Elections 2017: What lies ahead!
As three key states – Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Goa – go to polls next year, the political sentiment and terrain in the country has already heated up. One of the most crucial states – Uttar Pradesh is also is a core area of focus for most of the political parties. The Vidhan Sabha election in the state for the coveted 403 seats will be fought by four primary political parties – the incumbent Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress. In the last election in 2012, the SP won a majority and formed government with party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav’s son Akhilesh Yadav taking charge as the chief minister of the state.
Despite SP’s tall promises and with a youth leader heading the state, the SP-led government hasn’t performed very successfully. A major dent in their governance has been the Muzaffarnagar riots which took place in 2013 and also the recent case of violence in Mathura. Breakdown of law and order in the Akhilesh Yadav regime has been a key area of concern, and is expected to affect the electorate in a colossal manner. SP began its poll preparations on March 24 by releasing a list of 142 candidates for seats, where they had lost in 2012. Meanwhile a big challenge for the SP and especially Mulayam and Akhilesh is to resolve and sort out the internal bickering in the party affairs.
Meanwhile under the leadership of BJP President Amit Shah, the party has managed to make crucial inroads into the state. The BJP has organised regular tours in the state to meet the party leaders as well as workers. Shah also addressed a Dalits convention in Lucknow on June 4, a Jan Swabhiman rally in Varanasi on July 2 and ‘Ati dalit-ati-pichda mahapanchayat’ (extreme Dalit-most backward meet) in Mau on July 9.
Shah, at these events, targeted Congress and BSP for being corrupt when they were in office, and the SP on the ‘failing’ law and order situation in the state. He also blamed the SP for the alleged ‘exodus’ of Hindus from Kairana and the recent violence in Mathura that left 24 dead. Shah said that if the BJP won then they would act strongly against the ‘land-grabbing mafia’ in the state. Keeping in mind the crucial votes of the backward caste, Shah also announced alliance with OBC-backed Apna Dal and Suheldeo Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) for the 2017 polls.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Pradan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana from Ballia district of Eastern UP on May 1. To mark completion of two-years of his government, PM addressed a rally on May 26 in Saharanpur. On July 22, Modi will be in Gorakhpur to unveil the statue of former head priest of the Gorakhnath temple, Mahant Avaidyanath and lay foundation stones for re-opening a fertilizer factory and a new AIIMS.
Meanwhile a strong contender in the state is seen as the Mayawati-led BSP. It was the first political party that started preparations for the 2017 assembly elections by declaring its candidates as early as 2015. It was in a strong position till the time most important OBC faces Swami Prasad Maurya and Dalit leader RK Chaudhary quit the party. Both accused Mayawati of ‘auctioning’ party tickets for assembly polls and their exit was followed by Ravindra Nath Tripathi and Paramdev Yadav.
The Congress top brass – Party President Sonia Gandhi and Vice-president Rahul Gandhi – both are Lok Sabha MPs from Rae Bareli and Amethi respectively. Despite this they have minimal presence in the state. After appointing Ghulam Nabi Azad as in-charge of UP, the party selected actor-turned politician Raj Babbar as the new state chief. Meanwhile after that the party named Sheila Dikshit as its chief ministerial candidate. 76-year-old Dikshit although a former three-time chief minister of Delhi, will now be up against 43 year-old Akhilesh Yadav of the SP and 60 year old Mayawati of the BSP.
Apart from Uttar Pradesh, the fate of Punjab and Goa too will be decided in 2017 legislative assembly elections. The current ruling coalition is Shiromani Akali Dal – BBJP alliance led by Parkash Singh Badal. Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress will be trying their hand next year to contest against the incumbent alliance. Meanwhile in Goa the elections will be held in early 2017, to elect the 40 members of the Goa Legislative Assembly, as the term of current Legislative Assembly ends on March 18, 2017. The last election was won by the BJP led by Manohar Parrikar, who later became the chief minister. In 2014, after Parrikar he had to resign due to being nominated as Minister of Defence. Laxmikant Parsekar took oath as Chief Minister as Parrikar’s successor. Also on May 23, 2016, Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced that his party would contest the elections in Goa.
All three states await an interesting outcome, with a focus by each political party to improve their poll prospects in the respective states.