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Voting Time

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Dates for assembly elections in the five states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram have been announced by Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar. The media has somewhat rightly declared these the semi-finals to the General Elections slated to take place next year. Voting will take place between 7 and 30 November with counting of votes on 3 December. While Chhattisgarh will vote in two phases because of the security threat, the other states will have one phase voting. A number of improvements in the process are planned to be introduced so that all eligible persons are included in the rolls and get to vote without fear or favour.

Speculation has already begun on the prospects for the various parties. Change is being thought almost certain in Rajasthan owing to the poor performance of the Ashok Gehlot led Congress Government, as also due to the rampant infighting within the ruling party. In the case of the BJP Government in Madhya Pradesh, the fight is considered tighter because incumbent CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, though not unpopular, has had a long stint in office and the voters may want someone new. His advantage is that the alternative is Kamal Nath of the Congress, not exactly someone favoured by the swing voters. These two states are also much influenced by the larger national mood and Hindi Heartland politics. This factor matters less in Telangana and Chhattisgarh, which are more insular, with local factors playing a bigger role. The respective Chief Ministers, also, have greater personal followings among the electorates. The contest in Telangana is primarily between the BRS and the Congress – the stakes for the BJP are much smaller. In the case of Mizoram, it remains to be seen what impact recent events in the North-East have had on the people’s mindset.

It may be noted that the larger picture will quickly dwarf the artificial agendas being sought to be promoted by the opposition parties. The people are usually fully aware of their priorities. Because, sometimes, the freebies and other announcements coincide with their mood, it appears as though the incentives and exhortations have worked, but most times this is not the case. The Indian voter has become quite mature and does acknowledge good work done on the ground. Emotions play a role only if there is a spectacular achievement or failure. The overall national mood, undoubtedly, will also be reflected to some extent in the results. That, in fact, is what will really interest the analysts.