Political temperatures are rising with the announcement of Assembly Elections 2022 for the five States. As usual, allegations and counter-allegations, switching of sides, tall promises, and freebies are doing the rounds. Political pundits are also making their commentaries from being a semi-final of the 2024 Lok Sabha Elections to the test of opposition unity. Uttar Pradesh, the largest State with the highest number of Assembly seats, will naturally grab the political limelight. Right from the opposition exercising more pressure on the Union Government to the permutations and combinations emerging for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections will be the reference points for the analysts. But, the upcoming Assembly elections are also crucial for other reasons beyond party politics.
Though we already had a stint of elections after the Covid-19 pandemic overshadowing our normal life, for the first time we have seen the Election Commission putting strict restrictions on the election rallies and other modes of mass campaigning. Postponing elections due to the health crisis was not a desirable option, so the Election Commission of Bharat decided to move forward as per the Constitutional mandate and save both the lives and the democratic process simultaneously. This round of electioneering will test the abilities of all the stakeholders – political parties, voters and the entire electoral machinery. We have to adapt ourselves to this new scenario and explore new methods of campaigning and conducting elections.
A few broad trends are visible if we look at the campaign strategies and the issues picked up by the political parties. The local considerations and performance of the State Governments and local MLAs will have a greater bearing on the outcome. Congress’s position as the main opposition party is under severe threat, with many other small players entering the fray. Being a cadre-based party continuously experimenting with the outreach through technology, the BJP is better prepared for campaigning during pandemic times. The BJP sets the broad election narratives of Hindutva combined with inclusive development, and other political parties are responding to it.
Of course, like any other election, the outcome of Assembly Elections in these five States will naturally have national repercussions. But the Assembly elections are essentially meant to elect the State level Government and, each of these five States has different kinds of issues and political scenarios. There is a sub-regional variance of dominant topics prevailing in the States. These elections are a complex mix of local, regional and national considerations. Therefore, whether national interest prevails over parochial interests is the only reference point that we can extrapolate from these highly localised elections.
Instead of trivialising the democratic process, we should look for the answers to these three questions – 1. How far are we adaptable to the technological usage in
electioneering during the pandemic? 2. What kind of party structure evolves in Bharat in the coming years? 3. Will the poll-plank of inclusive development over parochial considerations resonate with the people?