With the bugle having been sounded for assembly elections in the four states of Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal, as well as the UT of Puducherry, India’s contending political parties will get another opportunity to prove their support among the people. The formidable BJP is expected to take Assam and Puducherry with relative ease, although there are certainly no givens in elections. The Congress faces a much more difficult task at it is in the throes of an internal upheaval as well as existential challenge. It hopes to return to power at the head of its coalition in Kerala (United Democratic Front), a state that has traditionally swung every five years between it and the Left alliance. Unfortunately, the signs are that there may be a break in the pattern this time around and the ruling Left Democratic Front led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan could be re-elected. This would be a major blow to the Congress as the attack is being led personally by Rahul Gandhi. A defeat would further solidify the belief that he is electorally jinxed. In fact, the five year swing of the pendulum in the state was being counted upon as a platform for Gandhi to finally become a ‘match winner’.
The contest in Tamil Nadu is between the DMK and ruling AIADMK. A recent poll has forecast that there could be a change in government, but trends thus far have not reflected this. Also, it is a greatly fractured electoral scene with numerous small parties and ambitious ‘newcomers’ like Kamal Haasan all set to queer the pitch. The BJP and Congress are bit players ranged alongside the heavyweights. The Hindutva outfit will, however, be eager to see how much inroads it has made in the state with its relentless campaign.
The BJP’s biggest gambit, of course, is in West Bengal, where a doughty Mamata Banerjee is holding out against a series of major setbacks, which include large scale defections and even more corruption charges. She is working hard to make it an ‘outsider’ versus ‘insider’ contest, while the saffron party is hoping for religious polarisation. Having done well in the Lok Sabha elections, it hopes to exploit the advantage further. Whatever the outcome, the already marginalised Left-Congress alliance is expected to go further into decline. Which direction the votes will transfer is anybody’s guess. Hopefully, this grand electoral exercise will not turn into a Covid-19 super spreader at a very critical time in the battle against the pandemic. This makes it a double challenge for the Election Commission.