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Increased political churning in the country

Friday, December 08, 2017
By Ranajoy Sen

Political churnings in India occur at repeated intervals. At times, the intensity of the churn is much more than otherwise. During other times, the energized activity is of a lesser intensity. Nevertheless, all produce ripples of various magnitudes in the country’s polity; the contexts determining its political effects. The Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh state assembly elections and the narrative surrounding the possibility of Rahul Gandhi’s taking over as the President of the Congress Party, have contributed to emphasize the political ripples in the country. Although, the two principal events are not related, they could be brought into the same thread of narrative, for the time being.  

The two state assembly elections have inevitably propelled the country’s two principal parties – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress – to increased levels of political competition against each other. Furthermore, accusations, counter-accusations and mud-slinging proceed apace. The outcome in the two states could make an affect of the stature, political position and satisfaction for both parties. Despite the number of state assembly elections being two, the BJP and the Congress have put all their weight and resources in it. They are both keen to emphasize their perspectives, by so doing, upon the political space of the country.   

Election votes for HP cast
The votes for the election at Himachal Pradesh have been cast. There was much weight in the election as senior leaders of both parties campaigned extensively. The sitting dispensation is a Congress administration. Therefore, the BJP went to considerable extent to impress upon the electorate to prove to them that it would be a better alternative to the current Congress regime regarding governing Himachal Pradesh for at least the next five years.

The Congress party was not to be left behind. It forwarded its manifesto to the people by entailing the gains made by the Congress in Himachal Pradesh, the alleged shenanigans of the BJP in its governance at the centre for the past three years, and how it would continue to maintain and improve upon the quality of governance in the state, if re-elected.  

In Gujarat, the electoral battle is of even greater stakes. It is the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and of the current President of the BJP, Amit Shah.

It is also considered a citadel of the BJP: the party has been ruling the state continuously for about the past twenty-two years. It hopes to rule for a much more considerable period of time. Gujarat has drawn significant attention in its past assembly elections, particular circa 2002.

In 2002, the election in Gujarat was a highly apprehension-arousing one. The Godhra-emanating ghastly, widespread riots had just concluded.

Accusations from opposing sides were rife. Amid that, the then Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi, scripted out an agenda which stated development for all, respect for Gujarat, and appeasement for none and good governance for all, and pride in the rich heritage and philosophy of Hinduism. It had a tremendous appeal. The BJP won that election comfortably. The next assembly election came in 2007.   

In that election campaign, the BJP essentially harped upon the merits of the policy which the party had spelt out in 2002. In five years, the BJP dispensation had performed apparently well in the state. It pushed for the growth and greater creation of organized employment, and tried to make Gujarat a hub for economic activity – adding to the prevailing proclivity for venturing to economic enterprises by a section of the Gujarat electorate.

Therefore, Gujarat accrued more attention from the country, if not from some quarters abroad. The then Chief Minister, Narendra Modi’s stature was on an upward path. The Congress as the principal opposition increasingly found its political foundation weakening in Gujarat. The BJP won the 2007 elections in Gujarat quite comfortably.    

In the subsequent 2009 parliamentary election, the Congress-led United Progressive administration (UPA) won a second term of governance. The BJP came second in that electoral contest and had to sit on the opposition benches in Parliament. Meanwhile, in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, the BJP held its sway. In 2008, the party extended its influence in Southern India for the first time by winning the Karnataka state assembly elections. Nevertheless, it subsequently lost the next state assembly elections of Karnataka to the Congress party.

Congress mired in corruption cases
Meanwhile, the Congress was steadily declining in political strength than the BJP. The party’s administration was getting mired in several alleged cases of corruption, where answers for many queries were not to general satisfaction. The party seemed to realize it, but was apparently inadequate in deftly tackling the issues at hand. Meanwhile Narendra Modi’s stature in and appeal across the country increased. It propelled the BJP to victory in the 2014 parliamentary elections; Modi became Prime Minister.  

Today, talk of Rahul Gandhi taking on the mantle of the Congress party is across the political grapevine.  Many are talking about the progress of the Congress party under his leadership. But, that is for the near future.

At present, the appraisal is on as regards the outcome of the Gujarat election. Some estimates state that the BJP might win it, but with a narrow majority. Some opine otherwise.

Whatever the outcome, it is a surety that this churn is the prelude to a greater churn in the making in the country’s political arena. The time for focusing significantly toward the preparation for the 2019 parliamentary election is not too far away.

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