New Delhi: With the announcement of assembly poll dates for four states- West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, and one Union Territory was announced by the Election Commission of India on Friday, the eyes of the nation are now at the most crucial state elections as they are expected to pave a new politics. The debacle of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, on the one hand, would be an unparallel victory for the ruling BJP at the Centre as it would vanquish its most vocal opponent, while the opposite result, on the other hand, will clearly make Mamata Banerjee the leader of anti-saffron alliance at the national level and probably under whose leadership the entire opposition would unite in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections to take on the BJP-led NDA.
The elections beginning on March 27, with West Bengal having eight-phase polls and Assam three, and the rest will go for a single-phase, while the counting for 824 assembly seats will be held on May 2.
West Bengal is considered to be the most crucial state elections as it is expected to witness the most-violent fight between Trinamool Congress and the BJP in 294 Assembly seats. CM Mamata Banerjee is fighting the toughest political battle of her political career because the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, BJP has emerged as the direct challenge to her with a 40% vote share restricting the TMC to about 43%. The closest race is expected between the two opponents if Congress does not enter into an umbrella alliance with Didi. A triangular fight, however, is expected if Congress enters into an alliance with the Left parties, the scenario would probably weaken the TMC's sway over the consolidated minority vote bank.
In the eastern part of India, Assam holds great significance for BJP, whose victory in the 2016 Assembly election was stated to be a surprise win, but the upcoming election is expected to permanently damage the stronghold of the Congress. Of the total 126 Assembly seats, the BJP had won 60 seats with a 42% vote share while it had contested merely 89 seats. The ruling dispensation would face a formidable alliance of has Congress, AUDF (Assam United Democratic Front), along with Left parties.
During anti-CAA agitation, Assam was also greatly affected and the Congress-AUDF alliance is likely to take on the ruling BJP to exploit the situation, but CM Sarbananda Sonowal's non-controversial image and development initiatives are expected to help the BJP retain the state.
In the southern states, the BJP has so far failed to extend beyond Karnataka, therefore, the upcoming state elections are stated to be very crucial for the ruling party at the Centre.
In Tamil Nadu, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited on February 25 to unveil several developmental projects, the BJP has already launched roadshows in all 234 Assembly seats. The 'Vijay Sankalp Yatra' is on the lines of 'Poribortan Yatra' of West Bengal. The Saffron party has also formed 4800 booth committees out of 70,000 booths in the state, where it has won a 3.9% vote share in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections but no seats.
Tamil Nadu currently offers the best prospects for Congress to check erosion in its electoral fortunes as it has decided to contest as a junior partner of DMK, which along with its alliance partners had won 38 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in 2019. The DMK is a front-runner in the assembly polls, but the ruling AIADMK after surviving post-Amma odds with BJP as a partner is still going strong.
About 6.l crore electorate, the state will decide the fate of Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and his allies and also prove him to be the true inheritor of Jayalalithaa's legacy, which is currently claimed by Sasikala who has come out hail to find her place in the state politics. Her entry into the fray is expected to dent the AIADMK prospects.
On the contrary, weakening of the ruling alliance would further the prospects of MK Stalin's leadership of DMK, which could win 96 seats with allies and could garner only 31.6% vote share in the 2016 Assembly election. The AIADMK, however, has won 135 seats with over 40% vote share.
Closely associated with Tamil Nadu politics, Puducherry, however, is being witnessed as the focus area for the BJP's entry into southern politics. The Union Territory with 30 Assembly seats had a Congress government, but the V Narayanasamy government came down just ahead of the polls in the wake of resignations from Congress and DMK.
On February 25, PM Modi visited Puducherry and made several announcements in the politically surcharged atmosphere of the UT, wooing a 9.8 Lakh electorate. The upcoming elections are expected to give a tough fight to Congress and the DMK alliance as it failed to hold onto their flock.
With Congress on a sticky wicket, the UT presents BJP its best opportunity to make an entry in the south in alliance with All India NR Congress (AINRC) of former chief minister N Rangaswamy, and AIADMK.
After losing badly in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Congress in Kerala would not spare any effort to destabilise the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF), which had won 91 seats out of 140 with a vote share of about 42%, while the Congress could win only 47 with a vote share of 38%.
In the recently held local body polls in Kerala, the LDF held its edge over others with a vote share of 42%, followed by Congress-led UDF 37.9%, while BJP allies were restricted to a mere 15%. The Congress recently entered into an alliance with the Jamaat-backed Welfare Party and this is being witnessed as a reason that may annoy its traditional vote bank, but it is, still, posing the strongest challenge to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijaya, who reportedly is trying to assuage the feelings of Hindus during the Sabarimala agitation, withdrawing cases against them.
The polls in Kerala are an acid test for the BJP, which was recently joined by E Sreedharan at a meeting organised at Changaramkulam during the "Vijay Yatra" led by Kerala BJP chief K Surendran, and is considered to be a man who may help the saffron party to challenge the Left alliance.