly five years ago.
Puducherry went to the Congress-led UPA which won 17 of 30 seats. Puducherry has 33-member assembly, but three MLAs are nominated by the Centre. The BJP got all the three nominated MLAs after the polls.
What’s On The Anvil
Five years down the line, when fresh elections are to take place in Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, the BJP has emerged as the major challenger to old commanders of these states.
The Left battles for its survival in Kerala. A loss here would make Indian politics Left-mukt. Kerala is the last state where the Left has a chief minister. On the other hand, the Congress is fighting to remain relevant in Indian politics. It hopes for a comeback in Kerala (banking on anti-incumbency), Puducherry (sympathy) and Assam (anti-BJP sentiments over the CAA).
The BJP looks to “conquer” Bengal, retain Assam (to prove that 2016 was not just a fluke) and make inroads in Kerala (through cadre base), Tamil Nadu (piggybacking the AIADMK) and Puducherry (courtesy turncoats).
For Tamil Nadu, the upcoming election could mark a shift in personality-based political cults. It is the first election in long time in Tamil Nadu when a film celebrity-turned-politician is not leading the chief ministerial race.