The Assembly elections due in the states of Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal in the first half of 2016 may not generate the kind of nationwide media attention attained by the Bihar Assembly elections in 2015. The electoral outcome not making much impact on the fortunes of the NDA government at the Centre for the obvious reason that the BJP is not a force to be reckoned in these states may keep the electoral battle a largely local affair.
At the same time, nobody should be under the illusion that the BJP will remain as a disinterested entity. The party will be taking an active interest in the polls, especially in West Bengal and Kerala, with the clear agenda of ensuring the defeat of the Left parties, headed by the CPM, in these states. So, the fate of the CPM and its allies in West Bengal and Kerala is the major point of national interest in these elections. The think-tank of the BJP is very well aware the Left will find it very difficult to sustain themselves should they lose this time, too, in Kerala and West Bengal.
A defeat in these two states will definitely put a question mark on the relevance of the CPM as a national political entity. In West Bengal, there is no evidence to show that the CPM and the Left Front are anywhere near in regaining the past glory. Although the regime headed by Mamta Banerjee has failed to deliver on its promise of ushering in the promised ‘Paribartan’, the CPM is unlikely to benefit from axiomatic anti-incumbency in the elections.
The CPM, however, is likely to explore the possibility of having a strategic alliance with the Congress to checkmate Ms Banerjee. The arithmetic of votes polled by the LF and the Congress adding up to 51 per cent of total votes in 2011 elections makes such a possibility sensible. The condition of the CPM and its left allies in Kerala is much better compared with those in West Bengal. The prospects of the CPM-led Left Democratic Front gaining power in Kerala during next assembly elections looks realistic despite the front failing to make any major electoral breakthrough since it narrowly lost the Assembly elections in 2011.
The unending scandals associated with the UDF government led by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, renewal of factional squabble in the state Congress and the failure of the government to address basic development issues provide the ideal situation for the LDF to mount a serious campaign to oust the UDF from power. The BJP is trying to open its account in the state Assembly with the help of its new-found ally, the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena of Vellapally Natesan.
The outcome in Tamil Nadu will rely largely on whether the state government will be in a position to obliterate the memory of the devastation caused by the floods in Chennai and other parts of the state. Elections in Tamil Nadu represent a discount sale of votes with both AIADMK and DMK enticing the voters with freebies including cash, said Tamil writer and activist Leena Manimekhala.
In Assam, the only state in which the BJP may make an earnest attempt to capture power, the focus will be on whether the party could repeat the magic it has shown in the state by winning seven out of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 Parliament elections.
Things to look forward to in 2016
The next year will see four states going to assembly polls: west bengal, tamil nadu, kerala and assam. while the nda doesn’t have Much to lose, it will be a prestigious fight for the UPA and the left.
Two-time lucky? Chief minister Oommen Chandy is hopeful of changing the electoral history of the past three decades by winning in 2016. The LDF, on the other hand, is desperate that a successive loss could end up conceding its space to the saffron alliance — recently fortified with the addition of the BDJS of Vellapally Natesan.
Jaya the master of times: Assembly and Parliament elections in Tamil Nadu in the past few decades are a process revolving around the personality of Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa. The Assembly elections in 2016 are also not going to show any major deviation from this tradition.
Left’s cliffhanger: The CPM suffered one of the worst electoral defeats in the 2011 election in West Bengal — once considered its impregnable fortress having ruled for more than three decades since 1977. The fortunes of the CPM as a national political entity depend a lot on a comeback in West Bengal in 2016.
Who will hold the fort? The polls in Assam will be largely a test of whether the BJP will be able to sustain the victory it has scored in the 2014 Parliament elections by winning seven out of the 14 Lok Sabha seats and cornering nearly 37 per cent of the votes in the state.